Suppose you’d written a book. And suppose, for some odd reason, that your middle name happened to be “And”. Suppose, for example, that mother had named you “Cary And Grant”.
Then the software at Amazon.com, not unreasonably, would assume that you were two people, and would list the book’s authors as (1) Cary and (2) Grant.
Now suppose, even more oddly, that your name contained a comma. Not the word “comma”, but the actual punctuation mark. Suppose, for example, that your mother had named you “Cary, Grant”. Then Amazon’s software, again not unreasonably, would assume that your name was being presented in the format “Last, First” and would reverse the order, listing the author as Grant Cary.
Now take this one step further and suppose your name contained both the word “And” and a comma. Perhaps more than once. Suppose, for example, that your name happened to be The Fresh, Chilled and Frozen Horse and Ass Meat Research Group. Then, in accordance with its not unreasonable rules, Amazon’s software would conclude that there are three separate authors, namely:
Now suppose that eventually, someone at Amazon became aware of this error and hit some sort of a button to make the software re-parse the word “And”. But suppose it didn’t quite work, first because the software re-parsed only the first “And”, and second because the re-parsing was even worse than the original. You might get something like this:
As it happens, Ass Meat Research Group is the highly prolific co-author of 88 different entries in the Amazon catalog, with a variety of collaborators including not just Frozen Horse and Chilled the Fresh but the almost equally prolific Sheep the Edible Offals Of. (At least there are 88 entries as of this writing, and will presumably continue to be unless this blog entry triggers a further correction, an outcome devoutly to be unwished.) Every one of these 88 entries is priced at $325 and most are in the 20 to 30 page range. Despite the high prices, they must be very popular, because several are listed as Temporarily Out of Stock.
This makes me want to join Facebook just so I can list “Ass Meat Research Group” among my favorite authors.
A tip of the hat to my friend Aaron Mandel, who somehow discovered this. No, I don’t know what he was searching for.
Edited to add: Apparently as a result of this blog post, Amazon has removed all records of these authors from its database. See here for my lament.