I wonder if there’d be mileage in an analysis of the content and meaning of Amazon reviews. Many of them are indeed, reviews in the conventional sense, telling you what the purchaser thought of the book or shoes or artisan gin or garden hose under discussion. Did it live up to expectations? Was it good value for money? Five stars, or only three?
But many others are reviews not of the product, but of the transaction, of the vendor. Variants on “arrived on time, as described” abound, often garnished with the full five stars, as if this basic fulfilment of the contract is somehow something to be celebrated with fireworks and hosannas.
But my favourite reviews are the ones that offer a flicker of insight into the purchaser’s life, like a fragment of overheard conversation, something that, deprived of context, becomes so banal it achieves a kind of Zen profundity; the sort of comment that makes you wonder why they went to all the effort of posting it, but you’re delighted they did. This, for example: