The view from the finish line

96. *Palace of Holyroodhouse
97. Kate Elliott, Court of Fives (novel, 2015)
98. Art of Glass (exhibition, National Museum of Scotland)
99. *Oysterband, Holy Bandits (album, 1993)
100. Iona Abbey
101. *Christopher Priest, The Separation (novel, 2002)

Here's a thing I've been thinking about lately: a friend saw the film Hereditary and didn't like it. Apparently he wasn't alone - it didn't really click with the audience he was sat in. It occurs to me that this is something we accept with theatre, stand-up, anything live - if you get a bad audience, the whole thing suffers. But it's the same with cinema. I remember going to see Calendar Girls when it came out, with my mum. As we say in my family, between us we lowered the average age of the audience somewhat, but what I remember most is being two people laughing uproariously in a room otherwise silent. Think also of trying to watch horror films in an empty house, or having something convoluted and arty on in the background at a party. The ambience of the room matters.

My friend who saw Hereditary suggested that if your art is so dependent on the room, then maybe it won't pass the test of time. But I don't think that's true at all. There was a running joke last year about watching Dunkirk on a phone screen and filming Christopher Nolan's reaction on a 70mm reel. The experience of Dunkirk came from seeing it on a gigantic screen, with music so loud it made your eyes water and the bass made you feel like you were about to have a panic attack. Where and how you saw it mattered; that's what made it work. The best cinema - or at least the stuff I've liked the most - is a full-body experience, in a roomful of people with disbelief firmly suspended.

What that got me thinking about is how often creator intention gets analysed, and how little corresponding thought gets paid to audience experience. I've gone to a couple of museums and exhibitions in the last fortnight - as well as those on the list there was a sculpture garden on the Isle of Mull - and perhaps you will or perhaps you won't be amazed that the experience of wandering round Iona Abbey is completely different in blazing sunshine or in thick fog. That it matters if you read a book (that's the Priest, which is an old favourite) in three days in a whirlwind, or over the course of a month, ten pages a night before bed. A book that is built to be gulped down is not a bad book. Nor is one so dense that you read forty pages then swear off it for a week, then do that another nine times til it's finished.

In terms of Past Tense - which, look, I've been suffering from writer's block lately, so I'm chipping away it but it's going extremely slowly - a thing I'm painfully aware of is that lots of people listen to podcasts while they're doing other things. That changes how densely you can pack information, how fast you can go or how many names you can use before you send someone cross-eyed and they switch off never to return. It's a hard thing to balance. I'm never sure I've got it right, and now more than usual I'm wracking my brains over it.

Another thought, this one sort of related and on the subject of art exhibitions: the trouble with a lot of them is that if you can't tell if a thing is bad, how can you tell if it's good? Is the problem with lots of art exhibitions (and, especially, that "No your five year old couldn't have made this" approach) that they're focused on creator intention rather than audience experience? And if so, is that a bug, or a feature, and how?

Other things I've seen/heard/read this week: the entire arc of the podcast The Adventure Zone entitled "The Eleventh Hour", which is a more technically impressive piece of storytelling than it has any right to be, and has me mulling over what "verisimilitude" even means, as well as the possibilities and purposes of interactive storytelling. Edinburgh International Film Festival is now underway, until 1st July, so brace yourself, there are half-formed thoughts about cinema on the horizon.