Networks, webs and Billy Joel, via Alison Lurie’s “Foreign Affairs”

Alison Lurie’s Foreign Affairs is the gift that will keep on giving, for a while at least…. Here’s a great quote

“In any social network there are always some people who are as it were ‘friends’ by social compulsion, though if the net fell apart they would seldom or never see each other. It is thus with Vinnie and Rosemary. Because of Edwin they meet fairly often, and always behave on these occasions as if they were perfectly delighted, but they don’t like each other very much. At least, Vinnie does not like Rosemary; and she senses that the feeling is mutual. But nothing can be done about it. Vinnie imagines their social network, or perhaps ‘web’ is more like it – fine-spun, elaborately joined, strung across the rainy city from Fulham to Islington, anchored by isolated threads in Highgate and Wimbledon. She and Rosemary are points of intersection in the web, held there now by many silken twisted strands. If they were to break off cordial relations it would leave gaping sticky holes, distressing to everyone. And they are probably not he only two thus unwillingly joined, Vinnie thinks. Still, the web holds, and spreads its elastic, dew-spangled pattern over London: that is the important thing.

Lurie, 1984: 64-5

That is, in my opinion, a profound insight into how social networks/webs actually work, and the invisible bonds of obligation tie us…

Where does Billy Joel come in? From his song “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” of course…

“So many faces in and out of my life

Some will last, some will just be now and then

Life is a series of hellos and goodbyes,

I guess it’s time for goodbye again…”

On this question of networks and nodes, and which ones may “matter” – there are two excellent passages in Nevil Shute’s “Pastoral”

You can read them in this book review.

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