Friday, 3 May 2013

Passing the cucumber test.

There is an interesting article in Times 2 today (by Richard Morrison) about a book by Malcolm Gladwell.   The book is called
"Blink" and Gladwell is a New York journalist.

In the book he contends that the whole of life is like a cucumber - you don't have to eat the entire cucumber in order to know what cucumber tastes like.   You really only need a slice to decide whether you like its texture, taste and juiciness.   Then you can make up your mind whether you like cucumber or not.

He suggests that your first impression of anything - people, works of art, music, books, is almost always the correct one for you.  He suggests that this is because your brain can process signals very quickly and come to a real assessment.

Because of this view there is an annual competition called Virgin Media Shorts which has been going for six years and which challenges anyone who would like to be a film director to show viewers what they can do in 140 seconds or less.

I think this can probably be translated to other disciplines too.   I read his article for exacly 140 seconds and managed to get to 300 words.  I think it would be possible to say something "amusing, beautiful, wry, political or profound" (to quote Morrison) in 300 words - in fact in a lot less.

I think it could also be used in a musical composition - not sure about visual art though - may be it would take longer - although I do think some Picasso drawings which are inspirational probably took hours to think about and only a short amount of time actually putting pen, pencil, charcoal or whatever to paper.

When I think of some of the turgid books I have tried to read; books which have a message but which lose me after a couple of chapters because I become  choked with a mass of words I definitely think it would be worth a try.   What do you think?  Do you fancy having a go?

     

18 comments:

Reader Wil said...

When I have to read articles which are too long, I don't read it anymore. It is confusing if one gets too much information, where a few words are sufficient.
Thanks for your comment. For us the inauguration was quite a wonderful happening for the whole country.

Cloudia said...

In my blog I try to present few worthies set in cleansing space, hoping others will find respite & refreshment.

Heather said...

An interesting idea. I always try to use only those words which are necessary to convey my meaning. I suppose the same should apply to textile art or any other medium - it is all to easy to clutter the design. As for books, I don't enjoy very 'wordy' ones. They can very soon become confusing and boring.
Would I like to give it a go? Ummm. I think you will make a far better job of it.

Gwil W said...

In the 1960's the length of the average pop song, at least on the singles I bought, was under two and half minutes - maybe it was about 140 seconds. So when you decided if you liked it or not you were already at the end. There was no more cucumber.

Elizabeth Wix said...

Well, this is sort of my philosophy.....
little but good.
More isn't necessarily better.
Haiku are cool.
Just abandoned Zola's Germinal because it was just so damn pedestrian.
Concise.
Precise.
Apt.
Have a super weekend.

Titus said...

I a slow fan Weaver - I think short can be entertaining, and clever, but for profundity I naturally tend to the long, longer and longest.
Possibly I have a very big boredom threshold.

Jim Froggatt said...

Like a cucumber? Sounds a bit rum to me.

Pam said...

Hi Pat..I've linked to you. Would love you to pop over and say hello.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I tend to be wordy - so I usually like wordy - but never boring. If a book doesn't capture my attention in the first 4 or 5 pages it is a goner. I admire those that can be concise - but apparently it is not me - though sometimes I try.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

I tend to be wordy - so I usually like wordy - but never boring. If a book doesn't capture my attention in the first 4 or 5 pages it is a goner. I admire those that can be concise - but apparently it is not me - though sometimes I try.

Hildred said...

Oh yes, spare and clean and simple can be very appealing. On the other hand my love of words can lead me into what some might call disaster. But when it is descriptive I find it quite enchanting. Perhaps there is a place for both...

John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

So is this book just 300 words long?
And how come I didn't like cucumber when I was four but now I do?

Cro Magnon said...

W B Yeats used to enrol the help of his chum Lady Gregory to filter out any un-necessary words or expressions in his manuscripts, in order that the finished product was as easily readable as possible. Maybe we should all do the same; it certainly worked for WBY.

Dave King said...

Yes, I've read about this Blink theory before - I'm not sure that I've read this particular book, but I've definitely read ABOUT the idea and found it quite convincing. It might have applications to visual art. Some artists try not to think about the drawing, but just to use hand and eye, for example.

MorningAJ said...

Back when I was learning journalism we used to be told that if you can't tell the story in 250 words you've got it wrong.

It fact when I went off to university at the ripe old age of 37 I had to learn to 'over-write' to make my essays long enough!

There's a lot to be said for brevity.

Pondside said...

Yes, I have the book.
Perhaps because I spent most of my life moving around to different provinces and countries, I have developed a sixth sense or quick judgement process. I'm not really proud of it, but it has, by and large worked for me.
I no longer finish books because they are on the best seller list or considered edifying. I've given myself permission to close a book and give it away - life is too short!

Crafty Green Poet said...

I think far too many writers think they need to use lots of long and obscure words to try to sound intelligent. I have little patience with that.

My favourite pooetic form is the haiku, which says a lot about my tastes in general.

I don't like cucumber.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Some very interesting comments here - I am particularly interested in what Cro has to say especially as Yeats is on of my favourites and I have always admired his careful use of words - maybe we should all get a "Lady Gregory" filter.
Thanks for joining in. In future I shall try harder to cut down my wordiness.