April 27, 2017

Quotes on list writing

What writers and others say

“In the spirit of Ethan’s neurosis, we made a drywall list of keyboard buttons we would like to see: PLEASE, THANK YOU, FUCK OFF, DIE, OOPS … MY MISTAKE, DO SOMETHING COOL AND SURPRISE ME.”
― Douglas Coupland, author, in Microserfs

“The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order.”
— Umberto Eco, renowned Italian author

“The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it. Wherever you look in cultural history, you will find lists.”
— Umberto Eco, renowned Italian author

“In ‘Ulysses,’ James Joyce describes how his protagonist, Leopold Bloom, opens his drawers and all the things he finds in them. I see this as a literary list, and it says a lot about Bloom.”
— Umberto Eco, renowned Italian author

“At first, we think that a list is primitive and typical of very early cultures … But, in cultural history, the list has prevailed over and over again. It is by no means merely an expression of primitive cultures.”
— Umberto Eco, renowned Italian author

“[I]t took naturalists 80 years to come up with a definition of a platypus. They found it endlessly difficult to describe the essence of this animal. So what did that definition look like? It was a list, a list of characteristics.”
— Umberto Eco, renowned Italian author

“We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.”
— Umberto Eco, renowned Italian author

“The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis.”
― Umberto Eco, author, in The Name of the Rose

“I love lists. Always have. When I was 14, I wrote down every dirty word I knew on file cards and placed them in alphabetical order. I have a thing about collections, and a list is a collection with purchase.”
― Adam Savage, cohost of MythBusters and Unchained Reaction

“List, list, O, list!”
― William Shakespeare, in Hamlet

“A list is just a scaffolding for a story. It’s just a way of organizing information. I mean, The Odyssey is 24 chapters. You could call that 24 Chapters About Odysseus. That’s, like, a really great list. Really top notch. Really, really viral. Super viral.”
― Jack Shepherd, editorial director, BuzzFeed

“A listicle, to me, is something that is literally an arbitrary grouping of things. Ten ghosts. Or 11 Songs We’re Listening to Right Now. Things where there’s no narrative … driving it.”
― Jack Shepherd, editorial director, BuzzFeed

“It’s long been a superstition in the business — for years — that an odd number will do better than an even number.”
― Jack Shepherd, editorial director, BuzzFeed

“Honestly, I’ve often made posts where the post didn’t need a number, and then I’ll throw a number into the headline — just because people like that more.”
― Jack Shepherd, editorial director, BuzzFeed

“The keeping of lists was for November an exercise kin to repeating of a rosary. She considered it neither obsessive nor compulsive, but a ritual, an essential ordering of the world into tall, thin jars containing perfect nouns. Enough nouns connected one to the other create a verb, and verbs had created everything, had skittered across the face of the void like pebbles across a frozen pond. She had not created a verb herself, but the cherry-wood cabinet in the hall contained book after book, jar after jar, vessel upon vessel, all brown as branches, and she had faith.”
― Catherynne M. Valente, author, in Palimpsest

“I think what we found ultimately is the amount of time it takes to compile 200 of something could be better spent actually narrowing it down to 20 and figuring out how to make it a really rich narrative experience. The megalist phase of 2010 was an interesting experiment, but one that has mercifully gone by the wayside.”
― Noah Veltman, Knight-Mozilla fellow
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___

Sources:

Aaron Calvin, “6 Quotes From Author Umberto Eco On Why People Love Lists,” BuzzFeed, Dec. 13, 2013

Wired Magazine, “Step One: Make a List”, October 2012

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