William Faulkner—he said a mouthful.
  • AP Photo/File
  • William Faulkner—he said a mouthful.

What would a column in Wednesday’s Tribune by Phil Rosenthal on personal data and the Internet possibly have in common with a recent Atlantic article on ancient animosities in northeast Asia? And with a book review in the American Prospect that discusses the political compromises behind FDR’s New Deal?

The answer: a meme. Roger Ebert, who was fascinated with memes, defined them as “mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body.”

Some memes are well worth being infected by. But like any other contagion, they flare up and then run their course.

In this case, the meme is something William Faulkner wrote in his play Requiem for a Nun.

“The past is never dead,” Faulkner told us. “It’s not even past.”