Matt (mm511) wrote in topfive_reviews,

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Three Top Five Lists At Once! Woo!

I have been thinking a lot about best friends. Not in the sense of real friendships, as in Erin or Joni, but in the sense of literary friendships, as in the rapport I share with books or with authors. Your literary best friends are not necessarily the people or the works that you think are the best; that is, your list of Top 5 poets and your list of Top 5 best friend poets may be entirely different. No, a literary best friend is that book you find yourself wanting to read and then read again, that poet who could write gibberish and you'd buy it and love it anyway. It's really a lot about comfort, being able to put yourself into a book or spend time with an author and feel as if the entire world is suddenly righted, as if your problems somehow liquefy into barely-visible puddles around you. The mere sight of the book or mention of the author's name and you smile. This is the thing that, if all Hell broke loose and demons were running rampant and eating your family for Sunday brunch, would be able to cheer you up. This is the thing that you'd pull out to read while that nuclear power plant down the street melted down. And this is the thing that'd make you barely notice that meltdown or those running amok. "What demons?" you'd say, or maybe "Radiation, shmadiation."

Enough description. I hope you've got the idea by now. Examples are always the best teachers, and with that, a few examples for you. And of course, I am quite interested to see your own lists, which I highly encourage you to post for the world to see.

Top Five Literary Best Friends: Poets
5: John Donne
There's something innately pleasing, I think, about the wit and wordplay of Donne. I think about "The Flea" and I get as giggly as a schoolgirl at an NSYNC concert. Granted, his poems take a bit more work to read than the rest of those on my list, and Sylvia Plath gave him quite the fight for this place on my list, but the beauty of Donne is the apparent whimsy. I mean, who wouldn't crack a smile at "Elegie XX, To His Mistress Going to Bed," which contains possibly the greatest couplet in all of history: "License my roving hands, and let them go / Before, behind, between, above, below"?
4: Edna St. Vincent Millay, the sonneteer
I qualified Ms. Millay, only because I haven't read enough of her non-sonnets to feel one way or the other. But her sonnets, though: pure beauty. I have been seeking a book that gives me the same sort of feeling of transcendence that I get when I read her sonnets and I can't quite seem to find it anywhere. Interestingly, Millay's sonnets are seldom happy, yet she has still found her way into my clique. Her command of the line and rhythm are unparalleled, and my relationship with Millay is really less friendship than it is groupie-lead singer. She's amazing.
3: Elizabeth Bishop
Ah, Elizabeth. Kindred spirits, you and I! Her poetry is deceptively simple, which allows for an exceedingly superficial reading when you're about to doze off before bed or an in-depth dissertation if you're in the mood to go to diving. Again, her most friendly poem concerns a not-happy subject (loss of a loved one), and yet "One Art" still manages to soothe, despite all its pain. Her emphasis on landscapes and geography lets me travel without ever having to step foot on a plane, which is a huge comfort to me as I am 100% certain that the first plane I get on will inevitably crash, and her compassion and passion ring louder and louder with each new reading. One of the most important things about a long-term friendship is that your friend never gets boring, and that's one thing that never happens to Elizabeth.
2: Mark Doty
Surrounded by disease and death, Mark still manages to find beauty and a reason to keep on trucking, and when things look bleak and ugly, that sort of eternal, slightly nauseating optimism is just what the doctor ordered. Especially if that optimism is couched in the most unexpected juxtapositions and glistening with the most glorious combinations of words to hit the printed page.
1: Dorothy Parker
Ah, bitterness, how I <3 thee. Dottie writes the absolute best comfort poetry. When I am hating on my current crush or wishing I could lash out at the world, I pull out some Parker and all is well. Misery does love company, and there was nobody quite as miserable as Dottie... and nobody who knew how to revel in that misery like Dottie, either. And sometimes, a good misery-revel is just what you need. And what goes better with a revel than a bitchfest? Dottie's great at both.
Top Five Literary Best Friends: Works
5: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland -- Lewis Carroll
Perhaps it is the escapist in me talking, but nothing is quite as comforting as being able to shimmy down a rabbit-hole to an entirely different, entirely crazy world, even if it turns into nothing but a dream at the end. The wit, the humor, the plot. It's like the book itself puts its arms around me when I hold it in my hands.
4: Autobiography of Red -- Anne Carson
There is something particularly disturbing about Autobiography, and yet I read it at least twice a year and I am blown away by how *good* it makes me feel. Anne Carson's writing is spectacular, and despite some of the most amazing phrases and lines and images I have ever read, I think the thing that carries this friendship forward through the years is the characters, particularly Geryon, who may as well be me (or my boyfriend), considering all the similarities. I don't have red wings, of course, but you get the picture.
3: Le Petit Prince -- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Do I even need to say anything about this gem? It's been translated into a billion different languages, made into movies and musicals, and loved by basically everyone on the face of the Earth since the dawn of time. That about sums it up.
2: "In Paris with You" -- James Fenton
A short poem, the honesty and the candor that the narrator relays is breath-taking, and his giving into love, even if he can't say it, is heart-warming... and quite reassuring, for those of us who are a bit reserved in the opening-up-to-others department. This is actually the poem that first got me into poetry, and so it will always have a special, special place in my heart, which may or may not be in Paris. I'll let you know.
1: Pride and Prejudice -- Jane Austen
This is by far my best literary friend, poet or work. If I could only read a single thing for the rest of my life, it would probably be this novel. The humor, the sarcasm. Elizabeth Bennett. Mr. Darcy! Oh my. From the first sentence to the last, there is nothing but a smile on my face. In fact, I have a gloriously bound copy of this sitting on a stand on the steps to my bedroom, and every time I walk by it, I smile. To be honest, I'm smiling now just thinking about it.
And, because I'm just this cool, I'm going to extend my idea of a literary best friend to the cinema! Without further ado, my cinematic best friends! Wee!

Top FiveSix Literary Best Friends: Movies
6: Last Holiday
Yes, it's a Queen Latifah movie. Yes, it has possibly the cheesiest plot ever created. Yes, I love it. Me love it long time. It's one of those movies that are so inspirational, so motivational, so damn cute that it goes from so-cute-you-vomit all the way back around to so-cute-you-love-it. Twice. That moment when Queen Latifah stands in the mirror and says, "Next time... we just won't be so afraid": yes, I get chills. I admit it. I have no shame.
5: While You Were Sleeping
OK, is Sandra Bullock the cutest damn thing ever or is it just me? I mean, seriously, don't you just want to be her friend? And the whole Christmas thing and the great, great, crazy crazy family? Jesus, it practically oozes comfort. They ought to bottle it and sell it as Romantic Comfort. *insert punny remark here about RoCo = SoCo, etc.*
4: Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
One time, I was ill. I watched this movie six times. In a row. That's nine straight hours of Romy and Michele. Enough said.
3: Lilo & Stitch
Oh, wait. Sandra Bullock isn't the cutest damn thing ever! Stitch is! From the moment he clears his throat and curses in alien to the very last speech about ohana, I can't get enough. Truly, he had me at meega na la qweesta.
2: Under the Tuscan Sun
Yes, it's cheesy. Yes, you're probably laughing at me. Yes, I'm gay. But I love this movie. Love it. I choke up every time at the ladybug scene at the end. And Diane Lane is almost as cute as Sandra Bullock (she's got nothing on Stitch). What I like most about this movie is that it's set in romantic Tuscany and yet romance plays barely a part. And Sandra Oh says "Creepy trees." And she's a lesbian. That rocks.
1: Labyrinth
Ah, more of my escapism. This has been a favorite of mine since before I can even remember. We had the VHS, and I spilled Coke on it, and I cried for days straight (literally) until we could replace it. I used to play Labyrinth, walking around the house and reciting the lines to get rid of my sibling (mainly because I'd've really liked to get rid of my sister then) and then reciting the lines to defeat the Goblin King. I also had a strange desire for a big white flowing gown and friends who could rip their heads off. This would come back to haunt me later in life, but no matter: this is still possibly the best comfort food around -- move over fried chicken and ice cream, Jennifer Connolly's on her way!
That movie list was obscenely difficult, as evinced by my having to make it a Top Six. Movies that almost made the cut include, but are not limited to, Mean Girls; Clueless; Mr. and Mrs. Smith; Trick; The Lizzie McGuire Movie; To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar; and Beauty and the Beast

As I said, I really do hope you share your own lists. You don't have to explain the reasons like I did -- I'm just neurotic with way too much time on my hands -- but it's actually quite interesting to think about this, to give credit where credit is due (even if critics don't agree). In times as crazy as ours are, it's good to have friends -- even if they can only speak through ink, don't you think?

(x-posted a bit)
Tags: books, lists, movies
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