Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yevgenia Krasnova and surprises

Bill has only just begun Taleb’s Black Swan and Ray disabuses him of one of his assumptions.
Bill: You’ve read the Black Swan?

Ray: I have.

Bill: Just begun it but I particularly like the story of this woman neuroscientist who wrote a book but no publisher would touch it, it didn’t seem to be either fact or fiction, so she put it on the Internet and there a publisher found it and he published it and before long her book was out in 40 languages. Just shows, the “experts” are not always right. Great story!

Ray: Great story, indeed. I suspect you have only read up to the chapter on Yevgenia.

Bill: Yeah. How did you know?

Ray: If you turn the page, you’ll find a footnote. “To those readers who Googled Yevgenia Krasnova, I am sorry to say that she is (officially) a fictional character."

Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan) is a writer who surprises you on every page. Near the beginning of The Black Swan (he uses the black swan as a symbol of the unexpected since in the northern hemisphere swans are conceived of as all being white), Taleb tells the story of Yevgenia Krasnova, which has the reader believing it to be a true tale, for it is narrated matter of factly, yet on the first page of the next chapter, Taleb informs us that the story was a mere tale, a fiction. Yevgenia’s story is another manifestation of the black swan syndrome.

Isaac Singer said, "A story means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is - full of surprises."Taleb goes one better, heaping surprise on surprise. He tells the surprising story of Yevgenia and then surprises us with a comment on the story. As if he has taken Yogi Berra’s “Surprise me” to heart.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Guys you seen neither master nor slave by the urban rainmaker about the black swan? You might find it to overrated for you, maybe funny, its at as a free down load.