15 Minutes of Fame

BBC+Radio+4+20080308122546So that’s that, then. “The Amazing Arnolfini” duly disappeared from the iPlayer on Wednesday and is now history. And what a peculiar experience the whole thing was, too, first of all hearing the announcer reading my name and then listening to my own words coming out of a radio. I found it was completely impossible to sit down and I ended up pacing up and down the office like a caged lion.

As I hinted in my last post on the subject, I had a serious feeling of hubris about the whole venture, too. Who was I to be thinking I deserved to have my work broadcast to the nation? Whilst it was on, this manifested itself in me continually wanting to change the piece, wishing I’d done one last edit. Here are a few things that occurred to me:

  1. Why Arnolfini, for God’s sake? The story was originally called “The Great Gandolfini and His Wife” and the reason I changed it was because someone pointed out to me that it made them think of overweight American actors rather than tightrope walkers. Fair enough, but Arnolfini was a bit of a lazy choice with too many irrelevant overtones. Or maybe I was being over-sensitive because it wasn’t long since I’d been at the Arnolfini Centre in Bristol?
  2. I let an “Eventually” through. Everyone writer has their word-that-always-creeps-in, and mine is “Eventually”. I completely missed it. I was so annoyed about that.
  3. There seemed to be far too many words. “The Amazing Arnolfini” is actually quite an early story of mine, dating back to November 2007, and I think I’ve tightened up my style a bit since then. I kept thinking “Oh, stop showing off your bloody research and get on with it!”

Maybe it’s just another demonstration of the fact that a story’s never truly finished. And maybe it doesn’t matter quite so much if a story takes its time to get going when it’s on the radio – it’ll still keep moving forward as long as the actor keeps reading it.

But setting all that aside, it was an extraordinary experience and I felt amazingly privileged to have an actor of Laurel Lefkow’s calibre reading the story – and it was wonderful to see the wave of comments from my friends on Facebook and Twitter when it finished. The only sad thing is that neither of my parents were alive to hear it. My mother died a long time ago, but my father died earlier on this year. He would have been 94 this week in fact and I wish he could have heard the broadcast, if only because it might just have convinced him that I wasn’t completely wasting my time on this writing lark.

6 thoughts on “15 Minutes of Fame

  1. Bec says:

    Of course you deserve to have your work broadcast to the nation, Jon!

    1. Arnolfini was fine. Gandolfini would have reminded me of LOTR.

    2. I didn’t notice the ‘eventually’ and there’s nothing wrong with one.

    3. I was impressed by the research that must have gone into it, and it didn’t distract from the story at all.

    So stop worrying. I know I worry about my own writing, but if you’ve had something accepted for Radio 4 you know it’s good. 🙂

  2. admin says:

    Aw thanks, Bec. Does anyone ever stop worrying about the quality of their work, I wonder?

  3. Sherri says:

    Well, we have to be our own worst critics if we want to produce our best work, but there is also a time to stop (and maybe even bask a little!)

    I didn’t notice any of those things. I liked the ‘research’ bits – just enough to add interest, not so much to halt the flow or look like showing off.

    It’s a really good story, Jonathan, just as it is and, as part of the nation, I was delighted to have it broadcast to me.

  4. admin says:

    Thank you too, Sherri! Maybe I’ve just lived with this story a bit too long now 🙂

  5. AliB says:

    I agree with Sherri. We could all rewrite everything we have ever done until we die. But there comes a point (eventually?) when you have to say ‘this is the story I wanted to tell’. And I think this was pretty much it.

  6. admin says:

    Thanks, Alison. I’m probably agonising too much. But I really did feel like that whilst the broadcast was on 🙂

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