Monday, March 18, 2013


Moloney sent a text on Saturday night.

Quick, what's the greatest song of all time? (Having a pre-Paddy's Day bar debate)

A flurry of back-and-forth texts ensued — I went with "There She Goes" by The La's and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" from George Jones; she cited Dylan, the Beatles, Ben Harper & Hendrix — before we agreed on one song: "Amazing Grace." Everyone knows it, everyone can sing it, everyone hopes (wishes) (dreams) for redemption.

But greatest doesn't mean favorite. Today I was updating some things on Goodreads and marked a few books as favorites, including some guilty schlock pleasure reads that will never make any greatest lists. Doing this made me think of Moloney's text and how difficult it is to be sure of favorites in an ever-evolving journey through life.

A decade ago I had no doubt Brazil would always top my list of favorite films. Today it's still among the Top 20 (or so). The favorite now? Maybe Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Or Spirited Away. Or Howl's Moving Castle. Yeah. Definitely Howl's. No doubt. I think.

Things change. Certainties become uncertain. Popularity breeds contempt. Cocksure twentysomethings in the 1980s thought The Breakfast Club was a masterpiece that meant something. A revisit during a Friday movie night (speaking of things that fall apart) showed those kids in the '80s didn't know what the hell they were talking about. The film, like Mare Winningham, did not age well.

A list of favorite books is probably less prone to the capricious whims of shifting pop culture. People become infatuated with movies. The written word: that's the land of lasting love, or so I hope. Long after the movie fades into footnote status, people will still read The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. There is an enduring mystery to words that evoke emotions, no matter the original language. Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez proves that.

Back to Moloney's question: greatest song? A year ago I made a playlist for my inevitable (fuck) wake. Fifty songs as background music for mourners, revelers, verifiers. Today I need to replace a dozen songs on the RED 50. George Jones has to be on there. So does "Layla."

"Amazing Grace" is already on the list. No offense to Judy Collins, but it'll be Jeff Beck's version playing for my friends and enemies as they swill scotch. A glass of Johnnie Walker Black will be sitting by my ashes. It may not be the greatest. But it's my favorite.

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