Upon returning to New York from Smalltown, U.S.A., I found in my waiting pile of incoming snail mail a contract for a five-hundred-word piece I recently wrote for an upcoming issue of a Magazine Which Must Remain Nameless. It consisted in the main of the usual you-agree-to-let-us-do-whatever-the-hell-we-want boilerplate, but the following paragraph was new to me:
8. You agree to use your best efforts to participate in the promotion and marketing of the Work and The Magazine Which Must Remain Nameless by making reference to the Work and The Magazine Which Must Remain Nameless in settings including, but not limited to, articles or books written by or about you or the Work, interviews, editorials, press conferences, press releases, television appearances, Internet Web sites maintained and operated by you, and any other media available for the promotion of the Work to which you have access.
My immediate impulse was to scrawl Screw you, buddy! across the face of the contract and send it back in the stamped, self-addressed envelope thoughtfully supplied by the Magazine Which Must Remain Nameless. After further consideration, though, I decided that it was more important to get paid than strike a pose, so I signed the contract–grudgingly–and dropped it in the mail.
The whole dismal exercise put me in mind of the following passage from Patrick O’Brian’s The Reverse of the Medal:
“As for Gibbon, now,” said Stephen when they were settled by the fire again, “I do remember the first lines. They ran