In Mike Leigh's intimately observed 'Career Girls', two misfit college students look to one of the Bronte sisters' books for advice on all matters. The girls would pull out a dog eared book, wave their hands over it and intone, "Miss Bronte, Miss Bronte" (I can't remember which one), flip through the book and let their finger rest on a random word, and that was their cue. Balzac has proven to be my Miss Bronte, in an odd way. When I needed to learn about the perils of harboring love silently and resenting its non-reciprocation, I read 'Cousin Bette'. When I was lost in the go-go days of Cargo magazine and tech writing and schwag addiction 'Lost Illusions' illuminated the artistic and moral perils of favoritism and back-scratching disguised as journalism, and helped me navigate the perilous waters of editors and publicicsts. Now, at another turning point in my so-called career (as every Monday morning can feel like), the sequel to 'Lost Illusions' offered up some sobering insight on the corrupting game of writing for pay. In 'A Harlot High and Low', Esther is a prostitute at a transition, trying to become pure and good. "Women who have led the life now ao violenltly repudiated by Esther reach a point of total indifference to man's exterior form. They are like the literary critic of today, who may be compared with them in more than one respect and who attains to a profound unconcern with artistic standards: he has read so many books, forgotten so many, is so accustomed to written pages, has watched so many plots unfold, witnessed so many dramatic climaxes, he has produced so many articles without saying what he really though, so often betraying art to serve his friendships and enmities, that in the end he views everything with distaste and continues nevertheless to judge."