I do know that clients relay what amount to transaction-id-hashes to each other to propagate messages, rather than full transaction logs, which is presumably one way they attempt to reduce overhead in the protocol.
The "network" wiki page is a pretty good starting point for digging in to this stuff, but like I said above, the overall picture of how the network works is kinda scattered out.
PS - I guess it's also plausible that users would not regard it as mandatory that the *entire* network validate a transaction before they consider it a done deal; as time goes on you accumulate more and more "confirmation" messages for each transaction you've conducted. But it's technically valid as soon as a block that includes it is solved and becomes part of the block chain.
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