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Chapter 34: Mammon

Chapter 34 is informed by my long-standing sense of injustice, fed by the Emily books as well as by Little Women and similar nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Kunstlerromans,that I had not had the good luck to be born in an era when a sea, a host of penny rags and sewing magazines would pay good money for any old thing that came into one's head as long as it had a comic ethnic stereotype or a fresh young heroine floating around in it somewhere.

I came of age in a very different time, one with birth control and outer-space photography and all manner of wonder and convenience, but one in which it is made abundantly clear at all times that No One Wants Your Emily of New Moon Fanfiction. And my attempts to write quick pieces for a quick buck have invariably ended in tears and poorly punctuated demands for Higher Keyword Density, insofar as they have managed to end at all.

Has being a hack really grown more difficult, though, or have its borders only shifted? Is it genuinely worse to write SEO permutations of poorly translated articles on Cialis for $1 per 300 words than it was to write dialect stories and "How Maisie Mae Won A Blue-Ribbon Husband" for regional weeklies back in 1903? It's hard to say. Maud wrote a lot of nonsense she didn't care about in order to make a name and a living for herself, including some of my favorite Anne books (witness her loathing of the frothy Anne of the Island) and, for that matter, plenty of thinly disguised ad copy. I'm probably just lazy. And I do love hygiene and not dying of the measles and reasonable standards of dress. I wouldn't want to give up the many, many advantages of the present just so that I can make boardinghouse rent writing sixty versions of the same Jilted at the Altar story in four months.

Still, I can't help but envy Emily her flurries of approval from speedy, eager editors with an insatiable thirst for floweriness and wit.

And I do very much hate Emily's canonical breakout story, "The Woman who Spanked the King." More on that to come.

Maybe I should start tracking what I steal from where, lest I fall as Cassie Claire once fell (though I doubt there's a very strong risk of that when one has no readers). Anyway, the phrase "poke a few dollars into my unacceptably sylph-like purse" is meant to allude to Emily's stated reason for selling Times subscriptions in Emily Climbs: "To poke some dollars into my slim purse." Emily is herself "unacceptably sylph-like," of course.

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