[iDC] Profile of an Amazon.com Reviewer

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Sun Jan 7 16:31:10 EST 2007

"Selected Amazon Reviews" is a publication by Kevin Killian. I found it right near the entrance of a small local store: "Adam's Books." Printed on the cover you see four icons: a book, a
diamond, a film projector, and a pair of pants (lederhosen?). Brent Cullingham, the editor at Hooke Press in Oakland, chose from Killian's reviews and grouped them in four categories: 1)
books, 2) film & music, 3) food, shelter & clothing, and 4) luxury items. Killian is a San Francisco-based poet, novelist, critic, and playwright. Read more about him on the site of the
Electronic Poetry Center.  With 1525 reviews as of January 7th, 2006, Killian is #129 on Amazon's top-ranked reviewer list. A certain Harriet Klausner, a former acquisitions librarian, is
number one with 13050 reviews. 


These are the reviews of Kevin Killian: everything from sweet potato baby food, Pasternak's film Doctor Zhivago, Michael Kors khaki shorts, and The Black & Decker Crossfire Auto Level
Laser, to Giorgio Agamben's book State of Emergency. It all started in December 2001, when he wrote a thank you note to a friend who had send him his new book for his birthday.
Instead of sending him the note, he put it up on Amazon.com. But it took until 2004 that he really got it going- writing about two texts a day. So, why does he do it? Well, his writings are
not really reviews. They are rather autobiographical pieces of fiction. 


Take Killian's review of a 14K ruby necklace, written on January 4th, 2007:

"As an American boy growing up in France, I became mesmerized by an enchanting painting of an ancestor that hung never very far from the hearth. The painting, smudged by smoke
and damaged by Vichy occupation of the chateau, showed a very thin and angular woman, her face like something reflected in the bowl of a spoon, festooned in bright stones that gleamed
out still bright after the passage of many decades. "Who is this woman," I used to wonder out loud, until one evening, as my grandmother passed through the room looking for our
vanished cat, "Gateau," I noticed that she wore the same diamond and ruby necklace as the ancestor in the old damaged painting. I persuaded my grandmother to sit down and forget
about her eternal hunt for a cat who had died long before I was born, when she was still a young woman not even married to my grandpapa yet, and to tell me about the necklace she
wore. She took my little hands in hers and, in a low, breathy whisper, told me how she had stumbled across these precious stones in a valise once. Amazon's 14K Ruby and Diamond
"Dynasty" necklace looks like a lot like my family jewels; the resemblance is shocking enough to have made me drop my cocoa while leafing through the jewel pages this morning in an
attempt to bring back, madeleine-style, the vanished days of yesteryear." 


Killian uses Amazon.com as a platform for his writing practice- a place with an immediate broad readership. I can't help but being fascinated by this project and will copy this post to
Kevin; perhaps he'll reply to this list and tell us more about his motivations.


(Kevin: We had a discussion on this list as part of which we wondered why people would volunteer their immaterial labor to the likes of Amazon dot com. I think you are making very
interesting use of the review feature but still, even with the story about the 14 K ruby necklace, it is Amazon.com's CEOs -- and not you -- who can fly into space with the money that you
helped them make.)




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