But let me not exaggerate the pathos and originality of my impressions, especially as they were subsumed soon enough in my unoriginal and irrepressible preoccupation: mostly I thought of the triumph it would be to kiss that face, and the excitement of her kissing me back.
Philip Roth’s The Ghost Writer (perhaps the best short novel of the last century)


Dear Nick: 
Can you please explain how the Amazon ranking system works?

David Carle 
Estacada, OR

Dear David: 

Say you have published a book. Well, if you look it up on Amazon, the ranking system will tell you how good it is, compared with all the other books that have ever been published. Glenn Beck’s The 7: Seven Wonders That Will Change Your Life, for example, is, at the time of writing, the fifth greatest book ever written; Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, by contrast, ranks at 15,441. (Mr. Roth should think about that, and learn from his mistakes, but that’s not our concern here.) I say “at the time of writing” because people are writing great books every second of every day, so there is a chance that Glenn Beck will have slipped a bit by the time you read this. And a chance that Philip Roth will have climbed in the rankings. I doubt it, though.

I don’t know you, David Carle, and I’m not going to do any research. But if you have written a book, I’m guessing that it’s not as good as The 7, but it is better than American Pastoral. This is true of a lot of books, more than fifteen thousand of them.