Desert Island Confusion

The Independent newspaper in London has a story in a recent issue about the BBC’s long-running program Desert Island Discs. This article by Alex Johnson focuses on book lists and this week opens with a discussion of the choices made by “castaways” on the BBC’s program. Unlike music recordings (of which 10 are allowed), only one book may be chosen (aside from the Bible and Complete Works of Shakespeare which are given to each). The story then lists the most popular ten book choices over the program’s history, all of which would be considered classics, such as War and Peace and Pride and Prejudice.

The story continues to consider book choices of notable guests on Desert Island Discs. But then it shifts to another book listing scheme entirely:

Aaron Hicklin, owner of the One Grand bookshop in Narrowsburg, New York, has taken the concept a stage further. He asks well-known writers, artists and creative minds to choose 10 books they would take to a desert island and then stocks his shelves accordingly…

As an example, Johnson offers novelist Jay McInerney’s 10 “desert island” bests. This includes Waugh’s novel A Handful of Dust as well as Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. The combination in the same article of these different lists that each carry the “Desert Island” label is at least a bit misleading. McInerney was never a guest on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs, so far as I can tell, and was therefore never asked to list his single book choice. Moreover, in a previous post we listed several of Waugh’s books that had been selected on the Desert Island Disc program, but Handful of Dust was not among them. See previous post. Read carefully, the Independent’s story is accurate, but the combination of these different lists with the same label at least creates some risk of confusion.


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