ne of interestingness' most attractive features is its non-judgmental character. Anything can be interesting, as long as someone thinks that it is. Interestingness does not discriminate against any subject or format. Billboards and novels get an equal hearing.
But behind its impassive mask of laissez-faire tolerance, interestingness does harbour some tastes of its own. It secretly connotates. When it turns its disinterested, denotating gaze upon itself, it generates an implicit personality and set of values more or less like those of Montaigne. His ghost is raised by reflection.
The Montaignesque spirit of interestingness is fundamentally conservative, based in a self-conscious awareness that any single perspective (most significantly, one's own) is drastically limited, which leads to the search for other perspectives. (Montaigne was a voraciously observant traveler.) How do other beings in other places with other minds see things? What attitude should we take towards a world that we are largely ignorant of? To care about those questions has implications for everything from politics to typography.
For example, interestingness likes fleurons: the squidgy little designs separating blocks of text in your fancier publications. A thoughtful deployment of fleurons is a good sign that the text will be interesting to those interested in interestingness. Fleurons are often used in the Ironic Victorian1 style, familiar from the work of San Francisco2 agencies from Goodby back to Riney and through the Gossage Timeflux to its pre-ironic, striving Victorian antecedents, pushing themselves forward in a cacophonony of type, charlatan illustration and folksy patter full of convincing, irrelevant detail.
But the noble fleuron can trace its lineage back even further, to the illuminated manuscripts of pre-Norman Britain, with their curiously florid yet laconic depictions of Biblical miracles and everyday peasant life, from Jerusulem to Norwich, all the elements of the known universe shrunk to fit precisely through the gaps and margins of the text.
That same dense weaving of words and imagery is mirrored in the distinctive, sonorous repetition-with-variation of Anglo-Saxon writing:
In the composition of Beowulf, scenes and episodes are similarly woven into a pattern of contrast and recapitulation so that the effect is of formal intricacy and immediacy rather than any linear development... The interlace structure has thus been defined as expressing the meaning of coincidence, the recurrence of human behaviour, and the circularity of time as the thread of words crosses and recrosses itself in endless weaves and knots...If it is indeed a vision of the world, it is one which has no beginning and no end...only the endless recapitulation of patterns and the constant interplay of opposing forces.
Peter Ackroyd then goes on to trace England's fondness for meandering patterns from runic symbols to Northumbrian foliated capitals through Sir Thomas Browne's preoccupation with "the making of mosaic patterns with fragments of knowledge," Robert Burton's "false learning and concocted quotations designed to confuse or tease the reader" and Blake's "tense abstraction". All follow the winding, sinuous serpentine that William Hogarth identified in 1753 as The Line of Beauty, a figure graved into the British landscape by countless ancient pathways and whose principles (fitness, variety, regularity, simplicity, intricacy, greatness) overlap and interweave with those of interestingness.
Interestingness, like Old English verse, is "constantly calling attention to the remarkably wrought quality of the things of this world." Both gain strength through "compound force and internal alliteration."3 Medieval Anglo-Saxons saw the densely detailed and interwoven patterns of the world as proof that it was all made by God. But the direction of that logic can be reversed, to work up rather than point down, and to find in the appreciation of intricate pattern an escape from the blinkered perspective of a solitary self in a single cell and a temporary elevation to the clear and infinite view from which God once saw the universal pattern whole.
Mesh of effects and causes
Which, before it shews me the mirror
In which I shall see no-one or I shall see another,
Grants me now this contemplation pure
Of a language of the dawn.
1. Other aspects of the Ironic Victorian style include woodcut illustration or typography, a dry sense of humor, a shared wink over the inherent insincerity of commercial communication, focus on the links between minutia and consequent tendency to meander like a bemused grampa and lots of footnotes. These features are also characteristic of Borges, Aspergers, The New Yorker, and the hysterical realist school of writing.
2. Also home of the architectural Ironic Victorian.
3. Inventing English, Seth Lerer. "Wrought," "Tense Abstraction" and "Hysterical Realist" could all serve as titles for an Aspergian manifesto, an art film biography of Borges, a coffee table book survey of 'zine culture, a media studies thesis devoted to the semiotics of Ian Curtis' suicide, or a Wire tribute album.