Le Secret, François-André Vincent, 1975
Le Secret, François-André Vincent, 1975

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 — a rich benefactor?—is buying whole boxes, almost certainly in an attempt to drive up the book’s ranking, secure it a top slot on the Times list.

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