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1. Back before we invaded Iraq, I remember quite frequently coming across the idea that one of the reasons we shouldn't do it is that it's wrong to decide that we know best and to interfere in the affairs of other countries, because Where Will It End? Now, I'm reading columns (from what I'm fairly confident are the same sources) that argue we have to try Saddam Hussein in an international court. We can't possibly leave him to be stand trial in Iraq, they say, because it would be like throwing him to a lynch mob. Do these viewpoints seem contradictory to anyone else?

2. Bob Dylan is not rated higher than Radiohead. Solo musical artists in general are not held to be better than groups. Similarly, a number of very fine TV series come from ensembles of writers; either true ensembles, or a group with an all-guiding hand looming above them. When it comes to written fiction, however, the single author is king. Shared-world fiction is almost universally looked down on, and it's a commonly-held view that writing in a collective couldn't work because you'd get a conflict of styles. So - why is it that when you come to novels, the vision of a single individual seems to be considered to be greater than anything that could come out of collaboration?

3. Thanks to one of my colleagues, I've borrowed a copy of Pride and Prejudice and started reading (I figured that since it was the only book I hadn't read in the Big Read top 5, I should probably get around to it). So far, I'm highly amused that a dislike of dancing is considered to be incontrovertible evidence that a man is a cad, such that nobody is surprised when the man who doesn't like to dance turns out to be a cad; and I'm desperately hoping that at least one of the characters will become vaguely likeable before the end of the novel. I'm fine with unsympathetic protagonists most of the time, but Christ is this hard going. I also don't know how it ends, so please don't tell me.

4. Happy Tolkien-mas, everyone! But I'm not going to see the film until 7pm tonight and I don't remember the book all that clearly (I deliberately haven't re-read), so if you could keep the juicy stuff behind LJ cuts for the first few days I'd be much obliged. :)
 
 
 
 
 
 
1. I suppose people could make the argument if you're going to interfere, make you sure you interfere as much as possible. :)

2. I'd rate Dylan over Radiohead. Both have whiny vocals. Both used to be much better. But Bob is much less punchable. :P

I think the issue with music and TV/film is that these are fundamentally co-operative mediums. One guy can go and stage and play by himself but generally he sounds better with other musicians. If they have something to add to the mix, then it's all good. With TV/Film it's nearly impossible to produce/direct/write/star/film etc single-handedly so any vision you get will never be a single one. So literature would be the only medium where one can get a single vision. But of course, it's not as editors edit and authors redraft based on suggestions.

3. The ending: The butler did it.

4. The ending: Sauron is revealed to be Old Man Willis who runs the failing Mordor Amusement Park.
One guy can go and stage and play by himself but generally he sounds better with other musicians. If they have something to add to the mix, then it's all good.

But there's a difference between being told 'play this!' and contributing to the writing of a song. In music, neither is inherently thought of as 'a better way'. We don't think Thom Yorke is being stifled by the other members of Radiohead, and likewise we don't think that Bob Dylan would be better off working with a partner.

With TV/Film it's nearly impossible to produce/direct/write/star/film etc single-handedly so any vision you get will never be a single one. So literature would be the only medium where one can get a single vision.

But that suggests the view that because it can be done, it's somehow automatically better. I don't see why that's true.

In TV, the ensemble writing can be a strength. I don't think Buffy and Angel would be better if Joss Whedon wrote every episode, if only because we'd never have gotten to see what writers like Tim Minear and Steve DeKnight would do with the material. I'm trying to work out why novels are generally thought to be in a different class.
1. Yes. That is all.

2. It comes, I think, from the Romantic (and utterly disingenous) notion of the poet/artist being given sudden inspiration and writing as artistic epiphany comes upon him. Of course, this is nonsense - even Wordsworth worked long and hard at his poems, revising and revising. There is nothing spontaneous about the poet's work, but this notion that a writer is somehow blessed with precisely that sort of sudden insight which he is compelled to write down has become a powerful one in our culture. Shared worlds and co-authored works stretch the believability of the idea too much, and are thus considered less worthy.

3. When you're done with it, you still won't like anyone. We hates Austen.

4. I've promised to wait until a friend's back from university, so I may not see it for some time yet. Of course, I won't ask people to be quiet about it for a week, so spoil away. Hell, I've read the books! :)
Shared worlds and co-authored works stretch the believability of the idea too much, and are thus considered less worthy.

That sounds plausible. It's just odd - I mean, you look at other areas of human endeavour such as science, and teamwork is absolutely essential. Yes, every so often a genius comes along, but most of the time, collaboration is the One True Way. The only scientists who toil away on their own are the reclusive and/or mad ones! :)

When you're done with it, you still won't like anyone.

Well, that's a little depressing.
1. Not really. The situation is somewhat different after the fact. Personally, I think if there's any possibility of him getting a fair trial in Iraq, that's what should happen. If not, then an alternative has to be found. Although I should say, it's not clear to me exactly what he's supposed to be going on trial for.

2. Bob Dylan is not rated higher than Radiohead. By who? I'll bet you'd find a substantial number of critics and people in general rate Dylan more highly.

4. Haven't booked tickets. We'll probably go and see it at the weekend. Aileen has told me most of what happens in the book anyway, so not hugely bothered about spoilers. :)
Although I should say, it's not clear to me exactly what he's supposed to be going on trial for.

Out of interest, then, what do you think of the Milosevic trial? Or I guess Nuremberg? I suppose if there were to be an international trial for Saddam, it would be along one of these two lines ... so do these two trials have any more identifiable a case for prosecution?
Re Saddam Hussein - it's not obvious, is it? I mean, he allegedly gassed the Kurds (and he probably did, though apparently there is some evidence to suggest that it was actually the Iranians who did that)- other than that he was just guilty of being someone the West didn't like. I know he wasn't good to his people but that happens all the time.

However, what I expect they will try him for is (a) being Saddam Hussein (b) having WMDs (and they won't rest 'til they "find" some) (c)Gassing the Kurds (easy to "prove"), etc etc etc.

To answer Niall's original question - yeah, it is pretty inconsistent. But if you are going to knock over a country and not let it sit up again until it agrees to be "democratic" then you should probably ensure a fair trial for the guy you deposed, since that's consistent with your self-professed morals. Or something.
Not really. The situation is somewhat different after the fact.

Why? The argument back then was 'we should let them solve their own problems.' The implied solution was for the Iraqis to overthrow Saddam themselves. If we wouldn't have stepped in then, why step in now? It just feels to me like 'we should be non-interventionist...but only up to a point!'

Although I should say, it's not clear to me exactly what he's supposed to be going on trial for.

He ordered the murder of thousands of people. I'm sure they'll think of something.

I do think it's important that he gets a fair trial, to avoid any potential martyr effects. And I do think we were wrong to invade Iraq when we did and for the reasons we did. So really, I'm trying to get to the root of my own hypocrisy as much as anything. :)

I'll bet you'd find a substantial number of critics and people in general rate Dylan more highly.

I don't think that's true, but you can generalise the point if you wish - singer/songwriters are not automatically given more critical acclaim than bands.
Similarly, a number of very fine TV series come from ensembles of writers; either true ensembles, or a group with an all-guiding hand looming above them. When it comes to written fiction, however, the single author is king.

I think you're overestimating the importance of the writing in TV series here, and I don't think you're taking into account the different experiences we get from watching TV shows and reading books.

I get different things out of watching TV and reading novels. I often read novels for the story: I expect a book to have a certain structure that will provide me with an introduction to the world and the characters, some developments in that world/those characters, and then hit me with some kind of resolution to the whole thing. A novel normally takes between a few days to a week to read, so I can reasonably expect to hold pretty much the whole story in my head, so that I can truly appreciate the significance of the resolution when it comes, as I can see, when I get to the end of the book, how everything fits together.

I can't expect the same kind of thing from a TV show. When I start watching a TV series I know that I'm not going to see the end of it for another twenty or so weeks. I also know that there's a good chance that after those twenty or so weeks I won't get an ending at all; instead I'll get a cliffhanger leading me into the next season. I may never get a resolution at all. I don't expect that same kind of structured story from a TV show as I do from a novel.

I think an individual, with a single vision, can best provide the kind of structured story I look for in books. I wouldn't have thought that a collaborative effort could produce a structure that was cohesive enough to be a satisfying novel. I don't expect the same kind of cohesion in a TV show, so I don't need a single author.

Books get their cohesion from a unity of story, a unity of vision. TV shows have other qualities that provide their unity. Writing for TV is mediated through the televisual production, so any slight differences in writing style can be smoothed over by the director or actor's own interpretation of the writing. Even if there are variations in the way the show is written, it's still being made in the same way - with the same sets, the same actors, the same crew, the same production procedures. The essential quality of a show does not come solely from the writing. There're a lot of other factors that shape the tone and feel of the show; that provide it with its unity.

The writing in a novel is unmediated. If there were differences in writing style or in vision in a collaborative novel they'd be right there in the text for any reader to see.

In both TV shows and in novels there has to be something that keeps it all hanging together. I think the thing that does that in most novels is the single-mindedness of the author, whereas the thing that does it in TV shows is the complex combination of all the different creative inputs to the show.

(Sorry that got so long.)
But it's just Not True that collaborative fiction can't work to produce a unified work. What are folk tales, if not that? And, as teh Hoggy noted further up the thread, the editor is at least as important as the writer, but isn't credited. Similarly, the writer gets his ideas from the people and situations around him, and even from previous works of fiction he may have read, from Classical myth to modernist literature (The Hours is a good example of the latter). True, all of this is distilled into a 'single vision' by the author ... but it's also refined by the editor and re-interpreted by the reader. All fiction is collaborative ... it's just we choose not to notice because we like to think of the writer as a breed apart.
1) Pretty much what greengolux said. Also, I have read novels that have been collaborative efforts, and not realised until it's pointed out afterwards. For example, Rankin Davis, who write legal thrillers and is described as a barrister in his mid thirties, is two different blokes. Nicci French, who writes thrillers, is a husband and wife writing team.

3) Without giving too much away, I think it's safe to say that you're supposed to dislike almost all of the characters at the beginning. However, as it is one of my favourite books, I may be biased.

4) And seasonal felicitations to you, young man :-) Hopefully seeing the film next week.

*edited to include Geneva rather than whitespace, d'oh*
*edited to include Geneva rather than whitespace, d'oh*

I'm not going to mention that you're responding to points 2, 3 and 4 and not 1, 3 and 4...
It's a question of whether you consider those two items linked or not. "Consistence is a bugbear of small minds" and all that...

As far as a trial for SH is concerned, here are the primary forces at work, I think:

The desire by the world community to bring Iraq up to humanitarian standard - perhaps best exemplified by the stated and arrogant desire by the US to make Iraq a 'cradle of democracy' in the Middle East.

The other is the bona fide desire for justice on the part of the Iraqi people...thing is, are they ready for justice, or simple revenge?

Also - there is the practical question of how to put in place a reasonable tribunal and fair court when so many Iraqi laws have been modified by decades of Baathist rule.
3. Thanks to one of my colleagues, I've borrowed a copy of Pride and Prejudice and started reading (I figured that since it was the only book I hadn't read in the Big Read top 5, I should probably get around to it). So far, I'm highly amused that a dislike of dancing is considered to be incontrovertible evidence that a man is a cad, such that nobody is surprised when the man who doesn't like to dance turns out to be a cad;

Yes. You're supposed to be, Silly.

and I'm desperately hoping that at least one of the characters will become vaguely likeable before the end of the novel. I'm fine with unsympathetic protagonists most of the time, but Christ is this hard going. I also don't know how it ends, so please don't tell me.

*chortles*

Is it wrong that I find this paragraph so amusingly endearing? Bless.

I also don't know how it ends, so please don't tell me.

Unless this sentence is sarcastic, in which case, I'm still amused and now admiring too.

You're supposed to be

OK. Good. I thought maybe I was, what with the characters who had that opinion all being massively unlikeable, but I wasn't completely sure.

Unless this sentence is sarcastic, in which case, I'm still amused and now admiring too.

Sadly, no sarcasm intended. I never saw the TV adaptation, and whilst I've seen Bridget Jones' Diary my memory of how it ends is fuzzy at best. So I'll have to settle for amusing you. :)