On “At the Mountains of Infinite Jest”

…or How I Write like David Foster Wallace and H.P. Lovecraft with Scientific Proof.

Robert Bruce, at 101 Books, recently posted about a website that will analyze a sample of your text and return a result on whom you write like. The bit of text I entered returned Daniel Defoe. Then Dan Brown. Then David Foster Wallace. So, I figured the analyzer would just randomly spit out a name. I entered the same sections of text again and got the same results.

Initial skepticism assuaged, this required systematizing. So, I grabbed 20 bits of text from this blog. I made sure to choose text from posts on a variety of topics. I made sure the text was free from quotes of others. After running the test 20 times, here are my results:

David Foster Wallace: 8
H.P. Lovecraft: 6
Daniel Defoe: 2
Dan Brown: 1
Edgar Allen Poe: 1
Steven King: 1
Cory Doctorow: 1

Trust me: I calibrated my differentials. My power levels are ideal. I’ve properly bayesed my priors. One-tail, two-tail, and all other tails are accounted for. This is bona fide statistical fact: I have a 70% correlated writing style with the combined forces of David Foster Wallace and H.P. Lovecraft.

The thing is, the analyzer doesn’t explain its process. Although I can safely say I write like these paragons of literature, I don’t actually know why. Nor do I know what my writing style is like. So, I turned to Wikipedia. Combining their forces and using the Themes sections from the authors’ Wikipedia pages (here and here), I can safely say my writing style is as follows:

I use jargon and self-generated vocabulary, long multi-clause sentences, and a lot of footnotes/endnotes. My complicated writing style allows me to more fully tackle important, human issues like religion, fate, inherited guilt, and how civilization is under threat.

Or

I write overly convoluted text that aspires to touch on some existential truths but quickly devolves into mildly racist horror.

I’ll leave that debate to the readers.

Other Thoughts:

* To be honest, I’ve never read David Foster Wallace and only a little bit of H.P. Lovecraft (though I do enjoy the H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast). For some reason, in admitting this, I feel like I’ve lost credibility for the social circles to which I want to belong. I cannot name you these social circles. Nor can I clarify exactly why they would want me to be knowledgeable on Wallace and Lovecraft. I’m just pretty sure I’m a less interesting person for having not read much of these authors.

* I would not have known to write “whom I write like” had Bruce not commented on it, himself. I’m willing to admit that.

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4 comments

  1. N. E. White · December 9, 2013

    Ha! I’ve used that analyzer before and it is maddening! I can’t remember who it said I write like before, but today, I write like…(brace yourself)…Dan Brown!

    • thecaveatlector · December 9, 2013

      Ha. I’m convinced including Dan Brown was just a cleverly placed joke. I mean, he’s sold millions of books, and I don’t know if I have any actual problems with his writing style. But, being told you write like Dan Brown is just disappointing.

      • N. E. White · December 9, 2013

        I know…on so many levels…

  2. Pingback: Who I Write Like… | Edward Hotspur

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