Max Barry is an
Australian who pretended to sell high-end computer
systems for Hewlett-Packard while secretly writing his
first novel, Syrup (1999). In
fact, he still has the laptop he wrote it on because
HP forgot to ask for it back, but keep that to yourself.
He put an extra X in his name for Syrup because he
thought it would be a funny joke about marketing and failed
to realize everyone would assume he was a pretentious
Government, his second novel, was published in 2003
with no superfluous Xs and sold much better.
Max's third novel, Company, was
published in 2006, and his fourth,
in 2012, was based on a
real-time interactive web serial
written and delivered in real-time one page per day from
this web site. It made more sense than it sounds.
Max's fifth novel, Lexicon,
was named one of the Best 10 Books of the Year by
Max also created the online political
for which he is far more famous amongst high school students
and poli-sci majors than his novels.
He was born March 18, 1973, and lives in
Melbourne, Australia, where he writes full-time, the
advantage being that he can do it while wearing only
I shaved my head totally bald and the skin is so baby-smooth I can’t
stop touching it. That’s not relevant to anything. I don’t know why I
brought it up. But seriously. Baby-smooth.
So I didn’t blog or go on Facebook or Twitter for six weeks and you
know what? It was kind of good. It was like walking into the desert
and rediscovering Nature. It was like being born again. It was like
looking at a photo of who I used to be.
No, not really. It was pretty much like this, only I had more free time
and hadn’t heard of Zach Anner.
I have been doing lots of writing. The last big Machine Man
novel rewrite is almost finished, and I started something new. I
was planning another serial, but this kind of grabbed me and it’s
not at all serial-like. So now I’m not sure about serials.
I’ll see where I am in three months.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I’m here and writing and
I know who Zach Anner is. Also: baby-smooth.
I have a bunch of blogs backed up. Wait. That sounds disgusting.
Pretend I didn’t say that. What I mean is: I keep thinking of things
I want to blog about, but before I do I get distracted by emails or
real writing or my wife getting pregnant. I know. You could argue
that I have prioritization issues. On the other hand, you could argue
I don’t. It’s not like anyone pays me for these. I only do them for
the look on your face. That’s right. I’m watching you. I’m watching
you right now. See that webcam? Give me a little wave. Hello,
my pretty. Hello.
But that’s beside the point. The point is: my wife is pregnant.
I can’t believe you didn’t react more when I mentioned that
a second ago. You barely frowned. Oh, wait. I see. You were wondering
if you already knew about that. I guess I didn’t really telegraph it. I
just kind of slipped it in there. But enough about the conception.
Ha ha! Joke. We used IVF. Not because we have to. We just like to
employ advanced medical technology wherever possible. It’s expensive,
but we think it’s worth it. They say you can’t genetically
engineer your embryos, but once you get inside and they close
the door, you totally can. We went for a female green-eyed redhead
with a propensity to sneeze in sunlight and a tail like a fish.
Last Friday we went along for our 20-week scan. We decided to
find out the sex this time, because Jen wanted to find out the sex
and I couldn’t stand the idea of her knowing something I didn’t.
It would have thrown off the delicate power balance of the whole
relationship. You might think that’s silly but that’s what they said
about Palestine. I don’t want a repeat of that. Not in my house.
So off we went, and Dr. Andrew showed us that we’re having a girl!
He showed us in a way that would be truly mortifying if the girl
was aware of it, by the way. I kind of feel sorry for girls today
growing up with DVDs of their prenatal scans tucked away in their
parents’ bedside tables. You just know they’re going to come
out at the 21st party. Anyway, there it is: we will have two girls,
and the new one will own nothing new until she leaves home.
Before Finlay was born, her placeholder name was “Popsicle”
(Poppy for short),
because she was brewed from a frozen embryo.
As we were walking out of the clinic, Finlay said, “We should call
her Chandelier.” I don’t know where that came from. But that’s the
placeholder. Chandelier Barry. A new light in the world.
I have a little parenting problem. I need some advice. The other day I was out walking with Finlay (four years old; I know, I can’t believe it either) and an elderly woman stopped to coo over her. This woman was clearly someone’s grandmother. She was matronly. I’m thinking of the word “battleship.” You know what I’m getting at.
“So cute,” said the grandmother. I said thanks and Fin said nothing and the woman began to move away. Then Fin said, “She’s got big boobs.”
Into my stunned silence, Fin added, “Really big boobs.”
A few days later, out with her mother, Fin remarked about a passer-by: “She has large upper arms.”
Before that, on a train: “Look at that little person.”
We’ve tried to raise her to believe there’s nothing wrong with people who look different. That differences are interesting but not shameful. That seems to be working. It’s working a little too well. What do I do now?
I don’t want to tell her that some people are embarrassed about how they look. That starts with “are” and ends with “should be.” I can see a case for not commenting on people’s weight, because being very over- or under-weight is unhealthy, and we’ve talked about health and eating balanced meals. But I know she’s going to spend her life drowning in messages about body size, and she doesn’t need that yet. Also, it only deals with the “large upper arms” comments, not the “Look at that little person” ones.
My feeling is that while there is nothing wrong with being a three-foot-tall grownup, and it is interesting, they probably don’t want to be singled out for it all the time. But maybe this is my hangup. I wouldn’t be offended if a four-year-old pointed at me and said, “That man has no hair,” but if his mother acted embarrassed and tried to shush him, I would. Because she would be making it into a bad thing. Maybe it’s the same with everything.
But that leaves me, what? Smiling at amputees after my kid points out they have no legs? Saying, “Yes, you’re right,” when she remarks on the size of an obese man’s buttocks? This is a minefield. What do I do?
Lately my Google Alert emails have become polluted with other Max
Barrys. I guess I knew it had to happen. I couldn’t have the web
to myself forever. But all of a sudden there are
three of us. The first guy to show up was okay.
writes about NFL. I gather that’s some kind of football. Not
good kind. But still. I was
just glad he was doing something. I didn’t want some whiny,
self-obsessed blogger Max Barry confusing everybody. I have that
But now this third guy. I’ve been worried about the wrong thing.
Because this Max Barry, he’s better-looking than me.
He’s younger. More hair. I guess that goes without saying. But really:
tons of hair. He cooks. Plays tennis semi-professionally.
Works as a personal trainer. Posts workouts-of-the-day to
his website. Workout-of-the-days?
Whatever. He’s a god, is my point. A toned, buffed,
let-me-whip-you-up-a-filet-mignon god. He makes me look like crap.
At this point I haven’t decided whether to break into his house
in the middle of the night and stab him or become fast friends
and use him as my body double for TV interviews. That’s a decision
for the new year.
Speaking of which! That’s it from me for 2009. Thank you so much
to everyone who cared enough to follow what I’m doing this year.
Double thanks to everyone who made this the year of
Machine Man. Triple—wait, this is getting ridiculous. But
thank you, thank you to those who emailed me feedback on the serial,
because that is incredibly helpful as I turn this thing
into a novel.
I hope your year was a good one, and your next is better. And may
I leave you with this: my daughter
ever appearance on stage, at her four-year-old ballet concert. They are dressed
as kangaroos, if you’re wondering. This was one of the
most terrifyingly beautiful moments of my life. I’m not talking about
the dancing. I’m talking about what happened next.
morning recently I climbed the stairs to my study, coffee in hand, and found a
pile of books on the top step. There was a Swedish Jennifer Government,
a Polish Company, and four or five others. The front panel of my computer
case was missing: I eventually found it inside the roofspace, along with my Richmond
I went back downstairs and confronted my daughter. “Have you been moving my
She grinned, one of those ridiculously beautiful ear-to-ear smiles, and said:
“I stranged your room.”
Since then, Fin has stranged my study several more times. Once I heard movement
up there, called out, “Are you strangeing my study?” and she giggled and
admitted yes. She loves to strange.
Today she turns four. Happy birthday, bunny. Thank you for strangeing my life.
As I write this, my intestines are trying to crawl out of my body. They’re
very determined. No, no, I don’t want your sympathy. Well, all
right, then. Maybe just a blanket. And my feet are kind of sore. You could rub
But I’m not writing to let you know of my gastrointestinal issues. That’s
just a bonus. I’m writing because I’m doing stuff:
Me on Australian TV: I’m a panelist on
Presents: Brave New Worlds,” discussing
Utopian/dystopian fiction. This is my first ever TV panel, and
the more time that’s passed since it was taped, the surer I’ve become
that I was A TOTAL DICK. But I’m hoping they edited those parts out.
To find out, tune in to ABC TV at 10pm Tuesday.
Me speaking: I’m delivering two talks on “Risk” as part of the
PEN Lecture Series,
(Wed 15th July, with The Chaser’s Julian Morrow) and Canberra
(Tue 21st July, with Genevieve Jacobs). This will eventually be available
on the web somewhere too, possibly
Relatedly, here is me being interviewed about the upcoming lecture.
Notice how carefully I speak while trying to hold my bowels together.