We all have a writer within us. The only question is, which one?
A quite mesmerizing site called I Write Like allows you to enter a piece of your writing and discover whose style it most closely resembles. Naturally, this is a source of huge amusement. And, after a week of stress, family troubles, and dropped calls, how can one not turn to this site for a little innocent joy?
I first thought I'd look at other people's writing, just to see who their conscious or subconscious influences might have been. So I reached for a random speech of Adolf Hitler--a speech he gave in Munich in 1923. According to I Write Like, Hitler was actually channeling Jonathan Swift. You know, the somewhat-Irish writer who penned "Gulliver's Travels."
Emboldened by the quite obvious similarity between a satirist and a dictator, I went further.
I entered the most fetching lyrics from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." The part that goes "Easy come, easy go, will you let me go? Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. Let him go Bismillah! We will not let you go. Let him go. Bismillah! We will not let you go." You have, no doubt, roared it out in some dark karaoke bar. But did you realize you were ululating a style of writing most akin to Ernest Hemingway?
So then I tried this: "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times." Charles Dickens' bones will be whistling a happy tune to discover that they were once responsible for a style that most closely resembles George Orwell.
Speaking of Big Brother, I tried a sentence from Steve Jobs' iPhone 4 press conference: "We're not perfect. Phones aren't perfect. But we want to make all our users happy." This, apparently, is most redolent of the famous author Cory Doctorow. Yes, the man (and blogger) who wrote "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom." Which seems more than a little odd.
I took a random sentence from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. This one was written on his own Facebook wall: "My thumbs were hurting from my BlackBerry, so I switched. I'll probably get iPhone 4, if I don't switch to Android."
You might think of these as relatively ordinary words. I Write Like recognizes in them the spirit of Douglas Adams. Perhaps Zuckerberg has been a "Hitchhiker's Guide" fan for a long time. Or perhaps he intends to hold the Facebook IPO in 2042.
Naturally, I might have been cheating a little, taking people's more colloquial words as literature. But I am convinced that these utterances were not spontaneous, having first been meticulously written down and memorized.
I am not so convinced that this is the case with Mel Gibson. Gawker took it upon itself to enter Gibson's alleged rose garden rant at his former lover and discovered that hidden in its bile was the technique of Margaret Atwood.
The Huffington Post revealed that I Write Like is the creation of a Russian software programmer called Dmitri Chestnykh, who said he modeled the site on e-mail spam filters. Of course. What it comes down to is not so much style as the choice of specific words.
Chestnykh has been a little overcome by the success of his site, which is why he hasn't really managed to upload more than about 50 authors.
Still, when you are able to enter a few words from Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"--"I wanna hold them like they do in Texas plays. Fold em let me hit me raise it baby stay with me I love it"--and discover that these words resemble those of Raymond Chandler, then how can you not enjoy this site for endless hours?