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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: August ::
Re: Funeral Elegy (Joe Klein and SHAXICON)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0601.  Wednesday, 7 August 1996.

From:           David J. Kathman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Aug 1996 18:49:29 +0100
Subject: 7.0595  Re: Funeral Elegy (Joe Klein and SHAXICON)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0595  Re: Funeral Elegy (Joe Klein and SHAXICON)

I tried sending this a few days ago, but it seems to have become lost in
cyberspace, so I'll try again.

Bob Evans asked:

>Am I correct in remembering that Don Foster, using his computer program, was
>quoted on SHAKSPER as determining that Joe Klein was the author of _Primary
>Colors_?  Has there been any comment on SHAKSPER since this analysis was
>subsequently confirmed by Klein's confession?  Does this news affect anyone's
>position in the debate?  Just curious.

Don Foster was not quoted on SHAKSPER as saying that Klein wrote *Primary
Colors*; rather, he wrote an article to that effect for New York magazine back
in February.  In light of the publicity surrounding the Funeral Elegy, New York
had commissioned Don to use his methods to compare *Primary Colors* with
writing samples of major suspects, to see whether any of them matched. What he
did was compare vocabulary overlap, using search-and-retrieval software; each
writer tends to use a distinctive vocabulary, and while this method can't by
itself determine authorship, it will at least give strong clues and point in
the right direction.  None of the writers in the first batch they sent him,
which included all the leading suspects at the time, stood out as matching
*Primary Colors'* vocabulary more than the others. So they sent him text from
more candidates, and when he tried Klein, there was more than twice as much
vocabulary overlap as with any other candidate. When he looked at Klein's prose
more closely, he found many distinctive characteristics -- words, phrases,
constructions -- shared by Klein and Anonymous, but not by any other
candidates, and the ideas and themes found in the novel, particularly on race,
closely matched those expressed by Klein in his Newsweek column.  When the
article came out, Klein vehemently denied being the author and publicly
insulted Don, but of course a couple of weeks ago he admitted that he had been
lying (though he still seems to hate Don's guts).

As for the significance of the whole thing, I think it gives a big boost to the
credibility of Foster's attribution methods --- it turns out he was right, even
when the person identified as the author vehemently and repeatedly denied it.
Since the same vocabulary overlap method used to help identify Klein points
strongly to Shakespeare as the author of the Funeral Elegy (and does so from
many different directions), Klein's confession should be seen as significant in
the Elegy debate.

Dave Kathman

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