This curiosity may be of little interest to people not named James Rosenzweig, but I’ve been puzzling over something for months about the blog, and I thought that perhaps a few of my faithful readers/commenters (you know who you are!) might be willing to offer their thoughts?
The curiosity has to do with why some blog posts get a lot of hits and attention, and others don’t. Every blog’s stats probably look something like mine—the home page has a ridiculously high number of hits (since that’s where most people click through to), and then each post has a small number of hits from people clicking through to it in particular. Some types of posts are marginally more popular than others, but that’s not really my question.
My specific question has to do with this strangely popular blog post about The Age of Innocence. It seemed simple enough when I wrote it—a few nice observations maybe, but nothing flashy. That one blog post, written over two years ago now, remains one of my blog’s most popular posts almost every single week. Second only to the home page in number of unique hits, its thousands of hits surpass the total hits for blog posts #3-#8 combined. Now, I might have accepted this if it was one of my reviews—perhaps one of a famous novel, one that high schoolers would search out for book reports? Or if maybe it was a post on a popular holiday…something that might come up frequently for casual searchers. But instead, it’s that post—a little intermediary thing, one of a dozen or so posts about that particular novel, and somehow head-and-shoulders ahead of everything else.
By way of comparison, consider this post from early in One of Ours, and this post from later in One of Ours. I’d call them about the same kind of work as that Age of Innocence post: reflections on characters (one even including a healthy quotation) from a novel by a well-known author. I grant you, AoI is more popular than OoO, and Wharton more than Cather, but surely not by multiple orders of magnitude? And yet until I linked to them here, each of those posts on Cather’s novel had garnered but one hit apiece in the 2+ years they’ve lived on my blog.
So I ask you—what is it about that odd little post on The Age of Innocence? Did I inadvertently use a keyphrase everyone searches on Google? (If so, what’s the phrase?) Is it just really good reading? Should I try to repeat the feat, or accept that I will never in my life write anything as broadly popular as this one curious little musing on Newland Archer and the Countess Olenska? I hope someone has some thoughts, since I’ve gotten a whole lot of nowhere, thus far.
P.S. For those who say “it’s just that it’s a post on The Age of Innocence, and it’s a really well-known novel “, I give you this: a post on The Age of Innocence, as old as the wildly popular one, that up until today had a total of 3 hits. Buridan’s ass may be able to tell the difference between them, but I’m having a heck of a time working it out.