The first is the Nice Sushi Dinner Test. I could afford to take my family of four out for a nice sushi dinner at the local family-friendly place, and my boys could finally order as much octopus as they want. (Yes, even though my palate for Japanese food is still stuck as it was at age ten, my children gleefully eat raw tentacles.)
The second is the Henry James Wheelbarrow Test. As I described it the first time I ever got a royalty check:
Long, long ago I read some of the correspondence between Edith Wharton and Henry James. Wharton tells James how pleased she is with the sales for her latest book, and that she’s made some enormous purchase with the proceeds–I think it was a piece of French real estate. James writes back to congratulate her and say that the proceeds from his last book allowed him to buy a wheelbarrow to trundle his firewood around in, and maybe if the next book does well, he’ll be able to afford to paint the wheelbarrow. Wharton gets so sick of his complaining, she sends his publisher a huge chunk of money with instructions to send it to him and claim it’s his royalties. It’s fraud, yeah, but back then it was gentlemanly fraud.(What I really should have learned from Henry James was that wheelbarrows need regular repainting. Plenty of writers of comparably canonical stature can show you how to write long sentences gracefully, but I don’t recall getting that particular tip on maintaining my garden tools from Faulkner. And if I’d thought to follow Henry James’s example, rather than just comment on it semi-wittily back in 2008, I wouldn’t have had to leave my rusted-out wheelbarrow behind in New Jersey when I moved. Man, I’m tempted to make some kind of William Carlos Williams joke, but it feels like such a cheap shot.)
The day a publisher sends me a big enough check for a wheelbarrowful of sushi, I’ll have to invite you all over.