Kinks on the Kinks

Michael Wood

  • Plots by Robert Belknap
    Columbia, 165 pp, £22.00, May 2016, ISBN 978 0 231 17782 5

‘The king died and then the queen died’ is a story, as E.M. Forster told us long ago. ‘The king died and then the queen died of grief’ is a plot. Another plot, a little more reticent about causality, would be: ‘The king died and the queen married his brother.’ This would include Hamlet’s version of what happened in Elsinore – my uncle killed my father and married my mother – but would not be confined to it, and this is the kind of plot Robert Belknap is most interested in. He doesn’t neglect causality, but he likes it best when it goes what he calls ‘fractal’, when narrative turns take further turns, as ‘a fractal curve has kinks, and kinks on the kinks, and smaller kinks on those kinks, and so on indefinitely.’ Unlike the curve, the plot won’t go on for ever, but all kinds of relation are possible among deaths, marriages and royalty.

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