Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Remunerating Ring Lardner.

My partner reminded me of a time when writers got paid by the line or the word. Maybe that was a better time. Maybe it sucked even worse than today. But in any event, it made me think of a short story by the great Ring Lardner called "The Mayville Minstrel."

In this story a small town sap is convinced by a wiseguy traveling salesman that his poetry is Whitman-esq. And that there are magazines in New York that will pay $2 for a line of poetry.


So the small town sap writes these lines:

"The Erie-Lackawanna, where does it go?
From Jersey City to Buffalo."

Brilliant, says the salesman and good for a quick $4.
But write it differently and you can make even more money. A la:

The Erie-Lackawanna
Where does it go?
From Jersey City
To Buffalo.

That's good for $8.

No real advertising point today.
Though it is nice fantasizing about getting paid per line.
Or even being valued for what you do.

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