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Sep 12, 2017

How Data Journalist & Author of ‘Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve’ Ben Blatt Writes: Part One

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.

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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

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