Ana Maria Cox's bad review of Katha Pollitt's book has probably earned Katha quite a few extra royalties by now. Don't they always say that there is no such thing as bad publicity? Cox gave Pollitt the limelight by wondering if feminism is now too tacky and strident, and the answers have come rolling in. Jessica Valenti of feministing.com has an interview with Katha on the Salon, well worth reading for the discussion of the role of feminism today.
Then there is Katha's response in the New York Times, entitled Thank You for Hating My Book. It's funny, not at all tacky or strident. Though it does reveal a hidden side of Pollitt: her obsession with the book's rating on Amazon.com:
Of course, like every writer, I had been obsessively monitoring the sales ranking on my Amazon.com page since well before publication, ignoring the advice of my friend the historian. ("Don't look at Amazon, whatever you do! After they dredged up that Welsh farmer to review my book, it was like watching Enron stock implode.") By judiciously purchasing one book an hour — something I was going to do anyway, I have free shipping and a lot of relatives — I had managed to raise my rating from 101,333 at 2:25 on June 17 to 6,679 at midnight — a staggering advance of 94,636 places at a cost of only $110.60.
Skillfully timed additional purchases — I have a lot of friends as well — kept things simmering in the 4,000's. When I clicked on my number for the previous day, I could even see what books were selling like my own. On June 28, for example, when, inexplicably, my book had plummeted to 55,777, it was sandwiched between "Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction" and "Calligraphy Alphabets Made Easy." Fortunately, I found an old Rolodex with the addresses of a whole bunch of people I used to know in Canada — what better way to reconnect than to send them a book!
"Mom," my daughter said in that stern way she gets sometimes. "Stop it. Those numbers don't mean anything."
"Well, I don't know the precise algorithm, nobody does, but the ratings aren't totally meaningless."
"No, Mom, I mean your numbers don't mean anything. You're raising them by buying the book yourself."
I bet that those of you with blogs know exactly why she was doing the clicking. When I first started blogging I found out that if I clicked on my site through a different browser I gained a whole new visit! Not one of many multiples, but a new one that counted separately! So I installed all the browsers I could find on my computer...
A friend pointed out the pointlessness of this exercize. The visits didn't measure anything but my own obsessiveness. She didn't get the inner game I was playing at all. I miss that game now that I have too many visits to manipulate them that way. There must be some other version of the game I could play.
This has drifted quite far from the discussion of feminism I was planning. But maybe that's a good thing. Feminists are not obsessive enough to focus only on the big and important questions of the day.