Which Famous Writer Are You?


Written by Carmen Gray
26 Monday 26th July 2010

If looking for explanation to the viral storm of enthusiasm this last week over the I Write Like web app, which has seen it plastered all over Facebook and Twitter and shot the site to 100,000 hits per day, an obvious place to start is how much easier it’s made life for the hoards craving a touch of conviction-bolstering to their delusions of being the next Rilke.  

Now saved the wallet-suck of an easyJet fare to Prague in the hope of imbibing some remnants of past-era Bohemian artistic authenticity and the blindness-inducing level of absinthe required to deceptively lend their dire cafe notebook-scrawls the glint of seminal masterpieces, wannabe literary geniuses can now just feed an excerpt of their labours into this I Write Like, which then spits out the name of the famous writer it’s supposedly akin to.
Grain of salt an obvious chaser? You’d think, but reading the responses anywhere it’s been posted suggests that what the app does best in quantifying is not so much writing similarities as the extent of human susceptibility to flattery. Just check what the comment-thread on BoingBoing alone throws up – from the gullibly (and perversely) delighted, “[My] story about a boy whose history of being sexually abused enables him to survive a strange apocalypse: James Joyce. Whoo-hoo!” to the gullibly petrified, “I apparently write like James Fenimore Cooper, who I had to go and look up. But when I saw his picture... it's UNCANNY. I look exactly like him. That's even how I dress, ALL THE TIME. I need a lie down and a cup of tea, I'm too freaked out.” There’s no words for "I'll eat your face. I'll eat it all. I'll spit it back up and eat it again" sounding like Ernest Hemingway, whilst lengthy correspondences about psychological issues get David Foster Wallace.
And it’s not just that there’s a nuttiness threshold at which point the meme short-circuits. Feed in work by one of the 40-odd writers themselves, and odds are it comes out labeled someone else; HP Lovecraft gets Orwell, while Hunter S Thompson mutates into Stephen King for example.
I should come clean about my own shoulder-chip of bitterness, as when I fed my own earnestly-penned short story in I Write Like retaliated with Dan Brown. Dan-Fucking-Brown.
Do you write like Dan Brown? A bad thing.
I’m not sure where this badge, as nihilistic as a death-camp star, is actually meant to be worn, and if I wanted to find out I’d have had to get in touch with 27-year-old Russian software programmer Dmitri Chestnykh. The meme’s inventor reportedly modeled it on email spam filters from his home in Montenegro. But now I’ve been algorithmically jinxed I’m reluctant to write anything to anyone that I don’t strictly have to. 
At least someone’s come up with an antidote to all this faux systemic ass-kissing/damnation in the form of the spoof Who Do You ACTUALLY Write Like test. My result was: “You actually write like a scabby horse.” Which is possibly accurate, and definitely better than Dan Brown.
Or do you write like Kurt Vonnegut Jr? Which is not a bad thing.
Try I Write Like for yourself here


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  • Guest: valbamber
    Tue 17 - Aug - 2010, 05:59
    You're right, anyone who compares some online labelling of his writing to 'a death camp star' writes like a scabby horse. Not to mention a dolt who thinks it's amusing and clever to trivialise the Holocaust.