Amidst the many stresses and demands of November 2020, let me take a quick break to present a small parlor game for anyone’s use and amusement.
I call it 3+ Brilliants, and it’s pretty simple.
Each player has to come up with three or more excellent works created by a single artist, inventor, or group. The catch is that those 3+ must be all in a row. No non-superb works by the same creator can interrupt that run.
Each work must be long form for its field. That is, novels are good, but not short stories. Short poems shouldn’t be played, but epics or book-length collections are fair game. Songs, no, but albums, yes.
Any creative field can be used. The arts are obvious – think novels, movies, plays, music – but other forms of creative invention are fine: engineering, for example.
In fact, let me offer some examples.
Stanley Kubrick directed three classic films in a row: Dr. Strangelove (1964), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), then A Clockwork Orange (1971). (Wikipedia calls this period ground-breaking cinema.) We might try to add Lolita (1962) to the head of the list, or Barry Lyndon (1975), which should lead to some discussion. Personally, I’d vote for both, but I know not everyone agrees.
Shifting to the novel, one could volunteer four (!) from Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), then Emma (1815). Four classics of literature in a row, straight up. Preceding all of those is Northanger Abbey, which I enjoy for the Gothic aspect, but recognize it as something much less impressive than her other works.
Back to movies, we can cite Francis Ford Coppola, who issued a string of great and very different movies in a row: The Godfather (1972), The Conversation (1974), The Godfather Part II (also 1974!), then Apocalypse Now (1979).
And so on.
We can play 3+ Brilliants in several ways. The simplest is for individual players to think, perhaps research, then volunteer their lists for others to consider. Players can argue against items on a list, either finding them less than amazing, or discovering sub-excellent pieces in the same time frame. This can occur in person or online.
Another mode is for one player to declare a context for everyone else to work within. They could set a time period, a region, a medium, or even something more playful and challenging, like creators whose name begins with a vowel.
A quiz version could offer the creator’s name, and people have to guess or collective determine the 3+. Maybe give the name plus one of the titles.
And so on. Folks can probably come up with more variations.
How 3+ Brilliants came about: actually, this game appeared to me as an idea in a dream, possibly because I went to bed thinking of Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game (1943). I can’t remember anything else from the dream, but the rules had gelled as I woke up, and then… I wasn’t sure what to do with it. It sounded like fun, so I tried it out on Facebook and Twitter. Twitter responses often touched on music:
I could do this al day (one of my fav phenoms to note, 3 in a rows)
Bob Marley – could either do Catch a Fire, Burnin' and Natty Dread, or else Rastaman Vibration, Exodus and Kaya. Or the final 3, Survival, Uprising and Confrontation
— Scott Leslie (@sleslie) November 9, 2020
King Crimson: Discipline; Beat; Three of a Perfect Pair
— Ed Webb (@edwebb) November 8, 2020
Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street — a rare four-banger
— Christopher Sessums (@csessums) November 9, 2020
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book, Innervisions, Fulfililngness' First Finale.
Don Delilo – Americana, End Zone, Great Jones Street
— David Kernohan (@dkernohan) November 9, 2020
On Facebook, more than 100 responses came in, from music to physics to theater:
Björk: Debut, Post, Homogenic, Vespertine (Sara Grosky)
Antonin Dvorak: New World Symphony Op. 95, American quartet Op. 96, Eb major quintet, Op. 97. (Caroline Coward)
Albert Einstein – Paper on Photoelectric Light/Paper on Brownian Motion/Paper on Theory of Special Relativity/Paper on Mass-Energy Equivalence (collectively known as the “Annus Mirabillis” papers). (Peter G. Shea)
In four consecutive years, August Wilson wrote Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and The Piano Lesson. Three Critics Circle awards, two drama desks, two Pulitzers, and a Tony. (Eric Behrens)
And there you have it. I hope people have fun with it. Please feel free to play in the comments, or to offer other ideas for how it could work.