Fractals Applied to the Narrative

As I am sure you have noticed, the novel (at first) seems to be the proliferation of storyline after storyline with their own end notes and esoteric allusions. All with echoes from the previous story, each somehow reverberating and gaining different meanings by repetition, but also spurring endless threads. The structure itself, predicated on fractals (Sierpinski gasket as Wallace says), deals with the surface-chaos of the stories and the underlying pattern in the narrative. (I won’t go into summarizing this because it is in the interview.) I am more curious about the function, I mean why use this structure especially if Wallace is so wary of using overly-technical and self-indulgent mechanics to no meaningful end?

(This is the Sierpinski fractal, it expands and collapses into infinity.)

I want to take the easiest step and apply it to the narration. It almost seems like reducing it into compartments, narrative compartments, would take away the meaning or create only a singular meaning, that will sweep the reader away from the larger-narrative-whole. (Either just taking certain stories and connecting those linearly or taking certain words/events that are repeated and connecting them to find a meaning). This is discussed when Schtitt and Mario are talking about tennis and although the topic is different, it of course has multiple meanings and can be applied to the larger narration. The narrator says that Schtitt seems to know “locating beauty and art and magic and improvement and keys to excellence and victory in the prolix flux of match play is not a fractal matter of reducing chaos to pattern…not a matter of reduction at all, but — perversely — of expansion, the aleatory flutter of uncontrolled, metastatic growth” (82). The narrative is not supposed to be reduced into a singular, linear narrative which may be the instinct of the reader. It was mine, I tried to take everything under a microscope and reorganize it which was not just fruitless, but mindfucking. If anything, the narration almost offers its own cipher, which allows us to let it all chaotically unfold.

The narration is not supposed to be reduced, but it is also not self-contained. The fractal (pictured above) can be reduced into infinity but also expanded with more and more points added — the narrative is supposed to create this infinity affect and feel chaotic, but there is this sort of pattern that is inevitably made when you apply triangles  (meaning) to these points (words/events/stories). It almost asks that reader draw the lines and assign the meaning to the chaos.



One response to “Fractals Applied to the Narrative

  1. I already made my mandatory comment, but this is awesome! Very creative. I was thinking about the way the narrative is executed and how the reader receives this overflow of information. I had never heard of fractals, but thank you for defining them, and for the nice illustration. When I thought about the narrative, I thought it might have to do with Wallace dealing with a universal sadness and disconnect, as opposed to him taking one case, to which one can simply respond by saying that is one case, and it is peculiar. Because all of the cases have one thing in common, and that they are leading unhappy lives in which they seem to turn to something to diminish a numbness/pain.