Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Show your working

I had an English teacher who used to say fascinating things to us. One of them was:

All novels are about writing novels.

What I think he may have meant was that writing a book is such a long, absorbing job that whatever else you set out to write about you end up writing about the process itself. The good thing is that the process of writing a book, which necessitates continual application, introspection, creativity alloyed with just the right amount of self-criticism, is something like a metaphor for life. So if novelists know anything at all about life, it's because they've spent all this time trying to do a very hard thing, for an imaginary reward that they either can't hope to achieve or, if they can, can't enjoy, and maybe learned something in the process. 

Process though, is often interesting, often makes a good story.

(Nice turn from Andy Serkis there).

And if you think about the great American TV of recent years it's often as much about process, as result. The innovation of The Sopranos was to show the mafia boss in his dressing gown eating Parma ham straight from the fridge - it's just the Godfather, but with less left out. Shows like 30 Rock, The Wire and Madmen all work on a similar principle - they are all making-of dramas concerned with TV comedy, the drug trade and advertising respectively. That's why when you watch a DVD box set (and couples my age who are sick talking to one another don't do anything else) and reach the end of it, the feeling is not one of satisfaction, but disappointment. People still watch things with their teleological heads on, but they've stopped being interested in the ends of things. It's the process they want to see.

The modern experience of working as a tiny part of a much larger system, and being made aware of that system by the media, means that the goals that we work towards are likely to feel less dramatic. Especially in the context of global news and the knowledge that everyone is up to more or less the same thing. Ends don't feel special or significant any more. 

This is just one of the reasons that video games are a better entertainment fit for modern life. They are designed to prevent you from getting to the end. Like the impossibly apostrophised  Demon's Souls, which, well, you may as well write a novel as try and finish that game.

In other news, I saw Mick Jones on Friday night outside Hix on Brewer Street. Long term readers will know that Mick Jones tends to pop up at crucial moments in my life, looking terrible. I somehow didn't have my wits about me enough to take his picture, but I did say hello. I then spent the rest of the evening regretting not having photographed Mick Jones on my mobile so I could post it on my blog. A modern neurosis if ever there was one.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An interesting-ish article about how gaming is killing daytime tv...

I looked up teleological, but still don't understand what it means.