With a 'List, list, O, list!' Hamlet's father drove him mad, and I know how he felt. The new-year provides a unique opportunity for the blogosphere to indulge its twin passions for pedantry and one-upmanship. Combined with the year-round power play that plagues theatrical criticism, the online Highlights of 2007 articles read like manifestos of just how open-minded, original, eclectic, fun yet intellectually and politically engaged the authors are. Of course, that could just be my neuroses talking. But the list-makers have found a friend in French academic and psychoanalyst Pierre Gayard's much-discussed, newly translated treatise How To Talk About Books You Haven't Read.
For those of you woefully out of the French academic loop, Bayard's book posits that what we think of as 'reading' - cover-to-cover, all the words, leading to a bit of thought, a bit of learning or questioning, possibly empathy or maybe even pleasure - is actually no more significant than simply understanding that book's position in our 'collective library'. So, to simply know that Don Quixote represents an early milestone in the emergence of the European novel and acts as a kind of cultural shorthand for hubristic imagination, is no less valid than actually ploughing through all of Cervantes' prose, which is frankly rather repetitive once you've done the windmills.