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The ten thousand things and the one true only.

by Kip Manley

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Things to keep in mind:
The secret of streams.

The academics write in their paper that: “Studying characteristics of the sentence-length variability in a large corpus of world famous literary texts shows that an appealing and æsthetic optimum… involves self-similar, cascade-like alternations of various lengths of sentences.”

“An overwhelming majority of the studied texts simply obey such fractal attributes but especially spectacular in this respect are hypertext-like, ‘stream-of-consciousness’ novels. In addition, they appear to develop structures characteristic of irreducibly interwoven sets of fractals called multifractals.”

The other works most comparable to multifractals, the academics found, were A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers, Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar, The USA trilogy by John Dos Passos, The Waves by Virginia Woolf, 2666 by Roberto Bolaño and Joyce’s Ulysses. Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu showed “little correlation” to multifractality, however; nor did Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

The academics note that “fractality of a literary text will in practice never be as perfect as in the world of mathematics”, because a mathematical fractal can be magnified to infinite, while the number of sentences in a book are finite.

“It is not entirely clear whether stream-of-consciousness writing actually reveals the deeper qualities of our consciousness, or rather the imagination of the writers. It is hardly surprising that ascribing a work to a particular genre is, for whatever reason, sometimes subjective,” said Drożdż, suggesting that the scientists’ work “may someday help in a more objective assignment of books to one genre or another.”

Alison Flood

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