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A List of List-Makers & the Columns to Which They Are Addicted

Schindler's Factory Made Famous By His List - Jf1288
Lists of things, people, places, memories, preferences come in all shapes and sizes. That’s why list-formators may be emotionally balanced. Or not.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare mentioned: ‘a list of landlesse resolutes’. In the Coots/Gillespie song, ‘Santa Claus is making a list/and checking it twice/gonna find out who’s naughty and nice’. Some psychiatrists believe the making of lists relieves stress and gives some sense of purpose. The media is obsessed with A-list and B-list celebrities. Lists on social networking sites have become commonplace. The list is here to stay.

Linton Weeks, writing on NPR sets out a list of 10 reasons why people love writing lists. They range from bringing order to chaos, aid to memory, they are finite and making them can help make people famous, or add to their fame. Both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were inveterate list makers.

Mainstay of the Publishing Industry

Books of lists make up much of the catalogues of publishing houses. They are relatively easy and cheap to compile and find a willing market. Ten things to do before death, marriage or after divorce; 101 uses for dead animals, old furniture; twenty top places to visit, grumpy old men… the list of possibilities is endless.

Michael Korda, Editor in Chief at Simon & Schuster wrote Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900-1999 (2001). Cahners Business Information, Inc. produced a review of the book in Publishers Weekly, acknowledging the debt of bestseller lists to the publishing, movie and recording industries. It is thought the first bestseller list of fiction was in The Bookman in 1895, and grew from then on. Korda’s approach was analytical, critical and academic, noting how popular lists reflect society and its tastes and obsessions, citing sex over the decades and its permutations to justify the claim.

According to Hunter Davies’ Lists, published in the UK in 2004, a sign of human behaviour is to make lists, and he reckons them to come in three categories. There are mental props, things to be done/bought; there are factual information lists that store data people find useful or interesting; and there are opinion lists, like favourite foods, sports results, music tracks. However, he subdivides into male and female lists, crediting women with the gift of enjoying crossing off listed jobs done, and also writing down and crossing off a job done that was not previously written. There is no research to back up his assertion, as yet.

Dale Carnegie, author of 1937‘s How to Win Friends and Influence People, compiled a list of ways to make people like somebody: become genuinely interested in other people, smile, remember a man’s name is the sweetest thing to him, be a good listener. He also made rules for making homelife happier: don’t nag, don’t criticise, give honest appreciation, pay little attentions and read a good book on the sexual side of marriage.

List-Making Can Become List-Marketing

Nowadays people cannot just make scribbled lists on pieces of paper, but some entrepreneurs are selling them a tool to do it. Mashable recognise just two list-making categories; wishlists (things people want) and checklists (things to do). They sell 40 mobile and web-based tools to help people organise their lists. There are many other companies doing similar sales pitches.

The successful movie directed by Stephen Spielberg, Schindler’s List (1993) from the 1982 novel by Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s Ark) tells the true tale of Czech Nazi business man Oskar Schindler who used Jewish labour to start a factory in Poland. Once the deportations to death camps began, his motive switched from profit to altruism and he was able to make a list from memory of workers he said were essential to Nazi war efforts, and saved over a thousand lives.

It was a box office hit, receiving seven Academy Awards (American Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences) including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, along with seven BAFTAs, 3 Golden Globes and in 2007 the American Film Institute ranked it 8th on its annual list of 100 best American movies. Commercial success from a life-saving list.

The Ten Rules for Being Human by Cherie Carter-Scott from her book If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules (1999) has divided opinion between those who regard it as a modern practical guide to self-motivated living, and those who dismiss it as psychobabble. She says the rules are not commandments, but universal truths.

* ‘Rule 1: You will receive a body

* Rule 2: You will be presented with lessons (in life)

* Rule 3: There are no mistakes, only lessons

* Rule 4: The lesson is repeated until learned

* Rule 5: Learning does not end

* Rule 6: ‘There’ is no better than ‘here’.

* Rule 7: Others are only mirrors of you

* Rule 8: What you make of your life is up to you

* Rule 9: Your answers lie inside you

* Rule 10: You will forget all this at birth’

There is also a website for obsessive listers, the Secret Society of List Addicts, and here is a list of their categories: age, alerts, animals, books, childhood, dreams, entertainment, family, fashion, favourites, food, friends, fun times, hair, hate, inspiration, joy, learning, life, lists, love, men, money, movies, music, parties, people, plans, relationships, secrets, style, technology, travel, want, words and work. As yet, there is no list of categories they don’t allow.

First published on Suite 101, 21 July 2010.

Photo: Schindler’s Factory Made Famous By His List – Jf1288

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