Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Medieval graffiti, breasts of the nineteenth century, and a novelist’s favorite lunch.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, January 29, 2016

• What is a fractal? Ask your favorite novelist: “James Joyce, Julio Cortazar, Marcel Proust, Henryk Sienkiewicz and Umberto Eco. Regardless of the language they were working in, some of the world’s greatest writers appear to be, in some respects, constructing fractals. Statistical analysis, however, revealed something even more intriguing. The composition of works from within a particular genre was characterized by the exceptional dynamics of a cascading (avalanche) narrative structure.” (ScienceDaily)

• Medieval graffiti: filled with curses? (Hyperallergic)

• Vladimir Nabokov’s daily diet: “Once, he reported with relish, ‘I bought and ate a large, warty, crooked pickle,’ but this active seeking out of food was rare.” (NPR)

• A brief history of snow removal. (Atlas Obscura)

• Cleavage in the nineteenth century: “The presentation and societal view of the ‘Ladies Snowy Bosom’ in American culture has shifted alongside fashionable clothing throughout our history. Viewed as one of the most beautiful parts of the woman’s body, the presentation and visibility of the bosom and upper body of the female has not been without a great deal of controversy.” (Making History)

• A reconsideration of the rakish, forgotten Elizabethan author Robert Greene: “Greene basically invented the gossipy celebrity tell-all, just as trashy as a tabloid account about the predilections and peccadillos of the inhabitants of Sunset Boulevard. Greene’s pamphlet may have contained a plea for salvation, but he wasn’t going to go to hell before settling some scores.” (Public Domain Review)

• A Times Square subway poem from the early 1990s encourages commuters to give up and go home. (New York Daily News)