A shopper pays cash for sales merchandise December 26, 2000 at the Lakeline Mall in Austin, Texas.
Perhaps the best way to summarize the all-encompassing story, The Price of Everything, by Eduardo Porter, is to envision a married, middle-class couple in present-day America still in bed on Sunday morning. What price did they pay, monetarily, socially, biologically and otherwise, to earn the privilege of waking up side-by-side, or perhaps intertwined? How will they spend their precious hours of the day? Will they reflect in church with family and friends or will they celebrate with mimosas over brunch at a restaurant? Either way they have already paid something of real value for the decisions that have brought them together at this hypothetical moment in time. Their courtship cost money, their wedding ceremony cost money, and their life together continues to cost money. Their cars in the garage, their mortgage payment for the roof over their heads, the food in the refrigerator - the list goes on and on. The minute they open their eyes in the morning, they are surrounded by the results of their collective cost-benefit analysis. From their quid-pro-quo courtesies around the house to their remembered judgements and grudges, there are also relationship debts to pay that having nothing to do with hard currency. One way or another, we pay a price for everything, and Mr. Porter presents an exhaustive study full of everyday examples and historical references to prove it.
Eduardo Porter, author of The Price of Everything; currently writes for The New York Times editorial board