The secret origin of
the Double Dagger
If you keep an eye on the New York Times Best Sellers list, every so often you’ll spot a little notation next to a book’s ranking, like this: †
The dagger indicates that sellers have reported receiving bulk orders for the book in question. In other words, someone —
First, I have to say: I love the use of the typographical dagger there. I know I’m projecting, but it seems to stand for sneakiness and skulduggery. Or maybe it sort of pricks the ranking itself; deflates it a bit.
Second, an aside: the Times Best Sellers list doesn’t reflect a straight tally of books sold. Rather, it’s based on a variety of sales reports, all balanced to detect some deeper signal; a sense of a book’s commercial vitality, its momentum. Interesting, right? People often think of the Best Sellers list as being quite old-school, and it is, but/and that approach isn’t so different from Google’s. Divinations!
Anyway: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore had a nice run on the hardcover fiction list, peaking at around 22. But I believe that Penumbra’s ranking should have carried a special notation of its own. A book gets the dagger when it is buoyed by rich benefactors; what about when that support comes from a secret society, assembled slowly over many years … such as the one receiving this email?
It’s hardly fair.
So, I propose a new notation, to be attached to books buoyed by such shadowy networks: the double dagger. It looks like this ‡ and I think it’s perfect. It stands for the unexpected asset; the unsanctioned strategy; the Kobayashi Maru.
The Times won’t go for it, of course … but that doesn’t mean we can’t. From here on out, I’ll always put one in the subject line to remind you what we’re about. Watch for it: the sharp little ‡
Sent in 2013 to the newly-inaugurated Society of the Double Dagger