At Zephyr Holdings, no one has ever seen the
CEO in person. The beautiful
receptionist is paid twice as much as anybody else, but does no apparent
work. The sales reps use relationship self-help books as sales
manuals, and one is on the warpath because of a missing mid-morning donut.
In other words, it's an ordinary big company.
This is the book that asks the questions:
When is physical violence an appropriate response to management policy?
Why is that one reserved parking space always empty?
Taking an extra donut from the team's basket: is that a sign of a motivated
go-getter, or a sociopath?
And this sea of incompetence and insanity
they call a workplace: it can't really be that way by accident, can it?
When I was 23 and struggling to get anyone to notice I’d written a novel,
it annoyed the crap out of me to see so-called “Young Writer” prizes won
by 35-year-old guys with no hair. In which parallel universe, I wanted to know,
could those tottering old farts be considered young?
Which is why I’m so happy to be named among the Sydney Morning Herald’s
Young Australian Novelists (for Company). Somewhere
out there, a curly-haired 23-year-old is muttering about the unfairness
of it all. Suck it up, punk.
Until recently I was a complete unknown in my home country of Australia,
while enjoying in the US a level of fame I would characterize as
slightly less completely unknown. This gripping irony unfolded
last year when I switched local publishers to Scribe, a feisty upstart
with the crazy idea of getting me to do some publicity.
So it was that I ended doing a lot of interviews in which I talked
about how I did no interviews in Australia, and wasn’t
that weird, what with me being slightly less completely unknown
in the US and all. Scribe is planning to re-publish Syrup
in a few months, and now my publicist is frantic because
with that angle exhausted, there’s nothing interesting left about me.
I am now so slightly less completely unknown, in fact, that the
State Library of Victoria—that’s my home state—even
noticed I had a book published.
This is exciting not just because it’s a great way to encourage
people to read my book in a way that generates no sales. They’re
also running a competition inviting you to
vote for your favorite book.
I wasn’t sure it was ethical to ask my readership, the vast majority
of whom reside outside Victoria, to vote for me in what seems intended
as a purely local poll. But I asked Scribe, and they said, “Hell, yes. See
if they can vote multiple times, too.” So I guess it’s okay.
In other local news, I’m doing a reading from Company at
Library on Thursday 31st January 2008 at 6:30pm. I’m also reading
my short story A
Shade Less Perfect at
the launch of
Sleepers Almanac on Wednesday 6th February 2008 at 6pm in the
Bella Union Bar at Trades Hall, cnr Victoria and Lygon St, Carlton. Aloud,
I mean. I’m not just sitting there, quietly turning the pages. I’m a professional.
An anonymous reader writes in with a Company-related conundrum:
I read this book and promptly gave it to some of my work colleagues—I’m sure you hear this all the time. I wanted to buy a case to keep under my desk to hand out to people who came in my office.
Now my manager and some others have read it and they want me to come to their book club to lead a discussion! If you have any ideas to lead me into this land of discussing this with upper management who just happen to be members of this book club please let me know. I need to keep my job!
Hmm. Tough one. Perhaps, “What I got out of this book was a deep, abiding relief that
our company is nothing like this. That’s why I hand it out to people at work; everyone
enjoys stories that have nothing to do with their own lives. It’s pure escapism!”
One of the interesting things about corporate workplaces is that they turn
otherwise decent human beings into… well, management. They’re not like that because
they’re petty, deceitful scumbags. I mean, obviously that helps. But it’s the environment
that encourages those personality traits. This could be a cry for help from your boss,
who in a flash of self-discovery has thought, “My God, what have I become?”
Your job at this book club, then, is clearly to reassure him/her that it’s only the
other managers who are like that, and gather information that will be politically useful
at your next performance evaluation.
One thing I’m looking forward to is discovering what wacky new
security schemes US Customs has come up with since I last visited. In
2006 they’d added fingerprinting and
digital mug shots. This time I’m thinking maybe they’ll swab
my mouth or get me to sing the Pledge of Allegiance. Or maybe they
have followed this route to its logical conclusion and now herd foreign
visitors straight from the airport to prisons, where any of us not
intending to commit terrorist atrocities can
fill out applications to be released.
Wow, that was pretty cynical, even for me. I’m not sure if that
struck the appropriately witty, feel-good note I want to
promote a book tour. But anyway. I have dates! And here they are:
- Los Angeles, CA
Sunday March 25th, 2007
- Denver, CO
Monday March 26th, 2007
- Milwaukee, WI
Tuesday March 27th, 2007
- Madison, WI
Wednesday March 28th, 2007
- Chicago, IL
Thursday March 29th, 2007
- Austin, TX
Friday March 30th, 2007
- Phoenix, AZ
Saturday March 31st, 2007
- Danville, CA
Monday April 2nd, 2007
[ Tour Details Here ]
As usual, I expect any outrage over ill-considered dates, places, etc,
to be directed at my publisher. Remember, they’re the ones organizing
this stuff. I’m just turning up and cleaning out the mini-bars.
It’s a big couple of months for my books. Here’s what they’re up to:
USA & Canada
is out March 13, and I tour two weeks later. The early word is
that I’m headed
to Los Angeles, Denver, Milwaukee, Madison, Chicago, Austin,
Phoenix, and San Francisco. So the result of that polite
discussion seems to be that Phoenix beat out Dallas,
Milwaukee supplanted Boston, and LA and Madison combined to
defeat Ann Arbor. I’m not saying that necessarily reflects on
the inherent worth of those places. But you could certainly
read it that way.
The dates and places should be confirmed shortly, and
I’ll post ‘em here.
Also in the US & Canada, an audio version of Syrup
has been released. I wonder if that’s some kind of record,
a publisher coming out with an audio version nearly eight years
after the book. No, probably not. In fact it wouldn’t even
be close. I don’t know why I brought that up.
Australia & New Zealand
I’ve spent most of the last year moaning about my publishing
troubles in Australia. Because it really grates on me
that in my home country I am near-completely unknown, while
in the US I am near-completely unknown, but not quite so
much. This has nothing to do with wanting recognition for
my artistic achievements, you understand. It’s about impressing
chicks. But now I have a publisher,
and they’ve been crazy busy organizing publicity ahead of the March 5th
Seriously, you want your publisher to be enthusiastic, but
this is almost beyond that. Just today, they’ve sent me…
let me check… eleven emails. I have conversations with
them that go like this:
Scribe: “Wow. Company. It’s such a great book.”
Scribe: “I mean, seriously. I own ten copies. Not for
publicity purposes. For myself.”
Me: “Oh, that’s… keen.”
Scribe: “Sometimes at night, I take off all my clothes and
rub myself with the pages.”
Well it wouldn’t surprise me. Anyway, the result is I’m doing
a lot of Aussie media and book readings and festivals. Here’s
what I have details for so far: the
Como Writers Festival
in Melbourne on the 17th and 18th of February,
a Sydney book reading
hosted by supercool comedian Wil Anderson on Friday March 16,
the Sydney Writers Festival in May, and the Melbourne Writers Festival
The Dutch Company paperback is out in March, and the publisher has produced
this incredibly slick
Zephyr Holdings website. It’s got desktop wallpapers
and email-your-friends cartoons and everything. I have no idea
what they’re about, because they’re in Dutch. But I bet they’re
Unfortunately I suspect that this means Company needs to sell about a million copies
or Uniboek will collapse under the weight of its outlandish web
design expenditure. But fingers crossed.
They also seem to be re-publishing Jennifer Government
under the title Logoland, and
synchronizing the cover with
Company’s. I love synchronized covers. They make me feel
Still bugger all. Sorry.
If you were wondering what that strange feeling you had recently
was—a sensation like some great evil in the world had suddenly
been put to rights—then I’m happy to explain: Company has
got itself an Australian publication date.
About time, I know. It’s very weird to be published overseas
but not at home. I wouldn’t mind if my book was completely ignored or
flayed by critics, so long as people could at least find it in
a bookshop. Well, I’d mind a little. No, you’re right, that would
suck. But having Company unavailable in my home country
really niggled at me this year. I’m very happy to be getting that
The details: it’ll be a
paperback out March 2007 from Scribe Publications, available
in Australia and New Zealand.
In film news, I spoke to
recently—he’s the guy writing the Company screenplay. I
gotta say, when the film rights sold to this book, I had no idea
how it could be a movie. I mean, it was barely a novel.
For me, it was more like colonic irrigation: by the end, I felt like I’d
flushed out everything I had left to say about corporate life. But
Steve described some scenes to me, and they sounded very
funny. So now I’m intrigued.
Apparently if this film gets made, Jen and I get to fly first class
to the premiere. Jen thinks this is the most exciting
thing ever. Not the movie. The chance to fly first class.