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Company Paperback Cover

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?

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Company Blog

Displaying blogs about Company. View all Max's blogs

Thu 31
Aug
2006

Closer, my pet. Closer…

Company My publisher just made a big mistake. They e-mailed me a list of the places they’re thinking of sending me on my 2007 US book tour, and I said, “How about I put this on my web site and ask what people think?” And my publicist, Martin—I think he must be new; it’s the only explanation—said, “Good idea.”

What Martin fails to realize is that I have just cleverly arranged for everyone who will be upset that I’m not coming to their town to be angry at him instead of me.

What Martin should have done is what all my previous publicists did: present the schedule only when it’s nailed down. That way I’m left helplessly trying to explain to irate, neglected fans why I’m visiting four cities on the west coast but none between L.A. and New York.

Instead, what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a tentative schedule. And the publisher wants to know what you think. So go ahead! And remember: there’s no reason they couldn’t send me to every town in America, if they cared enough!

Okay, that’s not true. I was exaggerating for comic effect. The number of cities is probably fixed, due to financial reasons and the fact that I’m not that famous. But if you’ve got a good reason why they should send me to one place and not another, post in the comments here and Martin will read it.

Here’s the list:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Ann Arbor
  • Dallas
  • Austin
  • Denver/Boulder
  • San Francisco
  • Either Madison or Los Angeles

It is actually very cool for a publisher to do this. In fact, I’ve never heard of one asking fans where they’d like an author to visit before.

Update: Whoa! That’s a lot of comments. I found out that Martin is on vacation this week, so I guess he’ll come back to a nice surprise. Wait, I mean, “violent argument.” That’s it.

Wed 23
Aug
2006

Inscrutable Germans

Company German edition of CompanyIn the comments of my last blog, member Ralf observed that there’s a German edition of Company coming out, and they’ve posted the cover online. I’m glad I have people like Ralf to tell me these things. He’s more up-to-date with what’s happening in my career than I am. From now on I’ll get him to write my blogs.

The German cover is very interesting, because I have absolutely no idea what it means. Now, I’m used to foreign publishers making inexplicable changes that I can only hope make more sense in their native language and culture. Especially if it’s the Germans, who are yet to publish a book of mine with anything even vaguely resembling the original title. (Syrup became “Fukk” and Jennifer Government is “Logoland”.) Because “chefsache” does not, as you might assume, mean “company.” It means “top priority case.”

My guess is that it must be common German management-speak, like “action items” or “Let’s take this offline” or “We’ve outsourced your job to India.” But the cover is more perplexing. I honestly can’t figure it out. And I’m usually good at this kind of thing. Once in high school I sat for an IQ test where they gave me sets of cards with pictures on them, and I was asked to arrange them to make logical stories. I scored lower on that test than anyone. My problem was that I kept seeing logical stories that weren’t there: I would arrange my cards in a sequence that made perfect sense to me—that spun tales of pathos and drama, of tragedy and triumph—and look proudly at the teacher only to see her eyes flick down to the answer sheet, and return, sympathetically, to meet mine. After that, they wouldn’t let me near sharp objects.

But this one is a mystery to me. Is that guy exploding? Why? And why is he wearing sunglasses? Help me out here: what do you think this cover means?

Mon 26
Jun
2006

Paper Company

Company Company cover for US paperbackIt’s still a long way off, but preparations are being made for the release of Company in paperback in the US. Here’s what I know: it’ll probably be March 2007, published by Vintage, and sport this nifty cover.

Publishers almost always change book covers from hardcover to paperback; I don’t know why. Maybe they hope that people with bad memories for titles will buy it twice. Jennifer Government was an exception, but only because I managed to convince them not to change it to this.

I think the donut cover was great, but I like this new one, too. It’s got a nice, dehumanizing note to it, and avoids showing anybody’s face (which I really hate). Also—although of course this doesn’t influence my feelings in any way—my name is kick-ass big.

There’s also talk of sending me on book tour in early April, although exactly where won’t be decided for a while yet. (If you are particularly keen to bring me to your city, it is apparently quite effective to visit a local bookstore that hosts author events, and tell them you want me. That is, that you want them to host me. Then the bookstore tells my publisher they’re interested in having me, and my publisher considers flying me in. This works for authors besides me, of course, so if you wanted you could probably arrange for all your favorite writers to be practically shipped to your doorstep. Although it helps a lot if they are not too famous.)

I wish I had news about publication outside the US—in Britain and Australia in particular—but… I don’t. I really hope we can fix that.

Mon 03
Apr
2006

Reincorporation

Company Some people were confused and disturbed by my blog about “Rub-a-Dub-Dub.” They wanted to know if I was seriously upset about a children’s book featuring a duck. To which the answer is: yes. Yes, I was. In fact, every time I go into that bathroom and see that little vinyl horror sitting in the corner, it bothers me all over again. I can’t see inside its chewable pages, but I know that “Quack-a-doodle-do” is lurking there. These sorts of things play on your mind.

Going crazy? No, I’ve always been like this. I’m just opening up.

In less confusing and disturbing news, Company is apparently going great guns. My editor, Bill, e-mailed me:

COMPANY rolls on…another reprint.

This was very exciting, because I’ve never been reprinted in hardcover before. (I have in paperback. Syrup is now up to its ninth printing or something ridiculous. But according to my royalty statement, it has still sold hardly any copies. The only explanation I can think of is that the publisher is doing tiny print runs—like maybe ten books at a time. This would make sense, since this is my ex-publisher, Penguin Putnam, who dropped me like an envelope full of Anthrax after Syrup failed to scale the bestseller lists. If I were a little more bitter and vindictive, I would cackle with glee every time they’re forced to reprint, and fire off e-mails to everyone I ever worked with there saying, “How do you like me now, huh? Huh? HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW??”)

Any reprint is terrific, because it means the book has done at least a little better than the publisher expected. But that “another” in Bill’s e-mail puzzled me. I queried him about it, thinking maybe—maybe—this wasn’t the second printing at all; maybe, if I was really lucky, it was the third. Bill replied:

4th, as a matter of fact.

Hot damn! Even if these are tiny print runs, that’s fantastic. Everyone who bought a copy, I’m thinking of you right now. Not individually, obviously. That would take too long. I’m imagining an amorphous, book-buying blob. No, really. It’s the least I could do.

Company has also picked up a couple of great new reviews, most notably in The Economist. What I especially liked about this one is that it called me “a master of short sentences and the passive tense,” and this outraged a group of linguists so much that they wrote an essay about it:

[T]he passive involves a voice contrast; it has absolutely nothing in common with tense. I am astonished, all over again, at how educated people can commit blunders as extreme as this one in print, and editors don’t even notice.

Clearly you don’t want to mess with people whose idea of a funny joke begins: “I was walking across campus with a friend and we came upon half a dozen theoretical linguists committing unprovoked physical assault on a defenseless prescriptivist…”

Update: In the comments, Mark Liberman—one of those outraged linguists—points out that this isn’t the first time my scribblings have caught their attention. There is this article from 2004, in which Mark discusses Jennifer Government’s use of “And yet.” It took me a while to work out whether I was being praised or dissed—I think it’s praised—and the more I read of their web site, the more stupid and uneducated I felt. To rectify this, I plan not to visit their site again.

Mon 06
Feb
2006

The Times on Company

Company I am sick. But I have a conference call to L.A. about my Syrup screenplay so I’m up and at my keyboard, with a glass of orange juice to my left and a bowl to hawk up phlegm into on my right. (Sorry. That line between what other people find interesting and what they really don’t want to know? Sometimes I have trouble tracking that.)

I open up my e-mail client and see, oddly, a lot of new mail. And most have “New York Times” in the subject line. Some also have “congratulations” or “rave.”

And I don’t open any of them. I just sit there, stunned, unable to believe what a ridiculously lucky streak I am on.

I finally give in and check Amazon.com. Company’s sales rank has jumped to 22. If I’m reading this right, at this moment it’s the fifth best-selling novel, behind Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, that damned Kite Runner, and—yes, of course—Stephen King’s Cell.

This is so amazing I have to run into the bedroom and wake up Jen.

We make too much noise and Fin wakes up, too. I hold her while we read the New York Times review. It’s by Janet Maslin and is jaw-droppingly good. And it actually says:

“Company” is Mr. Barry’s breakout book

If there is such a thing as balance in the Universe, tomorrow I am going to be hit by a bus, bankrupted, and disemboweled.

Sun 22
Jan
2006

Max in America

Company I should be packing. Tomorrow I catch a plane to the US to start my American book tour: it’s L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and New York. I’m thinking of doing a travel diary, so you can check in to see just how glamorous a book tour really is. Stay tuned.

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