The soul of wit

by Michael


How long is a piece of blog?

A Guardian editorial towards the start of the year praised brevity. It ended: “We have run out of words before we have run out of space.”

A boon of a blog is, of course, that the space never runs out. This is, of course, a mixed blessing. And in an age that now seems determined to fetishise the ‘long read‘ form, perhaps as a way to kick against the perceived lack of attention span and news ‘bites’ of modern (online) culture, the art of writing short might be getting short shrift – except on Twitter, thanks to its 140-character limit.

I’m never going to be pithy – I am too fond of prolix digressions – but I admire the writer who stops when they have run out of words for the topic at hand, rather than for any constraints of space afforded them by commission or convention. It puts me in mind of Samuel Beckett, whose short short plays (eg Breath) will rarely get an outing on their own (issues of selling tickets for a 25-second performance and the challenge for venues of making money from the bar if punters are leaving so soon), but this was never going to persuade him to lengthen these plays to meet somebody else’s minimum duration. (I was a member of the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain for a couple of years and remember from the information they sent that the going rate for writing a play was different depending on whether it was under or over 70 minutes.)

Speaking of theatre: I’ve been to see two plays in the last week or so – I am seen in theatres almost as rarely as short Beckett plays, so this was rather exciting. The first was DEFRAG_ written and performed by Tom Lyall, a friend and an outstanding actor. The second was Going Dark by Sound&Fury. I was rooting for both to be good and I wasn’t disappointed. That said, I did have some reservations about Going Dark, which was beautifully executed but much of what lay outside the central narrative of a man losing his sight seemed fairly arbitrary in its selection and/or inclusion.

Curiously, both were one-man shows, both had more than a little science/technology about them, and both were to some extent about loss.

It is ten years since I produced Invitation to a Beheading (in which Tom appeared). I have a recurring notion to make a film of the production rather than attempt reviving a theatrical run. I think it could work ever so well but I would need a lot of help and goodwill.

In the meantime, I have decided that I should really try writing some scenes for radio – or perhaps more accurately, for audio presentation on this blog. The technology is easy an relatively cheap to acquire and use, and I would hope that I could persuade some very talented people to come over and be wined and dined before or after recording a playlet or two. Give me a month or two to sort it out….

Of course, if anyone is to listen to these audioplays, I will have to pay attention to their length – people won’t bother if they are too long. I hope I will remember to stop when I have run out of words.