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Five Paragraphs Plus One Question About the Current Amazon Rankings

As a professional amateur sociologist, I’m always on the lookout for peculiar confluences of events. Of particular interest to me is what horse gamblers and NBA-play-by-play men call “the trifecta.” Most humans have a special affection for threepeats (they confer greatness), threesomes (they confer, um, juices), and three-legged dogs (we feel bad for them), and I’m no exception. And so I exhort all fellow trificionados to hustle over to Amazon.com’s Bestseller List, where at this moment a rare three-headed beast is visible in the consumer-goods cloud forest.

The No. 1 best-selling book in America is Sarah Palin’s as-yet-unpublished memoir Going Rogue: An American Life; the second spot is occupied by Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol; and sitting pretty in third is Glenn Beck, wearing what appears to be an SS uniform on the cover of his latest folio of hastily transcribed rants, Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government.

Despite my hyperbolic preambling, this occurrence isn’t terribly unusual. Some people on the Internet feel that this lineup is outrageous, and/or it’s evidence that Americans are dumb. However, I think it’s evidence that Americans are simply predictable. I’d be far more surprised if the top three spots were held down by a Spiro Agnew tell-all, Pynchon’s new one, and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Poor bland Dan Brown, that oft-dissed peddler of middling prose, gets a pass here. I don’t really have anything bad to say about him because other people have already said it, and besides it’s pretty obvious why people are tearing through The Lost Symbol: they really really liked the last few books he wrote.

As for Palin and Beck, do you remember that time you were riding in a car on the highway and you were cruising along making great time and suddenly there were brake lights on the horizon and first you thought maybe there was a cop up ahead and you took your foot off the gas and a moment later you were positively crawling and there was no end in sight and you called your friend to tell her you’d be late and that you might just spend the night in a hotel because of the slug’s pace at which you were traveling, but actually you were just kidding about that because it shouldn’t be too much longer, and you were right because soon you saw flashing things ahead on the shoulder and red lights spinning in the dark and there was a fire truck with its spotlight pointing at what used to be a car and as you inched by the wreckage you noticed the road around the ex-car seemed wet and/or slick and you thought you recognized a lifeless shapeless headless form twisted between two pieces of metal but then you turned your attention to the car in front of you to avoid rear-ending it and then you quickly looked back to confirm the gruesome sight but you didn’t really notice anything horrifying this time except that the vehicle was probably on fire and the road was wet because they used water to put the fire out, and suddenly the traffic dissipated and the open road stretched before you and do you remember how you kept reminding yourself that you’re not really into roadside gore but still you were secretly glad that you got trapped in this situation because some weird unnameable part of your brain requires that kind of experience from time to time?

I think that’s what we’re dealing with here.

What’s your reaction to this holy/unholy trinity?

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