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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 26
Jan
2006

Travel Diary: Day #2 (L.A.)

Writing I may be the only author in history to get more sleep on a book tour than usual. I get eight hours overnight, although when I wake at 7:30 a.m. my brain doesn’t seem to be working. For example, I look at a pair of tweezers in my bag and think, “Oh my God, I have tweezers, those are banned here!” I am confusing the United States with United Airlines.

I check my email and web site and am pleased to see no comments of the nature I feared, i.e. “Who gives a crap what you do all day? Spare us this rambling bullshit.” Excellent! So here’s some more.

After reading a funny and eerily appropriate Dilbert, I am driven by Jeff, my media escort, to a radio interview with “Marketplace Morning” on NPR. The host, Lisa, is kind and gentle and helps me get through it pretty well. This is the kind of interview where I talk for 10 minutes and they edit it down to three, which I love because it makes it sound as if I’m just constantly coming out with smart things to say. I wish my whole life was like that.

Jeff takes me past some classic L.A. monuments: the Disney Concert Center (giant metal flower, very cool), some cathedral with a carved door (not really sure what the fuss is about), and a playground with police tape all around it. Although that last one is not intentional. Jeff is a cool guy and we chat about all kinds of things, from the aggressiveness of Tasmanian Devils to David Hasselhoff. That is, the conversation ranges between those two topics. I don’t mean that Tasmanian Devils are aggressive to David Hasselhoff. Although could you blame them? I’m telling Jeff that David Hasselhoff is experiencing a bizarre resurgence in popularity in Australia, and Jeff mentions—just happens to mention—that he, Jeff, was in “Knight Rider.” Knight Rider! The coolest TV show of the 1980s! This is why I love L.A.; everyone has a filmography. Suddenly the car we’re driving doesn’t seem so great any more. I want Jeff to drive me in Kitt.

The next five hours are a series of drop-ins, where I turn up at a bookstore and say, “Hi, I’m an author, can I sign my own book?” They put AUTOGRAPHED COPY stickers on them. This can go either way: either the bookstore people are quite pleased to meet me and ask questions about how my tour is going, or, as in one store, the girl behind the counter is so utterly unimpressed that when Jeff says I’m an author, she doesn’t even bother to look up from her computer. But word from the stores is that early sales are quite strong—one has sold out all eight copies already—and that’s great news.

As we inch along freeways, it occurs to me that L.A.’s main industry isn’t film: it’s parking. Seriously, the amount of thought, money, and effort everybody puts into parking here, I can’t believe it’s not a billion-dollar industry. I also think L.A. needs some kind of mechanized freeway system, where as you approach an on-ramp, metal claws grab your car’s undercarriage and slot you into a perfectly-measured space on a conveyor-belt-like freeway. Then everyone gets hauled along at 90 miles per hour until you want to get off, at which point the machine spits you out an off-ramp and you regain control over your car. It’s good to know that if this novels thing doesn’t work out, I can fall back on urban planning.

For lunch I have a beef burrito at Farmer’s Market. I’m not very familiar with burritos, but from my observations they seem to bear a fairly loose relationship to beef. It seems more like a “beef” burrito than a beef burrito, if you get my drift.

The burrito goes down okay, but fights back when I drop in to see Brian, my film agent. I have to try to contain alarming burrito burps as I’m escorted through the hallowed halls of CAA, the world’s most feared talent agency. The thing that really amazes me about CAA is that it’s full of hot 20-year olds. Every assistant or secretary in the building is 20 and incredibly good-looking. I swear, the last time I visited, Brian’s assistant was so beautiful that I went temporarily blind. Now he has a guy, Alex, and look, I don’t want to get all Brokeback Mountain on you, but slap a cowboy hat on us both and who knows what could happen. But anyway, yes, barely pubescent assistants everywhere. There must be a giant incinerator out back where they throw them on their 25th birthday.

Brian has good news about both Jennifer Government and Company! Things seem to be developing on both counts. There has been a holdup with the Jennifer Government script development, but Section 8 is still very keen on the material and there could be an opportunity for me to get more involved.

On the way back to the hotel, Jeff says, “There goes James Woods,” but by the time I turn around all I’m looking at is his car’s tail lights. Still, a brush with celebrity! I make a mental note to bring this up later, to impress friends.

At the hotel I am stunned at how clean my room is. I left the place looking like downtown Baghdad and now it’s immaculate. All the crap I had strewn from one end of the bathroom bench top to the other is now arranged in a neat 3x4 grid. I’m so impressed I take a photo. They’ve also somehow lugged the giant table that I practically had a hernia moving over to the LAN port back to its original position. Those maids may look small, but boy, I’m sure not going to mess with them.

I practice the section I’ve chosen to read tonight, then Jeff picks me up to take me to BookSoup. I’m amazed: the place is already almost full. And people just keep coming in. By the time we start, it’s standing room only. Soon people are having trouble even getting into the store.

The event is simply awesome. BookSoup has donuts for everybody, it’s packed out, I’m excited, and everyone laughs in the right places. At the end, a huge line forms and I’m signing books for the next hour. I’m flabbergasted; the last time I was here about 15 people showed up. People have driven in from as far away as Las Vegas, and many of them want photos with me, as if I’m a rock star. What I’m feeling is part amazement and part pathetic gratitude.

As if this wasn’t already one of the best days of my life, the Fortress guys come over and say they adore my Syrup script. I mean, they rave about it. They were only lukewarm on the first draft, so this is a huge, unexpected thrill. We go out for drinks and they talk about all the people they want to take the script to and I have a sudden moment when I realize where I am and what I’m doing and it’s so absurd I could laugh. I am having a ridiculously good day.

I get home at midnight and immediately call Jen. She’s thrilled, and hearing her voice makes the day complete.

I should sleep—tomorrow’s a very busy day that starts early—but I want to get this written down tonight. Thanks so much to everyone today. Wow. Thank you. Wow.

Comments

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Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 4923 days ago

Oooh, first comment (although by the time I've posted this someone else will have posted a comment...)

Great news to hear that Company is doing so well, and excellent about those movie scripts :-)

Um... Ok, I'll go and make pointless comments on someone else's blog...

Cameron Government (#166)

Location: melb-au
Quote: "There once was a man from Nantucket"
Posted: 4923 days ago

Max, p-l-e-a-s-e don't take up urban planning if you're impressed with LA...

Anyway, could you grab me a copy of Company while you're there? This delay before it's released in Australia is cruel and unusual.

Machine Man subscriber Alex (#237)

Location: London, England
Quote: "We're today's scrambled creatures, locked in tomorrow's double feature (Bowie)"
Posted: 4923 days ago

Congrats. This time next year you'll be a multi-millionaire! (and I don't just mean in Oz dollars either)!

You'll be able to get Finlay a state-of-the-art, all singing, all dancing buggy.

:O)

Machine Man subscriber Craig Barron (#1276)

Location: Leeds, UK.
Quote: "“Trust Elizabeth to get upset over a donut.”"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Go Max !

sounds like a dream..... speaking of dreams, am I going mad???
I went out to get a copy today. Thinking it was released in the UK. Waterstones and Borders have none, nor anything on record of it's existence...

when is it out in the UK?

Joshua (#1365)

Location: Chicago
Quote: "Myth 26: Babies come from the Hospital."
Posted: 4922 days ago

Max,

Love the daily!

Anyway, congrats on the great day we all need them…just remember you're in LA-LA Land.

Hey, what gives on no Chicago visit?

Donnie (#1282)

Location: Etobicoke, close to where the passenger pigeons used to migrate
Quote: "Mockery is the highest form of flattery."
Posted: 4922 days ago

Max,

Glad to hear things are going so well for you. LA can be fun if you have the right people show you around, and it sounds like you do. I am enjoying the updates and always get a good laugh from what you have to say. After playing NationStates for two years now I think I'm going to finally break down and buy one of your novels. Are you coming to Toronto any time soon? Maybe I can get a signed copy.

Peace...

Harry (#2131)

Location: Salisbury, England
Quote: "Hi Everybody!"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Congrats Max. Pleased to hear everything's going so well, when's the book out in the UK? Hopefully all my friends will be raving about your new movie in about two years time and I'll be able to say without my support it may never of happened! Come on, man, I need to have acheived something recently! Well done again.

Tim K (#788)

Location: California
Posted: 4922 days ago

If Jeff is such a cool guy, how come he's not giving you some decent meals? L.A. may be the new Sodom, but hedonism has its benefits, good food being one.
Anyway, its up to the civilized north next. What I wouldn't give to see you turn up to a Writers with Drinks experience.
www.writerswithdrinks.com/

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Hey Max,
on what day of the book tour is the over under for when you're going to do blow off a porn star's ass...

I say Day 4 --and I pick under.

Jen -if you're reading this, by blow I mean pixy sticks.
:)

Tony Quin (#1310)

Location: Plymouth -urgh
Quote: "Yoga is NAILS"
Posted: 4922 days ago

"last time I was here about 15 people showed up. People have driven in from as far away as Las Vegas, and many of them want photos with me, as if I’m a rock star"

Either they're full-time "author chasers", or having a rapport with readers has paid off! D)

Tony Quin (#1310)

Location: Plymouth -urgh
Quote: "Yoga is NAILS"
Posted: 4922 days ago

You know that was supposed to say :D


Just be sure to drop in to Plymouth or Guildford if you get to Britain.

Adam A. (#256)

Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Quote: "Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that." -George Carlin"
Posted: 4922 days ago

I had that same conveyor belt freeway idea a few weeks ago (Jung's collective unconscious?), but I got stuck on how it would differentiate between a semi and a VW bug.
Glad to hear about the large turnout; no surprise though, the books are great. And with the film biz and all that, it's cool that you still seem down to earth. But it's still early; there's still plenty of time to become an egomaniac. Symbolic giant head icon?

Bony Tony (#1343)

Location: United States
Posted: 4922 days ago

Max, don't let people take youfr script and mess with it.. you should only release it if it's yours.

Chris McBride (#1977)

Location: Belfast, N.Ireland
Quote: "Plagiarism saves thinking time"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Great to hear. Any chance of coming to Ireland for book signing/reading?

talk less. say more. (#1942)

Location: tampa, florida
Quote: "talk less. say more."
Posted: 4922 days ago

"I’m not very familiar with burritos, but from my observations they seem to bear a fairly loose relationship to beef."
hahaha this made my day.

Robert (#413)

Location: Los Angeles
Quote: "A positive attitude will not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort."
Posted: 4922 days ago

Where's the drama in this story!? You go back to your hotel and there isn't a scantly clad maid waiting in rose petals on your bed? Nobody takes a punch at you at the bookstore? You don't even get into a car crash -- In LA!!

P.S. Company is great, but it's a bit annoying hearing them do so many illegal things and get away with it... oh wait, you wrote Jennifer Government.

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 4922 days ago

I love hearing your stories. I don't know if you realize how very awesome it is that you connect this regularly and openly with your adoring fans. :)

I live in upstate NY and I am doing everything I can to convince my parents to somehow deliver me down the five hour drive (on a school day) to meet you. Will hopefully see you there... I'll be the dork with a crazy hat, most likely.

Ta and happy travels,

-Em

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Bah! You gives a crap what he does all day?!

Seriously Max, it sounds like you're having a lot of fun, though don't count on that mechanised motorway idea to make money even by including it in a book - Rob Grant did a very similar thing in his book Incompetence a few years ago.

You know, there are a lot of similarities between Tasmanian Devils and David Hasselhoff, but not quite so many as between badgers and David Hasselhoff. Or perhaps it's just me...

HAL 9000 (#271)

Location: Boston
Quote: "Let them hate me, so long as they fear me."
Posted: 4922 days ago

Wish you were going to make it up to New England. I mean, if I had the day off to get down to NYC, I would happily have made the five hour drive to get my picture taken... But, I mean, you do know that Boston is a major international city which deserves your affection... or at least presence.

I should call Homeland Security and tell them you have tweezers if you don't come up here!

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4922 days ago

Thursday in January 2006

TOUR/NON-TOUR DIARY #2

Well, I'm still not on tour, but my life is still almost moderately interesting. I woke up 15 minutes late and then had to take a cold shower because the rest of my family used up the hot water. Then I ate some Pop-Tarts(the only bright part of my day). I proceeded to go to school where I somehow managed to learn very little other than that I am not good at Calculus(I got a 62% on my test).

JAMES WOODS!

Wow! That is amazing! I have never met any celebraties...

VIP SCOREBOARD

Max Barry - 1
Adam - 0

KNIGHT RIDER

I wonder how Knight Rider became so popular in Australia. What's next? Magnum PI?

-Adam

Tim Ashwood (#595)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 4922 days ago

"...the Fortress guys come over and say they adore my Syrup script. I mean, they rave about it!"

Uh, I don't mean to burst your bubble, but keep in mind a) you're a writer in L.A., b) they're Hollywood people, and c) what did you expect them to say to your face? All their gushing means that they haven't rejected you yet.
But seriously, good luck. I loved Syrup (better than J.G. even [though I hope you can get Jennifer Garner for that movie if that one takes off]).

Machine Man subscriber Xpovos (#958)

Location: Washington D.C.
Quote: "Time not important, only life important"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Is there any difference between the FAA and UA? So, perhaps tweezers will be banned soon enough.

Sir Paul (#1678)

Location: Los Angeles, Ca
Quote: "Even in a Porsche, you can not drive across LA in 20 minutes."
Posted: 4922 days ago

Quote by Max: "As we inch along freeways, it occurs to me that L.A.’s main industry isn’t film: it’s parking. Seriously, the amount of thought, money, and effort everybody puts into parking here, I can’t believe it’s not a billion-dollar industry."

Actually, as a Los Angeles area Urban Planner, I can confirm that parking in Los Angeles County is a $2 billion industry (if you count all the subsidies that businesses pay for employee validation, customer validation, meters, construction, maintenance, etc...). I actually took the bus to Book Soup because parking is so terrible in West Hollywood (and I wanted to get some Sushi before I went over, meaning I would have to find a space and pay twice).

However, my day didn't end as good as yours. While you were having drinks with the industry, I was watching angry people drink Natural Lite beer on the bus as they yelled obscenities at each other. When I bring a soda on the bus, they take my pass or issue me a $250 fine. When crazy rockers on their way to go clubbin' crack open a cold one, the driver stiffens up, and pretends it's not happening. No wonder people drive...

Anyways, I highly suggest that those of you who can, go to his signings. It's quite entertaining, and the only residual problem is that when I read the book they're all speaking in Australian accents. Another plus, he's the least pretentious author I've every met.

Sean Gant (#201)

Location: USA
Quote: "I saved a girl from being attacked last night. I controlled myself. --Rodney Dangerfield"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Max that's awesome that so many people are showing up on this tour. You deserve it. I'm about halfway through Company and it is groin-grabbingly good.

I remember two years ago when you toured for the Jennifer Government paperback release and there were only 17 people in the bookstore in Chicago. My friend and I drove more than two hours to see you. We got to interview you for our online 'zine. That was so cool. Good luck with the rest of this tour.

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Cameron Government,

Your problem is solved: A-M-A-Z-O-N. They have Company as an immediately downloadable (but rather expensive) e-book so you won't even have to wait 2-3 weeks for it to wing it's way across the ocean to you.

Max,

Great about your budding film career, I hope that "incinerator at 25-years old" rule doesn't apply to script writers! Hope your autograph hand hangs in there for the rest of the trip.

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Well, Max, the bullshit you ramble is much more entertaining to read than anyone else's rambling bullshit. So keep on rambling!

And Tony Quin, actually that D) smiley kind of looks like something out of Day of the Tentacle. Hmmm...

<D)O|

There we go! The purple tentacle in all his ASCII glory.

Nathan (#4)

Location: Seattle - USA
Quote: ""I have a fictional novel." Sure you do, make sure you call it that to an agent!"
Posted: 4922 days ago

Max, I was going to say something to make your impending visit to Seattle sound very frightening, but after your Brokeback Mountain comment, I think you're scaring me, instead. AND, our month long rain streak has ended. Apparently a big time author can control the weather around here. What a guy.

Looking forward to meeting you. See you this weekend.

Machine Man subscriber Eddie Hilton (#184)

Location: Rochester, NY
Posted: 4922 days ago

Max, awesome news! Congratulations. You should make a stop in upstate NY at some point on your trip to check out all the bookstores I go into and move Jennifer Government/Syrup/Company to the front of the displays at the front of the stores. Keep on trucking, good luck with both movies and the book tour. Maybe George Clooney will want to talk to you next for JG, and you'll have some real celebrity contact to talk about!

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 4922 days ago

James Woods, wow. What was he in, anyway?

Seriously, you make book tour sound like a blast. I tire of writers who compain about a tour when masses armed with a word processor or even pencil and Big Chief tablet are toiling in hopes of being there one day.

I hope when I'm a famous author, I'll remember how jealous I was of Max right now. And how that was only a few cities.

And as your fame grows, I get the thrill of being in the vanguard, guys who were reading Max back when, gloating as I show my friends my copy of 'Syrup' in its original hardback with the cool cover art.

Matt (#61)

Location: Chicago
Posted: 4922 days ago

Good showings at these readings could mean a chicago stop right? Right?

C Lynch (#2047)

Location: San Diego, California, USA
Posted: 4922 days ago

I'm surprised you lasted that long in LA.. it blows up there. San Diego isn't much better but you need to come here so that while all the other kids are going to see their ahley simpsons and paris hiltons I can go see someone worthwhile.. I love Company although it took a bit to get it at the bookstore. They only had a few copies and some guy wanted the last one but I paid the clerk to let me have it.. mad props for the book!

joe (#1754)

Location: philadelphia
Quote: "Every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet."
Posted: 4921 days ago

What, no stop in Philadelphia for the American tour? BAH! You've got lots of fans here Max. Maybe next time around. The Joseph Fox Book Shop arranges some great book signings and sometimes speaking engagements at the philadelphia Free Library.

Nick Hornby made us his first stop for his latest book.

sara (#1328)

Posted: 4914 days ago

I was so sad to see that you weren't coming near ol' Cincinnati, OH. But I love Company, and it's about time that people take notice.

And, as for the mechanized freeway system: not a bad idea.

Az (#2277)

Location: Cologne
Quote: "Todd Bunker is a twat..."
Posted: 4884 days ago

"I left the place looking like downtown Baghdad and now it’s immaculate. All the crap I had strewn from one end of the bathroom bench top to the other is now arranged in a neat 3x4 grid."

Have you even been to down town Baghdad? Crap?

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