The Wandering Dollar

A Brief LifeHere’s how impulse shopping helps crowd-pleasing consumer choices trump more high-minded pursuits like literature: my girlfriend was looking for a copy of Juan Carlos Onetti’s “A Brief Life,” which has been impossible for her to find in town. While checking my Hotmail account (which I almost never check), I came across some spam from Alibris, an online clearing house for used book retailers. I bought a book from them once about four years ago, and they’ve been faithfully sending me junk mail ever since.

So I did a search on Alibris for the Onetti novel, and in the process, I noticed some promotional content for baseball books — perfect for me since I happen to have gone totally bonkers for baseball this year. I clicked through, did some browsing, and was intrigued by the notices for Roger Angell’s “The Summer Game,” which seemed like exactly the combination of diamond life and hifalutin prose that would appeal to me.

The Summer GameUsed copies were as cheap as US$3, but just to satisfy my comparison shopping curiosity, I did a search for it on, where they happened to be selling an audio recording version of the book for just US$9.95. Given my ever-dwindling amounts of reading time, a text that I could listen to on my iPod seemed like a pretty promising option. The audio book was actually being offered by Amazon through an affiliate relationship with audio books online retailer, so I opened an account there, entered my credit card number and downloaded my first audio book ever (and at 154 MB, it was a nontrivial introduction). Ten minutes later, I was listening to “The Summer Game” on my Mac via iTunes. My girlfriend still hasn’t got a copy of “A Brief Life,” though