The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood

The Blind AssassinThe Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s tempting to pick at the few imperfections I found in The Blind Assassin (and I do mean few), such as the thinness of one or two characters, but that would be kind of dumb. But the major characters, such as the narrator’s sister, Laura, are so expertly rendered, yet remain in an important sense mysterious — just as many great characters in literature do.

Besides, to fixate on that would be to overlook what Atwood has pulled off, a stunning technical accomplishment of weaving a science-fiction story told within a noirish novel about adultery, itself just one part of a sprawling historical narrative chronicling Ontario in the early part of the 20th century, and a family’s love and how it falls apart.

Note: this review originally appeared on Goodreads.com. View all my reviews >>

I Write Like … Well, Lots of People

My writer friends all atwitter about I Write Like, a “statistical analysis tool, which analyzes your word choice and writing style and compares them to those of the famous writers.”

People who get results that they write like James Joyce, or Chuck Palahniuk? Excellent! People who write like Dan Brown? Bummer. (Unless they cash his checks, I wager.)

Anyhow, we’ve all been giving it a whirl. I put in the first page of the last book I wrote, and got Margaret Atwood. Excellent! Poet, novelist, winner of the Booker Prize — and even Canadian. Not too shabby, eh?

But then I had to check. Does Margaret Atwood write like Margaret Atwood? I copied a bit of The Blind Assassin into the text box, and … yes. OK, good. (And Dan Brown writes like Dan Brown, in case you were wondering.)

I stress-tested a little more. A friend who got the Dan Brown Bummer Result said “at least it wasn’t Edward Bulwer-Lytton” (he of “dark and stormy night” infamy, as well as having a famous bad-writing contest named after him). So who does Edward Bulwer-Lytton write like? Charles Dickens.

Obviously it’s not perfect, and not every writer with a famous style is represented. For example, Hemingway’s so distinctive that for years there’s been a “Bad Hemingway Contest.” Yet when I put in a page of “The Old Man and the Sea,” I got James Joyce.

But it’s still fun to play with. A thriller writer I know writes like Ian Fleming, a crime writer I know writes like Nabokov, and a romance writer I know writes like Bram Stoker (huh?)

What’s also cool is that the same writer can get different results. I wrote a satirical short story that came back as James Joyce, not Atwood.

And the text of this blog post? H.P. Lovecraft.

Go figure.