Of all the questions I get about Jennifer Government, the one that’s
surprised me the most is, “What happened to Kate’s puppy?”
A typical e-mail is this one, from Meghan:
I have one question for you: What kind of dog did they get?
Did they get it? If not, I’ll be very grumpy.
While Jonn assumes the worst:
I notice Kate never got her puppy, you heartless sod.
For those of you who haven’t read the book, what the hell is wrong with you? No,
sorry, I mean: for those of you who haven’t read the book, there’s a little
throwaway scene where Jennifer promises to buy her daughter Kate a puppy.
Then she gets distracted by having to save the world, as you do. There is, I
think, every indication that Kate will get her puppy, but you never
actually see it happen.
This is mainly because having my characters wander through a pet store
hand-in-hand and fall in love with a brown-eyed Beagle named Floppy didn’t
strike me as the greatest way to finish a fairly brutal thriller about corporatization. Even a line like, “Now let’s go get that puppy,” threatened
to engage my gag reflex. I think most people will be with me on this one. But
still, I have to admit: I have a dangling puppy reference.
Closure is very important. As Jerry Seinfeld said: “If I want a long boring
story with no point to it, I have my life.” Novels have to end, and when
they do they’re meant to wrap up all their loose story threads. I realize this;
in fact, the main reason
disappeared between drafts three and four was that I couldn’t tie her story
thread neatly enough to the others. So don’t tell me I’m not prepared to go
the hard yards for closure. It’s just… well, I never thought so many people
would care so much about that puppy.
I wonder if there’s some group I could join. “Hi, my name is Max and I have a dangling puppy reference.” (“Hi, Max.”) You know, that feels good. The first step is admitting you have a problem.
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.”
I did say that people who
join my site could win stuff, right? Right.
So here we go.
A couple of years ago my publisher made up some
honest-to-God Jennifer Government barcode tattoos — the
idea, I think, was that bookstore sales staff might wear them.
(We’re talking stick-ons, not permanent, just in case you were wondering.)
I never heard any reports of this occurring, so possibly it was
one of the world’s less effective marketing stunts. But still,
they’re kind of neat. If you had one, everyone would be jealous at your next
anti-globalization rally. So that’s what I’m giving away today.
I couldn’t decide whether to do this randomly or based on whose
quote made me laugh the most, so I’m going
with one of each. The random selection is Kareem Badr
of Austin, Texas, and Jamie of Auckland, New Zealand scores for tapping into one of
my pet hates with this quote:
Anyone still spelling “internet” with a capital “I” is probably struggling with the complexities of their new-fangled electric typewriter.
Ahhhh, yes. Stupid dictionaries. They have words from 1682 but
when I want to put down HYPERLINK in Scrabble, it’s not in there. How
unfair is that? But I
digress. Kareem and Jamie,
e-mail me your postal address and I’ll
send you some tattoos. Oh, the excitement!