I’ve just figured out how to do Amazon author rankings. This of course is precisely the kind of thing that people like me should never, ever be allowed to do. The last thing people like me need is yet another opportunity for anxious comparisons.
One of my titles, out of print for fifteen years or so, is currently ranked at 298,784, which is a faintly problematical datum to process. Does it mean that this book is currently (let’s round it up for ease of handling) the 300,000th most popular book in the world? Is this good or bad? How many books are there in the world? What interpretative gymnastics would be required to decide whether this is a cause for celebration or for secret anguish? What, in short, does it mean?
I have enough to worry about as it is. Website analytics, for instance. A visit from Warsaw lasting 2:38. Three visits on consecutive days from Hyderabad. A deeply puzzling visit from Moscow lasting over 28 minutes. 28! Either a very thorough reader this, or perhaps the doorbell went and he forgot to log off? Or perhaps he was taken ill and the computer got left on until the battery died? (Hello, whoever you are, and thank you for your visit. I hope you’re alright. Do please come again when you have more time. I’m worried about you.) I am pathetically grateful for all visits, of course, but how to interpret them? What is the world saying to me?
Obviously, I have more important, more substantial, things to do than check stats every ten minutes. (I must have. Surely.) A life unexamined is a life half lived, perhaps, but what about a life that is ranked and analysed and quantified down to its atomic essentials, daily, hourly? What kind of life is that? I am not a number! Although in some quite real sense, I now am a number, and my number is #298,784.
It’s a worry.