AGREAT many people in this world now subscribe to the recently propounded belief that small is beautiful. I am one of them, having always preferred the small view framed in trees to the seven-counties-seen-all-at-once from the top of a hill. And I have basically, with occasional lapses, loved the larkspur above the lily. Latterly, however, I have come to the conclusion that short is even more beautiful than small. I am rapidly becoming convinced that the pleasures of this life should be taken in sips, and that everything, certainly everything in the entertainment line, is far too long.
When I was a film critic, films lasted 90 minutes: Now they take a minimum of two hours and one emerges from the cinema battered and puce in the face; and deafened, too, since it seems that too loud is also a beautiful thing to be. Plays, to which I am deeply addicted, are very nearly all right lengthwise unless they are Shakespeare's, the cutting of which I am scandalously in favor of, and some other classics such as ``A Long Day's Journey into Night.'' Incidentally, the night is usually far too long, unless, of course, as on rare, delightful occasions, it is too short.
Concerts have always been too long, and I have happily reached the degree of seniority when I can leave at the interval without appearing rude. My nanny used to say, ``A little of what you fancy does you good,'' and I like to rise from a musical feast nicely fed but not sated. By the time I have listened to some Bach and Vivaldi, some Beethoven (he never knew when to stop), some Liszt and Mendelssohn, I am happy to leave the auditorium and, as one who is seeking a glass of lemonade, to walk straight out of the hall into the street, leaving the second half, which is probably Webern and Stockhausen, to those with large appetites.
Trips overseas in helpful, caring groups are basically everything the culture vulture could desire, but there again, so much could be shortened. I do not take the prescribed two hours to look at the Duomo, nor more than seven minutes to admire Benvenuto Cel-lini's salt cellar, so I would be happy to start an hour later in the morning and finish an hour earlier in the evening.
I often think it would be nice to have a child come tearing along a path to greet me; or perhaps a dear little dog in a flurry of wriggles doing the same thing. But when this does occur, I like our meetings to be quite short, shorter in the case of children than dogs, as the former are so dreadfully demanding. After half an hour or so I long for someone to come and take them away.
In fact, enough is as good as a feast. More is a surfeit. And though I am aware that shortness carried to extremes can be absurd -- I had a friend who found among her late mother's effects a tin box marked ``String too short to use '' -- on the whole, weighed against long, short is surely the more beautiful.