If I'm going to spend any time thinking about this at all, here's my opportunity I suppose.
I don't actually listen to Desert Island Discs, not because it's uninteresting - I believe it's the most enduring radio programme format of all, outside news etc. - but it simply isn't a habit.
People deal with this idea according to all sorts of criteria. As I can tell from the programme, when I have heard it, some guests want to impress the listener with their good taste, or the wide range of their interests, and at least one, an opera singer, had such ego that her choices were all of her own recordings. Some try to list what they consider the greatest ever albums/books/movies etc., while others stick to personal favourites. Which is much better, since it is after all an interview show. The BBC radio programme itself maintains certain rules - you get 8 discs if I remember correctly, a book apart from the Bible and Shakespeare (do they still do that? - it seems to presume a lot in our modern diverse society), and a luxury, which mustn't be useful for any escape or rescue attempt.
So here are my lists, to be changed or added to at my whim anytime in the future.
I'm disposed to make allowance for practicality in a couple of respects apart from that rule about usefulness. One, there'll only be ten or a dozen in each list; I'm thinking about that last desperate root around in one's possessions as the water rises in the cabin of one's sinking ship/plane/zeppelin, as we ignore the gurgling cries for help from our loved ones while determining that we won't survive the deprivation of the following months or years without access to the music of Take That or the cinema of Michael Bay; and only being able to carry a few items with us as we splash towards the shallows dodging sundry sharks. We lie exhausted on the beach, gasping, and realise with selfish shame that one of those loved ones was quite a good cook, and also that we've forgotten our toothbrush. Before you ask - by some miracle, we have available a dvd and cd player and a solar powered battery charger, all engineered to be resistant to sand or dust or any malfunction at all.
Secondly, very seriously, I'm not going to pick all of my most admired works of art, because I don't want to get sick of them. I'm picking films and books and albums which I have good reason to think I can bear to watch or read or listen to many, many times before ripping them apart in manic rage and feeding them to one of those sharks.
Here's a few to kick off the lists which I can think of straight away, films first.
- The 39 Steps Alfred Hitchcock
- The Blues Brothers John Landis
- A Canterbury Tale Michael Powell
- Trust Hal Hartley
- My Neighbour Totoro Hayao Miyazaki
- Midnight Run Martin Brest
- The Outlaw Josie Wales Clint Eastwood
- The Art of Coarse Acting Michael Green
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams (er, all in one volume?)
- Just William Richmal Crompton (likewise, several in a volume please?)
- Venus on the Half-Shell Kilgore Trout
- Catch-22 Joseph Heller
Then music, the actual discs - hence, they're albums, not individual songs, because these are what you'd be grabbing from your increasingly moist cabin.
- Hunky Dory David Bowie
- Squeezing Out Sparks Graham Parker and The Rumour
- Fragile Yes
- Kadonnut puutarha Indica
- Manner Scandinavian Music Group
- Get Happy! Elvis Costello & The Attractions
As you can see, I've mostly avoided material likely to get my spirits down. Though I think these lists will look a little different after a while. :)