“We like lists because we don’t want to die.” (Umberto Eco, Der Spiegel, November 11, 2009)
Going back some years: I was attempting one night to thread a delicate emotional needle in my household of that time. My partner then — “the world’s most beautiful woman,” claims Oscar Wilde‘s great-great nephew, although I recall only the world’s most vicious face-slapper — insisted on that occasion that my desperate need (at 2am) to roll our trash bin to the curb was evidence of my valuing garbage above her need to be succored, massaged, and probably serenaded. I said, “So in your opinion, if I made a list of life’s general moral priorities, putting out the garbage would be at the top, while your faire selfe would fall somewhere near the bottom.” She didn’t answer; merely slapped my face.
Ever since, I’ve felt nervous about lists. Right now, I’m nervous about a list of the 101 best plays. It ranks Coriolanus not only fifteen deep but below the position of John Marston’s The Malcontent. Now, The Malcontent is a very cool play, no question. But better than Coriolanus? Really? Moreover, where are the babes in this list? I see only Aphra Behn and Carryl Churchill (whose Top Girls, by the way, I’d have put in the first ten).