The former Slate staffer, ultimate data/word nerd, and acclaimed author of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve, Ben Blatt, dropped in this week to talk about crunching the numbers of classic and modern literature, debunking famous writerly wisdom, and how prolific writers establish their literary fingerprints.
Ben is a journalist, statistician, and author who takes a “fun” approach to data journalism on pop culture topics as varied as Seinfeld, The Beatles, and baseball (his last book I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back, was about a mathematically optimal baseball road trip).
The author studied applied mathematics at Harvard and has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Deadspin, and others.
His most recent book, Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing, “… brings big data to the literary canon, exploring the wealth of fun findings that remain hidden in the works of the world’s greatest writers.”
NPR called the book, “A hell of a lot of fun …”, The Wall Street Journal, “Enlightening,” and The Boston Globe called it, “Brilliant.”
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In Part One of this file Ben Blatt and I discuss:
- How a math nerd became a pop culture data hound
- The challenges of turning thousands of books into big data to examine famous writing advice
- On Elmore Leonard’s reversal in exclamation point usage
- Why Nabokov used so many colors in his writing
- How a data journalist concocted experiments to debunk conventional wisdom about bestselling authors
Listen to The Writer Files below ...
The Show Notes
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- Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing – Ben Blatt
- How the Author of ‘The Bestseller Code’ Jodie Archer Writes: Part One
- Ben Blatt’s website bblatt.com
- The One Way Bestsellers Have Changed That You Probably Haven’t Noticed – Ben Blatt
- ‘Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve’ Crunches The (Literary) Numbers – NPR
- One Writer Used Statistics to Reveal the Secrets of What Makes Great Writing – Smithsonian
- The Heretical Things Statistics Tell Us About Fiction – New Yorker
- Ben Blatt on Twitter
- Kelton Reid on Twitter