Last month it was revealed that JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame recently published the crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. How'd she get outed? Turns out it was a tip-off from her law firm, but with just an anonymous tip there wasn't much to go on. Time to call in the language experts. Ben Zimmer at the WSJ has a good general report but the real meat of things is in a post that computer science professor Patrick Juola wrote for the Language Log blog.
I was given e-text copies of Cuckoo to compare against Rowling's own The Casual Vacancy, Ruth Rendell's The St. Zita Society, P.D. James' The Private Patient and Val McDermid's The Wire in the Blood. [...]
I actually ran four separate types of analyses focusing on four different linguistic variables. While anything can in theory be an informative variable, my work focuses on variables that are easy to compute and that generate a lot of data from a given passage of language. One variable that I used, for example, is the distribution of word lengths. Each novel has a lot of words, each word has a length, and so one can get a robust vector of % of the words in this document have exactly letters. Using a distance formula (for the mathematically minded, I used the normalized cosine distance formula instead of the more traditional Euclidean distance you remember from high school), I was able to get a measurement of similarity, with 0.0 being identity and progressively higher numbers being greater dissimilarity.
Of the 11 sections of Cuckoo, six were closest (in distribution of word lengths) to Rowling, five to James. No one else got a mention. [...]
Does this prove that Rowling wrote Cuckoo? Of course not. All it really "proves" -- suggests, rather -- is that out of the four authors studied, the most likely candidate author is probably Rowling.
Rowling's writing process visualized. Looks like this page is from The Order of the Phoenix. (via famulan)
Transcript and video of JK Rowling's Harvard commencement address, The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination.
You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
Imagination as Rowling perceives it is essential in telling other people's stories and is sorely missing in the media today. And the blogosphere can almost be defined by its lack of empathy. (thx, adriana)
Rita Skeeter J.K. Rowling:
Albus Dumbledore is gay and had fallen in love with fellow wizard and friend, Gellert Grindelwald.
Fan fiction writers, you know what to do.
The cashier at Barnes and Noble, she sure saw me coming. "You trying to catch up before Book 7 comes out?"
"Yes'm," I said, staring at my shoes. My vacation reading plan had gotten me hooked on the Potter series and I was now devouring the series at a work-shirking rate. Oh sugary literature, I can't resist you! The first three books were bit boring (I'd already seen the movies) and had I not been on vacation, I might have given up on the whole thing. I decided to press on, and, like my friend Adriana assured me, it started to get more interesting about halfway through Goblet of Fire when Rowling starts pulling back the curtain on an entire world of wizardry and backstory. I raced through Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. Since I somehow hadn't heard any spoilers about the series, the end of HBP left me reeling, my mind racing, my body jonesing for another hit. _______ killed ____________!!!1!1ONE!
That was all a few weeks ago. The other day, I did a very bad thing. While in the bookstore on non-Potter-related business, I stopped by the kids section to see if they carried a book that my friend David had alerted me to, Mugglenet.Com's What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7 (warning: spoilers). When David told me about it, I was adamant about not wanting to know anything about Deathly Hallows before it comes out. But now that I was confronted with the thing in person, I was unable to resist taking a peek at the table of contents. Snape. RAB! Horcrux!! Are my pet theories true? I flipped through a couple of chapters, little kids flowing around me in the aisle, feeling exhilarated (and a little disappointed) that the authors' theories agreed with mine and ashamed at what I'd become, a 33-yo man with deeply held theories about future plot developments in a children's book series.
My willpower finally returned and I returned the book to its shelf, but I think I might go back for it. I just need to think of a good hiding place so that Meg doesn't catch me with it. I fear for the future of my marriage and, more importantly, the fates of Harry, Hermione, and Ron! Hurry July 21, you cannot come soon enough.
An unauthorized electronic version of the new Harry Potter book is now available online. Rowling won't do an e-book version of the Potter books, but one made its way onto the web about 12 hours after the hardcover was released in stores.