The Coulter Curve
What’s the opposite of a bell curve? How about a Coulter curve, where all of the numbers are either wonderful or terrible. Check out the Amazon reviews for Ann Coulter’s latest book, Guilty: Liberal “Victims” and Their Assault on America>:
Yes, that’s right. Out of 124 votes cast so far, 116 have been either ones or fives, and these have split almost perfectly down the middle (59 fives to 57 ones). Over 90% of people reviewing this book think that it’s either the worst book imaginable, or the best.
And the result of this crowdsourcing (to two very different crowds) is an average rating of three — which really seems oddly appropriate. Yes, you can put me in the 6% who probably wouldn’t give Coulter either a one or a five. I haven’t yet read this book as of yet, but if it’s anything like her others — and reviews indicate that it’s quite similar — then a three seems just about right.
Why neither a one nor a five? Because Colter’s books tend to be neither wonderful nor terrible. Coulter is a witty polemicist (like many polemicists, her perceived wittiness often correlates with the degree of agreement one has for her substantive views) with real talent for phrasing and timing. She’s quite gifted with many others of the polemicist’s tools, including zingers, one-liners, and cruel labels.
At the same time, Coulter’s writing is limited. She tends to stick to polemics only. Even within polemics, she typically chooses to go for easy laughs — how many gratuitous Teddy Kennedy references can a person make? — rather than more in-depth analysis. Also, not unusual for a polemicist, she tends to present starkly one-sided analysis and turn molehills into mountains.
Given those pluses and minuses, a three sounds about right. It looks like Amazon’s crowdsourcing gets it right — albeit through a very odd and circuitous route.