Thursday, July 15, 2010

Whipped by a wizard: The real appeal of Harry Potter?

You may have heard about I Write Like, which "analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them with those of the famous writers."

"According to the machine," says the New Yorker, "an invitation to a birthday party was worthy of a comparison to James Joyce; an excerpt from a term paper on Renaissance literature, though, more closely resembled Dan Brown’s fiction."

Most of my samples came up David Foster Wallace, though I also got a Joyce, a Dan Brown. a Stephen King, and a J.K. Rowling, the last for a selection that ended: "Would you want to be whipped by a fat dominatrix?"

Just what kind of extra-curricular activities does Hogwarts offer?

I write like
David Foster Wallace

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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84 Comments:

Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I also got David Foster Wallace, and as I had never heard of him I tried again and got Agatha Christie! I thought I would settle for that.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yours is the first Agatha Christie I've heard of. I was beginning to suspect that the program offered a limited number of choices: Rowling, King, Brown, Joyce, Wallace.

Paul Brazill says he got P.G. Wodehouse, ample reason for anyone to be chuffed.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Julia Buckley said...

I write like Stephen King. Huh.

What a fun exercise.

July 15, 2010  
Anonymous marco said...

My stylistic virtuosity allows me to go for the easy money (Dan Brown) - craft beloved and fondly remembered comedy series (Douglas Adams) - and finally win the admiration of every Literary critic for the quality of my prose (Vladimir Nabokov).

As my v-word says, it's a blessin

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Anon E. said...

haha, for some reason I've never heard of this. I'm going to try it out.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Anon E. said...

I also got stephen king. I wonder if it really does analyze or if it just randomly choose a name from a database.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Julia, I suspect that this program is rudimentary in the extreme for reasons that I will eluciate in a subsequent comment. It seems to turn up a lot of Stephen Kings. The man can write, but I'd rather have his money than his prose style.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anon E., I suspect the program uses some basic prose criteria rather than picking a random name. My random examples of plain, prosaic prose came up Stephen King, for example. And I pasted in a long string of computer coding and got James Joyce -- not unexpected for the author of Finnegan's Wake.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, I just may have you trumped on money (Rowling vs. Brown) and critical esteem (Joyce vs. Nabokov), though I admit falling short in comedy. I wonder what Paul Brazill entered to earn his P.G. Wodehouse.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I also got David Foster Wallace. Someone has scanned in all of the Stephen King canon and all of DFW's Infinite Jest which is why they come up so much.

I typed in

"April is the cruellest month breeding lilacs out of the dead land."

And was informed that I write like Margaret Mitchell. Inspired by this I then typed in

"Frankly my dear I don't give a damn. After all tomorrow is another day."

And was informed that I write like JD Salinger.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

I typed in a direct quote from a Nero Wolfe novella and got Arthur Conan Doyle.

At least it stayed within literary genre.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I typed in this excerpt from David Foster Wallace's "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again,"

"One big girl with tattoos and a heavy-diapered infant wears a T-shirt that says ‘WARNING: I GO FROM 0 TO HORNEY IN 2.5 BEERS’

Have you ever wondered where these particular types of unfunny T-shirts come from? The ones that say things like ‘HORNEY IN 2.5’ or ‘Impeach president Clinton … AND HER HUSBAND TOO.’

As with New Yorker cartoons, there’s an elusive sameness about the shirts’ messages. A lot serve to I.D. the wearer as part of a certain group and then congratulate that group for its sexual dynamism — ‘Coon Hunters Do It All Night’ and ‘Hairdressers Tease It Till It Stands Up’ and ‘Save a Horse: Ride a Cowboy’. Some presume a weird kind of aggressive relation between the shirt’s wearer and its reader — ‘We’d Get Along Better … If You Were A BEER’ and ‘Lead Me Not Into Temptation, I Know The Way MYSELF’ and ‘What Part of NO Don’t You Understand?’"


The program says he writes like Stephen King.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, I typed in a few excerpts from Arthur Conan Doyle. Unfortunately the program kept coming up with Arthur Conan Doyle.

It's obviously losing its entertainment value.

July 15, 2010  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Good discussion of the engineering behind it here, along with some ideas on how to improve it.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

I took my post on Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and split it in half. The first half was "like" Kurt Vonnegut, and the second was like "Charles Dickens."

I wonder if it's really just random labeling and not an analysis.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister, the suggestion that the program "compares vocabulary (and probably a few other characteristics like sentence length)" is probably accurate, since it obviously does more than just generate random names, but just as obviously does not do a great job at analyzing prose style.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, take a look at the discussion to which Linkmeister links.

July 16, 2010  
Anonymous Garbhan said...

Good fun this, regardless, Peter. Pasted in a recipe for Glens of Antrim Irish Stew (I'll mail it on to Adrian), which also got me Joyce. My own extract, from 'War of the Blue Roses' got me DF Wallace. I'm am sure Mr W is sitting somewhere spinning in his urn.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Who's David Foster Wallace?
any relation to Shaun Wright Philips?

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Pete,

Interesting discussion.

I don't know about the first half of my post--"the Kurt Vonnegut half"--but in the second half of my post--"the Charles Dickens half"--I spent some time discussing names, the significance of names of characters, and some dialogue.

Dickens, of course, is known for his development of characters and their sometimes odd names. I wonder if that's the connection to Dickens.

I have no idea, though, why my first half should conjure up Kurt Vonnegut. I wonder what Vonnegut's markers are.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Tim said...

Yes, jolly good fun :-)

Apparently Dickens (Christmas Carol) writes like Stephen King ....

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Pasted in a recipe for Glens of Antrim Irish Stew (I'll mail it on to Adrian), which also got me Joyce. My own extract, from 'War of the Blue Roses' got me DF Wallace. I'm am sure Mr W is sitting somewhere spinning in his urn.

Garbhan, we can work with this food angle. Add garlic to the Joyce recipe, and see if that gets you Moravia or Pirandello.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

TCK, This was David Foster Wallace, not to be confused with Shaun Wright Philipa, Jayne Anne Phillips, Tom Rob Smith, David Ogden Stiers or Pelham Grenville Wodehouse.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, your guess about Dickens would fit with the dismissive suggestion that the program relies excessively or solely on vocabulary.

You know that big chunk of coding that the program gives you when it tells you who you write the like, the coding to insert a logo on your own blog? I copied that coding, pasted into the analyzer, and got James Joyce. I assume a bit of Finnegan's Wake was programmed into the analyzer.

I also don't know that the Vonnegut markers would be. I doubt the analyzer is complex enough to recognize nose-thumbing humor.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter don't you think that its odd that I'm accused of writing in his style without having previously heard of him?
(or, at least, not having remembered hearing of him)

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't find it especially odd that any given two authors might share stylistic traits without necessarily having read one another's work. Whether the traits the analyzer detects are significant enough to serve as genuine style markers is another matter, of course.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Adrian, not completely off topic, but who would you say is more likely to win this year's British Open, Rory McIlroy, or David Foster Wallace?

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

After today, I'd say James Joyce.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

He'd probably putt better than young Rory did today, an' all!
even with his bad eyesight

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

If young McIlroy typed today's round of horror into the analyzer, no doubt it would come back Stephen King.

July 16, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

It certainly was a 'miseryable' (sic) day for young Rory


......I'll get my coat!

July 16, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Below is a link to an online article about the "I Write Like . . . " program.

http://tinyurl.com/2d2g2q5

July 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. That article appears to go beyond the suspicion of some that word choice was a prime factor in the program. It appears to be the only factor.

July 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I took a passage fromo Colin Bateman and got Dan Brown. Then I took a Bateman passage, substituted random strings of letters, numbers and punctuation marks for the letters a, e, i, copied the result into "I Write Like," and got William Shakespeare.

That ought to clear things up.

July 17, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

Yes, that's what I thought also, after reading it.

What surprised me most though was that the site has now gained considerable notoriety. I had thought that this would be only of limited interest to most people and specifically of interest to reading and writing oriented people.

July 17, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

Well, that doesn't suggest an in depth analysis of anything germane to writing.

July 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, the rapidity and extent of its notoriety say little about technology or literature, but it does say much about the Internet's power as a vehicle for promotion and self-promotion.

Hell, even Margaret Atwood played with and commented on the program, if articles are to be believed. The real question is how much money the programmer has made from the program, directly or indirectly.

July 17, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And yes, it says little about the possibility of a program that would analyze prose style. No machine has yet duplicated the ability of that guy who sniffed out Joe Klein as the author of "Primary Colors" when Klein was still lying that he had not written the book.

July 17, 2010  
Blogger solea said...

Hey this thing works! It says I write like Raymond Chandler! I'm excited!

July 18, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Was that text from a Raymond Chandler or a Jeffrey Archer novel you copied and pasted, solea?

July 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Solea, that is something to be proud of. Try hard enough, and you'll get a Dan Brown, though.

July 18, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, unless Dan Bron is an obscure Welsh crime fiction writer you discovered on your Welsh sojourn, and whose collective oeuvre lies beyond the grasp of the program's search facilities, I guess your last post must be a case of 'practicing what you preach! :)

July 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'll see I caught my own typo before you did, but thanks for your vigilance. I like to keep you on your toes.

July 18, 2010  
Blogger solea said...

Hey Mush, I posted my own piece. See Peter, the next Raymond Chandler is right here on DBB! Marlowe, say the long goodbye to Poodle Springs!

July 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

What would you have calle your own completion of Chandler's last book, beyond, say, "Puddle Springs"?

July 18, 2010  
Blogger solea said...

You know Peter, I would have liked Marlowe to tackle the Black Dahlia case and the ensuing police & DA cover up. Awhile back I read Steve Hodel’s book the Black Dahlia Avenger, in which he lays out the evidence he collected proving that his father Dr. George Hodel is the murderer of Elizabeth Short and many other women, including Jeanne French. I can see Marlowe going to the infamous house on Franklin & Normandie near Griffith park and breaking up the Surrealist parties where Hodel and pals were raping his teenage daughter. I can see Marlowe locking horns with police and DA investigators to ensure that Hodel is arrested and jailed. Then he can move to Poodle Springs.

July 18, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Could someone still do that? Does Chandler's estate own the rights to the character?

And if not, could some enterprising author make Raymond Chandler himself the protagonist, as has been done with Hammett, Daphne du Maurier and, I think, Arthur Conan Doyle, smong others.

July 18, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

“Does Chandler's estate own the rights to the character [of Philip Marlowe]?” Chandler left his estate to his agent Helga Greene; she left it to her nephew who in turn sold it to Chorion, “…a leading global media company that owns, manages and develops quality family entertainment brands with worldwide appeal…[that is] also committed to introducing today's consumers to iconic fiction from authors such as Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler and Georges Simenon and ensuring it's as popular today as when the stories first hit the shelves.” (from Chorion’s website). Chorion owns the rights to the character Philip Marlowe.

“… could some enterprising author make Raymond Chandler himself the protagonist…?” Raymond Chandler has been the protagonist of several novels. For details, see the Thrilling Detective website page “Rest in Pieces: Raymond Chandler” at www.thrillingdetective.com/chandler2.html

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I'm intrigued by the Hiber Conteris novel, one more reason to feel good about Uruguay after the World Cup, and the Roger L. Simon story.

By the way, did you know that The Thrilling Detective Web Site's Kevin Burton Smith is also from Montreal?

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This discussion cites the Roger L. Simon story as well as story or two that I’m not sure get mentioned on the Thrilling Detective site.

July 20, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

I did know that KB Smith is also from Montreal – he was among the members of a group with whom I took a Raymond Chandler walking tour of downtown L.A. last year.

The Conteris novel is the only one on that TD list I haven’t read; I’ll ILL it now that I’ve been reminded of it.

I have the short story collection, “Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration,” and honestly can’t recommend the Chandler ss within.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So I don't need to mention that Kevin now lives in L.A. That was going to be my next tidbit.

I read somewhere this evening that the Marlowe/Chandler story was included only in later editions of “Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe." Perhaps this does not include your copy.

I have the book lying around. I should look for the story.

July 20, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

"I read somewhere this evening that the Marlowe/Chandler story was included only in later editions of 'Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.' Perhaps this does not include your copy."

Yes, I had to photocopy the Simon ss from the 2nd ed as I own the 1988 1st ed of the book.

July 20, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

It might not be entirely apropos regarding the use of Raymond Chandler's name in other novels but I watched the Western, 'Frontier Marshal' last night: apart from the ubiquitous Randolph Scott,...."RAN-Dolph Scott!!", as Wyatt Earp....it also had Eddie Foy Jr. playing his father, - what would Oedipus have thought of that??.
But I hadn't known, when starting to read another Ed(die) Loy book, 'The Dying Breed', a few hours earlier, that I'd subsequently watch a film starring his near-namesake

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But I hadn't known, when starting to read another Ed(die) Loy book, 'The Dying Breed', a few hours earlier, that I'd subsequently watch a film starring his near-namesake

Life is fill of little ironies like that, isn't it. In the matter of namesakes, though, what about Sam Spade and Ed Loy?

I had not heard of the Foys, but it transpires that young Eddie Foy played his father in four feature films and a television movies, and that he is buried alongside his brothers, sisters and father, but not his mother. So I guess everything turned out all right.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

so now I know what a loy is!

But, speaking of the Foys, I wonder could it be that Mrs Foy's habit of always addressing Eddie Jnr. as 'Eddiepuss', - geddit?, - have anything to do with him not wanting to be buried next to her???


.....I'll get my coat!

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Your sense of humor may be shite, but did you not know what a loy is? I learned the word's meaning only recently: It's a narrow spade with a single footrest, and it's used, I believe, to dig up peat. The word comes from the Irish láí, I understand.

So if someone bashes you on the head with one of those shovels, you can say you got láíd.

I'll get my coat.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

well, if we don't make it on the stand-up comedy circuit, we can always find jobs as cloakroom attendants!

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

My coat please, and my galoshes. . .

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

well, if we don't make it on the stand-up comedy circuit, we can always find jobs as cloakroom attendants!

Just my luck, to be seeking cloakroom employment during a summer of record heat.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, its for you!

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, allow me to take this opportunity to say how much I enjoy the word galoshes.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

It is a great word, isn't it.

I've lived in Tucson for forty plus years now, and if any one word can symbolize a Chicago winter for me, that's the word.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Fred, we called them simply boots, rubber boots or billy boots when I was a kid. So galoshes always had a delicious hint of the exotic for me, in addition to its ungainly euphony.

July 21, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

speaking of galoshes, and boots, and Tucson, can anybody tell me was the original 'Boot Hill' in Tucson?
(perhaps the after-affects of industrial action by a group of disgruntled cloakroom attendants?)

July 21, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

can anybody tell me was the original 'Boot Hill' in Tucson?

Not I.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Boots usually referred to the high-top rubber foot apparel that extended over the ankle.

Galoshes referred to the low-top rubber foot apparel that just covered the shoe, much like a slip-on shoe.

Another name for galoshes was rubbers, but as we got older, we discovered another meaning for the term, which led to numerous and tedious double-entendres.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Boot Hill is located in Tombstone, Arizona (where else?), which is the site of the famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral."

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks on boots and tombstones.

I always had the idea that galoshes where those knee length things that Christopher Robin would wear when he humped around in puddles.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

Peter,

It's possible that, in places other than Chicago, galoshes could have that connotation.

I never saw the knee-length boots used in Chicago for protection against snow.

We would have called them waders and used them for watery environments. Fisherfolk would be most likely to have them, again in the Chicago area specifically. Other places--other names.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The only galoshes I ever knew were those of the imagination. I knew the word only from books. It had no currency in the Montreal of my youth. So I have no idea what connotations or denotations the word might have in Chicago or anywhere else.

ga·losh   /gəˈlɒʃ/ Show Spelled[guh-losh] Show IPA
–noun
a waterproof overshoe, esp. a high one.
Use galoshes in a Sentence
See images of galoshes
Search galoshes on the Web
Also, ga·loshe, golosh.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Origin:
1325–75; ME < OF galoche, of obscure orig.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Fred, I think 'Boot Hill' became something of a generic name for cemeteries in 'The Old West'
( The famous Gunfight at the OK Corral featured in the film I watched the other night, 'Frontier Marshal', although it was somewhat more abbreviated than in the Ford or Sturges versions)

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, how about a Preston Sturges version? That could play up the story's heretofore unexplored comic elements.

In fact, I have just done some quick reading on the various film versions. A historically accurate version by a good director with a capable cast would be worth watching.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

somehow I can't see Jimmy Conlin as Pop Clanton
Or William Demarest as Doc Holliday

And do you really think Eddie Bracken could pass muster as Wyatt?

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

No Rudy Vallee?

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Fred said...

The Celtic Kagemusha,

That could be--a generic name.

The only one I know of, though, that is officially called "Boot Hill" is in Tombstone.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A certain open-to-all online encyclopedia has this for "Boot Hill":

Boot Hill (or Boothill) is the name for any number of cemeteries, chiefly in the American West. During the 19th century it was a common name for the burial grounds of gunfighters, or those who "died with their boots on" (i.e., violently). Also, Boot Hill graves were made for people who died in a strange town without assets for a funeral, known more formally as paupers' graves.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

....at least they spared us having to get our teeth around 'Galoshes Hill'

or, perhaps the more likely alliterative, 'Galoshes Gulch'

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I rather like Galoshes Gulch, actually.

July 22, 2010  
Anonymous Elisabeth said...

The Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names Online (free) will also inform you that Boot Hill is the name of an "inhabited place" in Alabama and Maryland and that there is a Rubber Boot Lake in Alaska.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Rubber Boot Lake, eh?
So, only Rubber boots can be dumped in it?
Is that one of Sarah Palin's ordinances?

July 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

....and, speaking of 'Gunfight at the OK Corral', who needs John Ford when you've got
The Only Version That Matters, OK?

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Elisabeth, I have always liked those designations "inhabited place" and "unincorporated place." They are little reminders that pockets of mystery exist in this world.

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Good clip, TCK. I could have done without the lame dude playing the electric piano, though.

July 22, 2010  

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