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Jenny Collins, a freelance writer in St. Paul, lists lists as among her favorite things to read. But she does so with her ego in check. “People get so offended by them,” she said.
She divides lists into two categories: “Those that look at things with a different perspective than you and those that look at things with the same perspective as you. Lists either broaden or confirm what you already think. Sometimes it’s nice to read a list of, say, the best movies that agrees with what I think. But I also like to look at lists that make me aware of movies I haven’t seen.”
Where do our cat videos rank?
The Internet is awash in lists. Websites like Ranker.com, Toptenz.com, Listography.com and BuzzFeed.com do nothing but run lists of everything from the best fake products featured on “The Simpsons” to the most unusual public festivals. Our cat video film fest didn’t make that list (insert your own derogatory comment about the list-maker here).
No list about lists is complete without mentioning the modern-day guru — David Letterman and his nightly Top 10 list.
“The Letterman team has mastered the form,” said Dave Walbridge, a Twin Cities comedy writer who also teaches writing (www.procomedywriting.com). Because of Letterman, the format “is incredibly popular. It’s the No. 2 thing I teach after the traditional set-up-and-punch-line form. It’s basically one set-up followed by 10 punch lines.”
As a reader, Walbridge likes lists because “they’re a great way to convey a lot of information in a hurry.” But as a writer, he worries that we might be getting close to list overkill.
“It’s probably going to happen,” he said. “We’re being bombarded with them.”
But in the meantime, we need to be ready to rally to the cause whenever some misguided list doesn’t give us the respect we know we deserve, McEwen urged. For instance, we were recently left off Amazon’s list of most-read cities — because we don’t buy enough books online.
“It’s not about the list, it’s not about the status, it’s not about the win,” she said. “It’s about the fight.”
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-3792