I don’t want to see your workings
I am one hundred per cent in agreement with the hosts of a bad taste party who awarded top prize not to the guest who turned up dressed as Saddam Hussein, or the one who came as Myra Hindley, but to the one who deliberately arrived an hour early. What appalling, stomach-churning rudeness!
The concept of the ‘fashionably late’ 15-minute buffer between the time you’re invited and the time you arrive exists for a reason. While I’m usually ready at dead on the time of the invitation, anyone turning up in the ten minutes before that is likely to be confronted with a hall full of random junk waiting to be put back where it belongs, and a madwoman sweeping up the fall-out in the kitchen – probably wearing a daft hat in the hopes of squashing her hair into submission.
One of my worst experiences in shared student living was when we threw a party due to start at 8, but one of our number inexplicably told people they could arrive earlier so a few of them rocked up at 6, while for some reason we were all sitting round having a chicken dinner. Having to clear up the greasy remains while half a dozen people hung about waiting for the fun to start and regretting that the chicken had not been for them was not my idea of entertaining.
The aim is to make it look effortless – as if you’ve spent half the afternoon sitting on the sofa with a sherry listening to Ella Fitzgerald while amazing smells waft out of the kitchen of their own accord. No one wants to think about you run ragged and wailing like a banshee because you’ve sliced the top off your finger and you haven’t got a 20 cm cake tin.
In art as in life. The same principles apply: I just want to see the film, thank you very much – the film as agreed on by all as the final cut, conforming to the director’s vision (and, OK, that of the backers and possibly the focus groups) of the definitive version. I don’t want to see the out-takes, the ‘making of’, the interviews with cast and crew. Where’s the mystique in that? Couldn’t they sell cheaper DVDs to those that don’t want all this extraneous padding.
Likewise with writing. Annotated versions of manuscripts are essential for the student of literature, but by and large I don’t want to wade through authors’ rejectamenta. That’s their, or their editor’s, job. Ezra Pound’s suggestions for improvements to T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland are probably the most famous example of this, but at least the raw material was never quite as bad as posited by John Sessions: ‘There is a wasteland down our road/Some folks call it a dump/It’s big as hell/ It don’ ‘arf smell/It’s giving me the ‘ump.’
And I don’t want my hero worship of great artists threatened by the X-ray revelation that they’ve had to paint over extra legs!
What about fashion? Why have discreet zips up the sides of dresses, looking just like seams, given way to great clunking exposed gold zips, dragging down even the flimsiest of garments? And when did it cease to be de rigueur to try conceal bra straps with safety pins or even little sewn-in tapes, and instead become compulsory to display them, ideally in contrasting colours? (I blame Madonna.)
If my attitude is the height of bourgeois-iosity (what is the right word for this?) and lamentably un-postmodern, well so be it. And may you never, ever catch me in my hair-flattening hat.