Last week I appeared on radio and in print, both in heavily edited forms. The editing process is like looking through glass: it distorts but you can still see what was meant.
Tamsin Hughes, a BBC Radio 4 producer, telephoned me in October, and interviewed me two weeks later, for a couple of hours. The interview was used in a half-hour programme, “3D in Perspective,” broadcast on 7 December. Our two-hour conversation was edited down to four snippets, interwoven amongst three other interviewees and the presenter’s script. Tamsin put enormous effort into weaving a compelling story from hours of source material. I think she recorded enough material to make a series. It was a privilege to talk with her in October and to watch her mentally re-working her story-line as the interview progressed. In the end, the things I said in the programme were things that I believe but, having now heard the story-line, I might have phrased them differently. My initial telephone conversation with Tamsin was actually better than the interview, because it was fresh and enthusiastic. I spent much of the interview trying to recapture that enthusiasm.
In the same week, I had a review, in Nature, of Anish Kapoor’s current exhibitions. This 1,000-word review is based on a longer 2,500-word piece that I wrote about his 2009 exhibition. It took a lot of work to produce those 1,000 words. What happened after it was submitted was fascinating. Nature’s Arts & Books Editor and I did five iterations on the piece. She knocked it into Nature’s style, and trimmed the fat. I then put some of the fat back and slanted it more the way she wanted. She then trimmed the fat again. I checked that the facts were still right. She then did a final trimming. The end result is some mad conglomeration of both our writing styles. It is not what she would have written, if she’d had a free hand, and it is not what I would have written—which makes it some sort of orphan, with neither parent really owning it.