Sunday, 17 May 2009

Page Rage

When you write - promiscuously - for a living you learn pretty quickly not to get too precious about handing your words over to a publication and seeing them cut, re-shuffled, re-interpreted, manhandled and generally FUCKED AROUND WITH. It happens to absolutely everybody, and I’m sufficiently bruised and bloodied by experience to understand that when it comes to a straight fist fight between the brilliance of your words and filling the ever-shifting available space, filling the space wins every time. That’s just how it is. It’s nothing personal. Sometimes these changes even make the piece read better, which you'd think would be the whole point but usually isn't.

So, I’m not going to get all Giles Coren about it, but sometimes the sheer lunacy of the editing process proves more than usually exasperating, as though you're trapped in an Escher painting. Like, for example, when you’re asked to write a lead album review for a national publication, coming in at 320 words. This you duly do, only to be later told that there is more space on the page – hurrah! - and could you expand the review to 400 words? This you also duly do. Fine. So far so good. Then, however, your words enter that dark production chamber where anything can happen - and usually does, well out of earshot and generally not in a good way. The first you'll know about it is when - taking a random example - your on-the-nose 400-word review appears in print, rather brutally stamped down to 320 words. To which the only suitable response is – EH?!!? Where did that extra space for 80 phantom words suddenly come from? And - more pressingly - where did it go? And when it did go, why not simply print my original 320-word review, rather than chop the 400 word one into little bits, creating a third - inferior - hybrid review? Or why not ask me to rewrite it? And so on and so on, into a descending circle of pointless rage.

Does anyone care? Probably not. But I do, not because what I wrote for publication was earth-shatteringly fantastic, but because it's my name on the damn thing and I'm occasionally foolish enough to labour under the naive delusion that - no matter how many cuts and changes have to be made to a piece of writing - they should be made with the same degree of care and concern that I, unfailingly, put into writing it in the first place. Fool that I am.

All of which is by way of an elonagated introduction to a couple of trifles. My – rather more 'boutique' than originally planned - festival guide appears in the new Observer Music Monthly, and the Great Shrinking Review of the new surprisingly-good-fun-actually Paolo Nutini album also shuffles into view in the same magazine. There. World saved.

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