“Literary Alchemy: Unveiling Patterns with Ben Blatt’s ‘Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve'”

Blog Post Type B: AI First, then me

ChatGPT Prompt: “Write a 250 word blog post on Ben Blatt’s book Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve

Title: “Literary Alchemy: Unveiling Patterns with Ben Blatt’s ‘Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve'”

In the enchanting realm where literature meets data science, Ben Blatt’s “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve” becomes a beacon, guiding readers through the labyrinth of authors’ minds with statistical finesse. Blatt’s exploration is not a mere dissection of words; it is a journey into the very soul of literary creation.

At the heart of the book is the revelation of Nabokov’s peculiar fondness for the word “mauve.” Blatt’s analytical lens transforms this seemingly random preference into a signature stroke within Nabokov’s artistic palette. Much like an alchemist decoding the secrets of a potion, Blatt dissects the works of various authors, uncovering the subtle nuances and idiosyncrasies that define their writing styles.

The beauty of “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve” lies in its ability to demystify the creative process without diminishing its magic. Blatt invites readers into a world where data and literature dance in harmony, revealing patterns and connections that might otherwise remain hidden. Through accessible prose and insightful analysis, the book becomes a bridge between the analytical and imaginative realms, inviting both literary enthusiasts and data aficionados to appreciate the symbiosis of art and science.

Blatt’s work echoes the sentiment that words are more than just vessels for meaning; they are brushstrokes on the canvas of human expression. “Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve” stands as a testament to the captivating alchemy that occurs when data and literature intertwine, inviting us to see the enchantment within the seemingly mundane.

My take:

I thought ChatGPT did fairly well in describing the passages’ main points, considering I had to ask about the entire book and not just the specific chapters we were assigned. One point I would have liked ChatGPT to mention more is the science of how these authors write, not just praising the art of it. Maybe this is because we only read such a small part of the book, and the author goes into more detail later on. Every writer has a certain formula for their work and accomplishing their task, as described in the introduction of Ben Blatt’s book Mauve is Nabokov’s Favorite Color. Statisticians Frederick Mosteller and David Wallace were able to discover the author of the disputed Federalist Papers by “systematically [choosing] dozens of basic words and then [finding] the frequency of each in the disputed essays.” (pg. 4) Not only did authors develop their own style, but they also had to implement their specific genre tools: arguments, evidence, and characterization, among other devices. Through analysis of authors’ works, we are able to identify unique characteristics and even emulate them to create works in their unique styles and formulas. 

For this assignment, I wasn’t satisfied with ChatGPT’s several initial tries and forced it to rewrite its response five times. While comparing each response, I found that each attempt was strikingly similar to the others, both in its logical structure and in overall style. The similar structures I was willing to overlook—each argument has to be properly set up and supported with evidence—but the similar language made me pause. In the initial paragraphs of each response, the AI made some reference, specifically, to how the realms of literature and statistics meet in Blatt’s book. The response’s fourth paragraph consistently praised Blatt for not ruining the magic of literature while providing a way for statistics and artistic language to coexist. 

I don’t know exactly why these common themes emerged, or why ChatGPT had such a fixation on fantasy while creating its blog posts. Maybe ChatGPT’s source material on Mauve is Nabokov’s Favorite Color kept using this style of prose, or that’s all that AI knows how to do. It might be interesting to try this same sort of experiment with other accounts and perspectives, or to try and mimic an AI chat bot using the data collected from similar prompts.

Image Credit: Pixabay, “Pile of Books,” via Pexels


  • Shaylyn Lawyer

    The writing style Chat GPT used for this post was really interesting to look at. I’ve had experience with Chat GPT’s colorful descriptions and use of metaphors, but I feel like it was especially present in this post. LIke in the phrase “Much like an alchemist decoding the secrets of a potion”, I thought a few of these were a bit random. But I agree that it would be interesting to see how the source it is referencing influences the prose style of Chat GPT.

  • Sarah Bettinger

    This response makes me want to do a statistical analysis of the language Chat GPT uses; phrases like “enchanting realm” and “decoding the secrets of a potion” feel a little strange. You mentioned Chat GPT used similar language in all five of its responses but I still wonder why it seems to assign a theme to its response.

  • Maria Durrans

    It is so interesting that ChatGPT had a fixation on fantasy while making your blog posts. I wonder if it has been trained mostly on fantasy work. I have a similar experience with ChatGPT often where I ask it to keep trying to rewrite what it has made because I am unsatisfied with it. Great thoughts, thanks for sharing!

  • Brian Croxall

    It’s interesting that you kept getting the same sort of responses out of ChatGPT, Haley. I look at what it’s written as so much pablum, once again: it more or less avoids saying anything and instead just wants to revel in the audacity (for lack of another term) of Blatt’s approach. As always, we see ChatGPT just isn’t very good at saying anything of value.

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