The other day I was looking at my website analytics and noticed an interesting data point. There was a huge spike in the number of hits on June 22nd–over a hundred people visited my website.
I thought that was strange. As an unknown, unpublished author with absolutely nothing to promote or sell (except, of course, my charming personality to curious literary agents), entertaining my imaginary audience with blog posts about my merry adventures in Queryland, I wondered, why in the world would so many people visit my website?
I wondered if Twitter had something to do with this. I checked what I was doing on Twitter on June 22nd.
I thought, oh right, now I remember. I follow the Scottish writer Ewan Morrison on Twitter. He had retweeted one of his posts showing Chinese communists destroying Buddhist and Taoist statues during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. It just so happened that statues in the U.S. and around the world were being vandalized or toppled over during protests over the death of George Floyd. Not just statues of Confederate generals, but also Christopher Columbus, and our Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. A statue of Winston Churchill was vandalized in the U.K. Ironically, sadly, a statue of the abolitionist and freed slave Frederick Douglass was also attacked, torn down and dragged to a river. (You can read about statues and monuments around the world being removed or vandalized in The Hill, CNN, and The New York Times.)
Whether the removal of statues of controversial historical figures should be decided by a democratic process, or an angry mob wielding spray paint, ropes, and hammers is not something I’m going to get into here. My point is I asked Ewan Morrison a simple question on Twitter.
I was curious. He answered my question. I thanked him. He replied again. (Polite guy!)
That was all.
And then 103 people checked out my website after our Twitter tête-à-tête.
Ewan Morrison has over twenty-one thousand Twitter followers (including me). I imagined these 103 people clicking the link to my website, curious, wondering if I was an acquaintance of his, perhaps an esteemed American novelist in my own right (uh, nope–psych!)
My second highest pageview count occurred on May 17th. Seventeen people checked out my blog post “The Universe Sneezed and Gave Us COVID-19” after I shared the link on Facebook and Twitter (thanks everyone!).
So who is this Ewan Morrison anyway?
According to Wikipedia, “Ewan Morrison is a Scottish author and screenwriter, described as ‘the most fluent and intelligent writer of his generation here in Scotland’ by Booker judge Stuart Kelly.” Mr. Morrison’s website states he’s an award winning novelist, screenwriter, and an essayist.
His website includes six impressive paragraphs describing his numerous literary accolades. His seventh and latest novel, Nina X, won Scotland’s most prestigious literary prize – the Saltire Society Scottish Fiction Book of the Year, 2019. “The novel tells of the life of an extraordinary young woman who is raised from birth in ‘ideological purity’ in a cult and then escapes into our modern world.” According to a blurb on Amazon, “Nina X is loosely inspired by the real case of a tiny Maoist cult in London whose leader kept five women trapped for more than twenty years.”
Nina X has no books, no toys and no privacy. She has nothing that might be described as love. Her closest emotional connection is with the birds she sees outside her bedroom window, when she is daring enough to remove the plasterboard that covers it. She has never been outside her small south London house. She has never met another child. She has no mother and no father; she has a Leader (a man), and she has three female comrades. The all-powerful Leader has named her The Project; she is being raised in total ideological purity, entirely separated from the false gods of capitalism and the cult of the self. He has her record everything in her journal, to track her thoughts; he makes her revise the entries obsessively, until they fit with his narrative. Her words are erased, over and over again.
In addition to being an author and screenwriter, Mr. Morrison also has a TED talk. Here he is talking about “Why we would be happier without Utopia.”
In comparison, when I asked T.C. Boyle–another highly accomplished, award-winning literary novelist and short story writer who also wrote about a cult in his 2004 novel Drop City–how to save Monarch caterpillars from starving to death, he replied by retweeting my question to his ten thousand Twitter followers. The two page views I got after that exchange may have been a fluke.
You may be thinking, so what? Why a whole blog post on Ewan Morrison?
Because 103 people checked out my website after my absurdly trivial interaction with him on Twitter. Which I don’t find all that trivial.
I thought it was interesting. I like to write about things I find interesting. That includes utopias, which happens to be a major theme in my novel Utopia of their Dreams, the one I’m hoping to publish.