Ben Blatt is a former staff writer for Slate and the Harvard Lampoon. Ben is a numbers guy who has taken his fun approach to data journalism to topics such as Seinfeld, map-making, the Beatles, and Jeopardy.
This conversation centers around Ben's book "Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve" (2017). It's a book about what we can learn about writing and authors based not on what they say, or what impressions we get from reading their books, but on something that results from applying rigorous data analysis to their actual texts. Specifically, KMO and Ben discuss:
00:25 – Moneyball and its influence on Ben
02:12 – The attraction of baseball for analytical people
04:25 – Ben's interest in numbers and writing
06:40 – Patterns, correlations, and writing advice
10:00 – -LY adverbs
12:00 – British vs American English
14:40 – Bloke, blimey and the Harry Potter Effect
16:00 – Loud vs quiet verbs
19:08 – Pronoun and characters stats
20:00 – Comparing authors' noise levels
23:00 – Gender differences in literature
27:50 – Professionals and amateurs: the statistical differences
30:25 – Reading fan fiction
32:50 – Restraining style choices to foster creativity
34:50 – Revising one's novels
36:00 – Fame and success affecting one's writing style
38:00 – Data tools
40:15 – Vonnegut
42:10 – The validity of "write what you know"
43:10 – Digital Humanities and Franco Moretti's "Atlas of the European Novel"