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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

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Sun 18
Apr
2004

Catch-22 in de vorm van The Matrix!

Jennifer Government The Dutch edition of Jennifer Government is out, and it’s a whopper. It’s 405 pages compared to 321 in the US paperback, but because it’s been printed on paper as thick as carpet samples, it’s three times as big. I like that; it makes it seem more significant. If it were up to me, you’d have to carry my novels out of the bookstore on a forklift.

Publishers routinely alter a book’s paper thickness, font size, and spacing depending on whether they want it to appear light, fun, and fast, or weighty, serious, and important. This makes it tough to judge which are genuinely longer than others. War and Peace, for example, is really just four paragraphs printed on pages as thick as wet towels.

I always find it awkward when someone asks me how long one of my books is, because the conversation goes like this:

Me: “It’s about eighty thousand words.”

Them: “So… what’s that in pages?”

“It depends a lot on how they set it. But somewhere around three hundred.”

“Um… is that a lot?”

“So you want to know how thick it is, is that it? You want to know whether it’s a thick book?”

But then, I’m very touchy.

The other interesting thing about the Dutch edition is that they’re running some kind of barcode competition as a promotion. There’s a web site where you type in the barcode that comes with your copy of the book, and if you’re lucky you win… actually, I don’t know. They never told me that. Books, I guess. I assume that if the prize was a date with me, they’d have to notify me first. Although now that I think about it, I haven’t read my contract that closely.

There is something odd about using a barcode as a symbol of consumerism in an anti-corporate-ish novel, then having a corporation use that symbol to sell copies of the book as part of a marketing campaign. At some point there, I’m thinking, “Wait a minute… that’s not ironic. That’s just a promotion.”

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