Over the past week of posts, people have outlined many different rules and trends for Only Revolutions.

  • If paired with numbers, “honey” always adds up to twelve total jars on a page (symbolic of the revolutions of hands on a clock). This could be thought of as “vertical symmetry”: occurrences on top and bottom of a page together.
  • Every animal or plant that appears must also die. Additionally, these deaths occur across the center of the book from each other. This could be thought of as “horizontal symmetry”: occurrences in pairs across the middle of the book. Additionally, Madeline alluded to this but did not directly say it: there is also a vertical symmetry within the plants and animals. Every instance of a new flora/fauna in one story is accompanied by the death of a fauna/flora in the opposite tale. The lines don’t always match perfectly, but each page has equal numbers of generation to death and they fall in the same area of the page with the only exceptions I am aware of being bees and the original silver aspen/horse.
  • The burn marks that occur throughout the book are spaced perfectly evenly in both stories with the pattern of burn-68 pages-burn-4 pages repeating 5 times in each. Since these occur in both stories and are split across page 180, this is another instance of both horizontal and vertical symmetry.
  • Viazazopolis/Viabobonacci’s name gradually walks down/up the alphabet in Hailey/Sam’s story until reaching page 180 at which point the beginnings are reset to z/b and the endings are swapped with their partner’s. Then walk down/up the alphabet again until reaching the partner’s original name for the character. (My own discovery!) While not perfectly symmetric, it could still be thought of as vertical/horizontal symmetry.

Besides these, several other patterns were laid out in the data visualizations studied in class and mentioned in additional posts (thunder), but this would just be a summary if that is all I focused on.

Instead, I would like to look at all of these elements to be the underlying rules of the text rather than elements of it. In class, we had discussed the idea that Only Revolutions is both an analysis of data as well as a dataset. In this way, the patterns and symmetries that have been seen can be thought of as the laws (theories would be more accurate since they are not fully proven) that control the universe that is Only Revolutions and led to this dataset that we have been reading. However, there is another component to every dataset in existence which we have not discussed yet. Noise.

Regardless of how well designed a system may be, there is always noise in the data it makes/records. This noise does not reflect the laws controlling the dataset, but it is still part of the dataset. In the same way, I propose that some of the material within Only Revolutions could be considered as noise. The one artifact I see the strongest argument for is the occasions of letters that are not aligned, such as on H/S271 and many other times. The reason I think these are noise is because I have yet to find an explanation for them (and I believe Dr. Thomas said she had not either). Furthermore, the visual appearances of these instances are a type of noise: they disrupt the standard visual flow.

Even if this particular instance that I reference is a result of some underlying law guiding the creation of this book, I still think we should consider the possibility of noise within Only Revolutions which may not always have a deeper meaning or be part of a deeper pattern. Please do not interpret this as saying that the book is not thought out; instead I credit Danielewski for having been smart enough to even be able to incorporate noise to confuse analysts just as a real dataset might.


Alan Greenspan and his infamous briefcase that knew the future of the U.S. just by its width


Just as an example of another time that over analyzing noise led to meaningless/inaccurate results, during his time as Federal Reserve chairman, many businesses and analysts tried to predict what Alan Greenspan would propose in any of his proceedings before they occurred in the hopes of getting a jump on the market. This over-analysis led to a thing referred to as the “briefcase indicator”: the idea that the size of Greenspan’s briefcase was an indicator of the actions he would propose. However, most of the time, these predictions were incorrect and this idea, while entertaining, was never useful (source). In the end, the only real explanation for his briefcase was that it was large enough to hold whatever he was bringing. Trying to analyze it was just trying to find an easy relation using noise that did not actually have any relation to the Federal Reserve or its policies.