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Posts Tagged ‘David Foster Wallace’

Unexpected Role Models

Posted by Dirck on 21 August, 2017

Today, I wasted my lunch period; rather than return the flayed flap of skin on the front of my face to the proverbial grindstone, I raced home to share the Great Eclipse(!!!) with my son.

That is pretty much the peak of totality where I was standing.

Wait a minute… by “wasted” I mean “utilized in the best possible manner,” because while eclipses happen regularly enough, they don’t happen here a great deal; the last one like this was in 1979.  But this is all digression, really, because it is writing I will eventually touch upon.

Today at The Regular Job has been very quiet, so much so that I have tacit dispensation to do whatever I liked so long as I was handy to the telephone; thus, I have done a little tidying of the back room of my site, soon (I hope) to appear with a shiny HTTPS in its address and prevent Google from blacklisting me.  In the course of this, I found some backtracks from this very blog hiding among the apprehended spam, and entertained myself with a bit of reading– because, once upon a time, I actually produced content on this thing, some of which was vaguely amusing.

One of the items of past glory I examined was a slightly meta examination of my own writing style, which I’ll synopsize here so you don’t actually have to click that link.  I had found a place which claimed to analyse the style of any text pasted into it, and discovered that the writing of this screed as it existed then was like David Foster Wallace, H.P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Cory Docotorow, and (shudder) Dan Brown.

All of which was somewhat interesting to the current version of me.  Then-Me was about a year away from getting nearly serious about fiction writing, and somewhat further away from getting as serious about it as I am now (which some might say is still “insufficiently so” but I work with what I’ve got).  What, Current-Me wondered, would be the effect of feeding some of my fiction into that purported analysis engine.  Indeed, did it still exist?

Why, yes, it did!  And here’s me with idle hands!

The results are… interesting to me.  Certainly satisfactory, although in a head-scratching way which I’ll explain presently.  As with the last attempt, I gave thing ten samples in an effort to see if there was any consistency in it.  Whole stories, too, not just snippets.  I was told with one of them that it was stylistically like the work of Arthur C. Clarke.  That story, the only one of the bunch that has yet been shown publicly, was aiming for more of an M.R. James flavour, but I will never decline to be likened to Clarke.  Two others came up with Anne Rice as the style-mirror for me, and seven of them produced Agatha Christie.

And here I became bemused.  I understand the presence of Clarke in these estimates.  Rice and Christie confuse me.  This is not a fragile male ego baulking at being compared to women, because really, honestly, that’s not the way I roll.  The source of the confusion lies in what I know about my own reading.  I have read loads of Clarke.  His influence creeping into my own work?  Sure.  However, my reading of Anne Rice is limited to Interview with The Vampire, once, in… I think 1990.  I have read Christie more recently, but rather less of her; a single story, about two years ago.  I have watched the entire run of Poirot Mysteries, but that’s hardly like reading the books upon which they are based.  The similarity of style is unlikely to be a result of emulation, however unconscious.

Bemused, then, but not exactly put out.  No reference to Dan Brown, which pleases me greatly, however commercial his work might be.  “Commercial” is a word one might apply to any of the three this recent sampling produced; not only are they all considered good writers in the literary art sense of the word (none without debate, of course– that’s art critics for you) but they have been widely published.  I am very content to be compared to people who got publication galore.

…of course, one also say “widely published” of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, for a particular period.  Ulp.

Today’s pen: Parker Senior Duofold
Today’s ink: Waterman blue (vintage)


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I (Write) Like Ike!

Posted by Dirck on 18 October, 2012

As so often before, I lie with my title.  A couple of days ago, I was examining a blog in passing, and I fell to a come-on in the sidebar which said:

I write like
St. Ralf Mendax

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

…and I went off down the link to discover who a piece of possibly well-found software written by any number of anonymous persons of unknown literacy thinks my writing style resembles.  What could possibly go wrong?

The idea behind this thing is that you copy a section of your writing, paste it into the site’s box, and it will taste and judge it.  Being the devotee of science that I am, I thought that a single sample wouldn’t give an accurate result, and so I went to work lifting ten samples from diverse entries here over the last couple of months.  Not surprisingly, the results were not entirely consistent.  The first sample I gave it was like, it thought, Mary Shelley.  Since I’m not too concerned about gender identification as far as writing goes, that’s cool.

Mary Shelley, though, I write only somewhat like.  I apparently write as much like her as like Cory Doctorow, an assessment I’ll also happily accept, but out of the ten samples I got H.P. Lovecraft three times, producing a small warm glow of delight, and four times I got David Foster Wallace.


Here I reveal my insular ignorance.  He is, I discover through the power of Teh Intarnetz, a highly regarded and well received novelist, of the same age as me.  However, apart from “published” and “critically acclaimed” points of difference, there is also the point that despite the fact he’s the same age as me, he was born four years earlier; we might add “successfully suicidal” to the mix.  I’m neither of those last bits, and I’m not convinced that the previous ones are worth the trade-off.  I’ll happily put off publication and adulation of the literati in favour of not being dead.  Lovecraft didn’t last very long either, but at least that wasn’t his choice.

Overlooking for a moment the unhappy end of the man’s life, the comparison is extremely flattering.  I will cling to this as a wrestle with the last paragraph of a short story that simply will not bear the weight of what goes before it, regardless of how I come at it, and I will hold it up as a goad when the free-time choice of “Work on the novel”/”More Plants vs. Zombies” hangs before me.  It’s a huge ego-booster, if one dares believe the results.

I should address, before I wrap up, the hanging question of “what could possibly go wrong?”  I’ve only reported nine of my samples, you will notice.  What could possibly go wrong is the unreported sample.

Dan Brown.  “Suicidal” sticks its unlovely head around the corner, smelling despondency… if one dare believe the results.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer TRZ
Today’s ink: Diamine Syrah

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