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.
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
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:
- Ann Arbor
- 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
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.
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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…”
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.
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
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”
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
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
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,
I should be packing. Tomorrow I catch a plane to the US to start
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.