By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief
I wasted two days trying to buy the out-of-print 1984 novel “Elbowing the Seducer” after reading about it on The New York Times website.
Times critic Dwight Garner wrote about the novel in his “American Beauties” column June 16 and this led me to an obsessive search of online stores because the book sounds intriguing and I would like to buy a copy to read this summer.
Garner hooked me with these two paragraphs:
The tangiest literary-world roman à clef to emerge from the ’80s — it is almost certainly the best of the past four decades — is “Elbowing the Seducer” (1984), the first novel from a writer named T. (for Trudy) Gertler.
It’s awful that this novel is out of print. It’s more awful that Gertler, who is still with us, has not written a second book. She has a high style, a feel for social comedy and a deadly eye for detail.
I enjoyed the column, which is “about undersung American books of the past 75 years,” and I was on my way seeking a used copy of “Elbowing the Seducer” for under $10.
Hardback. Paperback. It didn’t matter to me as long as it was in good condition.
Right to Amazon
I looked at a lot of sites, Amazon being my go-to, but one seller there wanted $157.71 and $3.99 shipping for a used paperback in good condition. That sounded money-hungry.
Then I ran into two Amazon third-party sellers seeking ungodly amounts of money: $999 plus $3.95 shipping for a used “Elbowing the Seducer” hardback copy in good condition and $2,360.10 plus $3.99 shipping for a used hardback in good condition.
You might say, “Why not go to the library in your town?” I did. “Elbowing the Seducer” was not in the library database. Instead, it was suggested I search for “Plumbing the Elmer” and “Skidding the Row.” That’s what the titles looked like to me. Maybe the type was fuzzy.
Maybe at eBay
Not long after that, I found four offers for under $10 from an eBay seller and I’ve included a screen shot of three of the offers.
I eliminated two offers after learning the condition of both copies was merely acceptable. One didn’t have a dust jacket.
The best copies from this seller were a used paperback in good condition for $4.47 and free shipping and a used hardback in good condition for $7.64 and free shipping.
I was all set to use my PayPal on the paperback or the hardback until neither one showed up in my shopping cart. I couldn’t contact the seller so I talked to an eBay customer customer service rep, and after 45 minutes on the phone with him, he told me the seller probably had not updated their settings and that the copies probably had been sold.
If I am able to buy two good copies of “Elbowing the Seducer” somewhere else for under $10 each, one will be for me and the other I will give to you. You won’t even need a cart.