Saturday, August 14, 2010

Another Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again

In the random, serendipitous sort of discovery one—okay: me, I admit it; perhaps you never do or have done such a stupid thing in your entire fucking life—makes while skimming about the internet like a mosquito sniffing out carbon monoxide emissions at a picnic on a summer night, your Dedicated Prosodist stumbled upon a clever little site which professes to analyze writing samples and compare them to the style of a famous writer. The site is entitled, entirely appropriately if somewhat awkwardly, “I Write Like.”

Naturally, visions of grandeur, immensely lucrative book deals, and book launch parties best described as orgiastic bacchanals danced before my eager eyes as I cut and pasted a few random paragraphs of prose from these pages into IWL’s magic box and clicked “Analyze.” Sadly, as someone or other once proclaimed about their first sexual experience, the anticipation greatly exceeded the actual event.

First to pop up was that literary barnburner and perennial stalwart atop The New York Times Teenage Girls’ Vampire and Sublimated Masturbatory Fiction Bestsellers List, H.P. Lovecraft. Who?

Well, ol’ H.P. was a primo generator of “weird fiction,” and his
guiding literary principle was what he termed “cosmicism” or “cosmic horror”, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity.

While I can acknowledge that my readers gamble with their sanity each time they read something here, and I concede that my clotted prose can often be fairly described as “weird fiction,” I am nonetheless saddened that IWL’s first approximation of my prose was to an author whose estate will have been lucky to have sold more than 25 copies of his back catalog in the past 24 months. This was not a good start toward the classic mahogany runabout I was planning to put my book royalties toward.

The next block of text I analyzed returned the far more satisfying result of Vladimir Nabokov, who at least has the advantage of titillating the adventurous and scandalizing the stuffy. But the comparison was unfair, since the prose I chose to analyze was selected from my recent panegyric to dirty old men and their lust for nubile, underannuated lolitas. Even I have to admit that is cheating.

So I collected another few paragraphs of a more general nature and plugged them into IWL’s black box. Here the result was more interesting, if no more supportive of my hopeful visions of a mailbox groaning under the weight of obscenely large royalty checks. The famous writer whose reputation IWL so cavalierly chose to permanently damage by association with Your Lowly Solipsist’s feeble emanations was none other than David Foster Wallace. Poor, sad, suicidal man.

I am not familiar with most of Mr. Wallace’s work, although I did enjoy his trenchant-graduation-speech-turned-excessively-short-publishing-event Water over the course of 15 minutes spent waiting for a pre-ordered copy of X-Men No. 3,274 to be delivered from the Classic Literature section of Barnes and Noble. I am sure his other work likewise merits the frabjous praise heaped upon it by all and sundry, but I am an important investment banker, with limited time. I’ll just wait for the Cliffs Notes version of Infinite Jest to come out.

Although, I have to admit I admire Mr. Wallace’s program and turn of phrase, if Wikipedia reports it aright:

According to Wallace, “fiction’s about what it is to be a fucking human being.”

I might say the same about what I try to accomplish here, imperfectly, on a very occasional basis.

* * *

That being said, I just plugged the preceding paragraphs into IWL’s transmogrification device, and out spit H.P. Lovecraft again.


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