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Date: Sun, 14 Apr 2002 16:39:24 -0700
From: maa32 
Subject: (urth) literary forensics

A bit off any discernible topic, I was home last weekend and read an 
interesting article in Reader's Digest entitled "Word Sleuth", which details 
the literary forensics of the man who successfully identified the Unabomber 
and the author of Primary Colors based on style comparisons with candidates.  
The fascinating thing about the whole thing was the manner in which he 
identified the Unabomber - Ted read a lot of British novels and used some of 
their spelling, coupled with several of their expressions: "You can eat your 
cake and have it too."

However, as I thought about the novels we read affecting our style (obviously 
there are still some individual differences), I was even more intrigued after 
making my mother read Mr. Gevers' article praising Wolfe.  She said, "Are you 
sure you didn't write this?"  (I will take that as a compliment to my writing 
rather than an insult to yours, Mr. Gevers). "You write almost exactly like 
this." (The list is a rather poor place to see examples of my writing style, 
since here I strive for clarity rather than beauty in prose - and my very fast 
and inaccurate typing (coupled with no spell check)often leaves me 
disappointed in the quality of my posts).

I wonder how much of the echo in our styles (the maternal eye would be able to 
catch those similiarites, right?) can be caused by our exposure to Wolfe?  And 
do we in turn owe our style to some dim source that we could not possibly 
comprehend directly? (like, say, C.K. Scott Moncrieff or even Constance 
Obviously, the article stresses that we all have a unique, distinctive 
composition style, but I wonder how much is ripped unconsciously from outside 
sources.  For example, for years I realize I tried to fashion the opening 
lines of any story I thought about writing after Mike Moorcock's introductory 
sentence to The War Hound and the World's Pain, which went something like, "It 
was in that year when the fashion in cruelty demanded not only the crucifixion 
of small peasant children, but also their small animals, that I was 
transported to Hell; it seems Lucifer wanted to strike a bargain with me." 
(Obviously, another paraphrase, but isnt' that a great line?)  I've also 
always admired the closing lines of Zelazny's Lord of Light.

I just thought it was kind of interesting to think about how much our style 
might be shaped by what we emulate (and Wolfe also made the claim that his 
style hasn't changed over the years, I believe, which seems odd when thinking 
about the choppy sentences that proliferate throughout The Book of the Short 
Sun in comparison with the longer and more difficult to follow sentence 
structures Wolfe employed frequently throughout Peace and The New Sun books).

Marc Aramini


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