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Serious Noticing

  by James Wood

(about 553 pages)
total words
of all the books in our library
of all the books in our library
passive voice
of all the books in our library
all adverbs
of all the books in our library
of all the books in our library
of all the books in our library

clippings from this book

We’ve analyzed hundreds of millions of words, from thousands of different authors, training our linguistic models to recognize the most vivid words in the English language… the words that create the most intense sensory experiences: colors, textures, sounds, flavors, and aromas.

Based on our analysis, we’ve scanned through the pages of this book to find the two pages at the extremes, both the most-passive and the most-vivid pages, so that you can compare them side-by-side and see the difference:

one would know if one were the last man on earth. ‘I don’t guess you would know it. You’d just be it,’ replies Ely. ‘I guess God would know it,’ says the father, which suggests that some measure of faith has survived the end. Ely flatly asserts, ‘There is no God,’ and continues: ‘There is no God and we are his prophets.’ A little later in the conversation, the father again suggests that he sees his son as divine: ‘What if I said that he’s a god?’ Ely replies: ‘I hope that’s not true what you said because to be on the road with the last god would be a terrible thing so I hope it’s not true.’ Ely suggests that it will be better when everybody has died. ‘Better for who?’ asks the father. For everybody, says Ely, closing the scene with a rather lovely peroration, of the kind that gives this book its clear, deep sound: ‘When we’re all gone at last then there’ll be nobody here but death and his days will be numbered too. He’ll be out in the road there with nothing to do and nobody to do it to. He’ll say: Where did everybody go? And that’s how it will be. What’s wrong with that?’ But the idea that the boy may be the last god – an eschatological plot that is a kind of more philosophical version of The Terminator – lingers in the book, and is caught up again at the end. It is tie, jacket, grey trousers); a quick pre-ecclesiastical breakfast; lace-up shoes handed to my father, master of the polishing arts (that oily Kiwi cake, glistening in its tin like food). Then the eternal boredom of church, with its ponderously enthusiastic adults. And after that, Sunday lunch, as regimented as the Hapsburg Sunday lunches of brisket of beef and cherry dumplings that the Trotta family eats week after week in The Radetzky March. A joint of beef, or of lamb, or of pork, with gravy, roast potatoes, and a selection of fatally weakened vegetables (softened cauliflower, tattered Brussels, pale parsnips, all boiled punitively, as if to get the contagion out of them). It was the 1970s, in a small town in the north of England, but it could almost have been the 1870s. The only unusual element in this establishment was that my father cooked lunch. He cooked everything in our family, and always had; my mum was never interested in the kitchen, and gladly conceded that territory. After lunch, tired and entitled – but sweetly, not triumphantly – my father slumped into the sofa in the sitting room, and fell asleep to classical music on the record player. He fell asleep gradually, not really intending to succumb. He wanted to be awake for one of his favourite composers, a narrow, rich cycle of Beethoven (piano sonatas and string quartets), Haydn (string quartets) and Schubert (lieder, especially Die Winterreise). These three masters were as unvarying as the rotation of Sunday beef, lamb and pork

emotional story arc

Click anywhere on the chart to see the most significant emotional words — both positive & negative — from the corresponding section of the text…
This chart visualizes the the shifting emotional balance for the arc of this story, based on the emotional strength of the words in the prose, using techniques pioneered by the UVM Computational Story Lab. To create this story arc, we divided the complete manuscript text into 50 equal-sized chunks, each with 2763.32 words, and then we scored each section by counting the number of strongly-emotional words, both positive and negative. The bars in the chart move downward whenever there’s conflict and sadness, and they move upward when conflicts are resolved, or when the characters are happy and content. The size of each bar represents the positive or negative word-count of that section.

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