Always leave them wanting more

December 27, 2019

Apparently Amanda Palmer is doing a 4-hour show of songs and talking. It sounds horrible. Not because I have a particular dislike of Amanda Palmer (although I’m not a big ukulele fan), but because 4 hours of any performance is too much.

All good things should come to an end, preferably before they outstay their welcome. Inside every double album is a better single album that should have got out. I want to enjoy a show, not endure it. I don’t want to emerge from the cinema with a numb bum and an overfull bladder. I don’t want books to be so heavy that they give my arms more of a workout than my mind. I don’t want to see the director’s cut, I want to see the editor’s cut.

Why do people make long films and double albums? Perhaps they feel that bigger is better, that longer means value for money, or that it’s a sign of having bigger ideas. Sometimes it seems to be a sense of self-importance, a grandiose notion that their muse needs to be given full expression without such tiresome limitations as the audience having other things to do with their lives.

The great Russian novels were written for people who needed to stay indoors for months on end, but even so, do all those details about farming really add to our understanding of the human condition?

Perhaps I’m a philistine, living in shallower times, but I don’t want reams of description or dozens of intricate subplots. There’s value in directness and expressing ourselves succinctly, and without unnecessary ornamentation. I’d much rather read a lean short story than a bloated epic saga.

Artists sometimes talk about being free from the shackles of commerciality, but sometimes the corporate bean-counters are protecting us from the self-indulgent navel-gazing and grandiose ambitions of the would-be auteur who thinks that more is more.

Then again, a lot of people seem to like that sort of thing - three and a half hours of superhero movie gets people queuing round the block, and people rave about the feat of making it through Springsteen gigs. Maybe I’m missing out on a transcendent experience because I’d rather get an early night.