I began this as a reply to Timothy Morton's extremely helpful comment on entropy in letters and words (following Shannon, whom I've used elsewhere in discussing the editing of Shakespeare). In fact all the comments were wonderful, so let me say thanks. Thanks!
The estimable Waggish has been pondering Hamlet's notorious explication of the action in The Murder of Gonzago, that the murderer who pours poison into the porches of the player king's ear is "one Lucianus, nephew to the King."
I was intrigued by this (abstract) mathematical analysis of structural balance in social groups because I was teaching Richard II all week, and thinking about my favorite book on Shakespeare, Richard Decker's Anatomy of the Screenplay.
There once was a man from Nantucket
Whose life was a sham. It was muck. It
Was froth of the sea
Where he'd tried to be free
Algernon. Do you really keep a diary? I’d give anything to look at it. May I?
Cecily. Oh no. [Puts her hand over it.] You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication.
I love this moment in China Miéville's The City & the City: The narrator (for this is an I-book), Inspector Tyador Borlu, is a noir cop in a fictional Balkan capital, Corwi is his assistant, and in their language aj Tyrko means Turkish-style.
I guess I just want to register here that it's World Aids Day -- a day once and still too much without art.
You know how people will sometimes hum a phrase or say a word or two that haunts them, as though just that phrase, just those words, could mean everything? It's the literary equivalent of the magical name of the beloved. I need only think: Belinda or Geoffrey
William Flesch is the author, most recently, of Comeuppance: Costly Signaling, Altruistic Punishment, and Other Biological Components of Fiction (Harvard, 2008), and The Facts on File Companion to 19th Century British Literature. He teaches the history of poetry as well as the theory of poetic and narrative form at Brandeis, and has been International Chair Professor at the National Taipei University of Technology (2012) and Old Dominion Fellow of the Humanities Council and Visiting Professor at Princeton (2014-15).