keep your distance

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.


Thu 21

Annual leave

Max Here I was all about to start a blog post called “That’s 2006, then,” when I realized I’d already done that in 2004. Except it was called “That’s 2004, then.” Because it was 2004 at the time. Not 2006.

One of the problems with writing all the time is I tend to unwittingly repeat myself. For example, the other day I received an e-mail that chilled my spine:

Please stop using the line “he’d never seen so many expensive pairs of shoes in one place.” You have used it in all three novels, and it has about outlived its utility.

Could I really be unintentionally inserting the same line into all my books? That would be pretty embarrassing. And probably sign of some kind of encroaching mental defect. Some kind of new encroaching mental defect, I mean. So I went searching through my manuscripts. Sure enough I found this in Jennifer Government:

John had never been surrounded by so many good pairs of shoes.

… and this in Company:

It turns out to be a bar so stylish that it has dispensed with anything as obvious as trying to look like a bar, and at at seven o’clock on a Friday evening it is full of deep orange sunshine and more pairs of expensive shoes than Jones has ever seen in one place.

But I couldn’t find anything similar in Syrup, thank God. That’s only two out of three! I reckon that lets me off the hook. And what about all the lines that aren’t the same? Nobody writes in about those!

Anyway, that’s it from me for the year. Thanks so much to all you guys who visit my site, and read my books, and validate my life. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be broke, bitter, and spending most nights fighting homeless guys for loose change. Well, I do that anyway, but it’s a lifestyle choice.


This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Scott (#354)

Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Quote: "Max Barry tastes like awesome"
Posted: 4682 days ago

If I don't see a shoe related comment in your next novel, I'm going to be dissapointed. It's the thread that ties them all together Max! That's like taking the Tarantino out of Tarantino, if you know what I mean. ::wink wink nudge nudge::

Aaron Doucet (#733)

Location: Canada (Sorry)
Quote: "He'd never seen so many expensive pairs of shoes in one place."
Posted: 4682 days ago

Man, it's just your trademark. Like Kiss' makeup. Or Thom Yorke and mindlessly dancing. Or Peter Jackson and 3-hour movies.

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 @:"
Posted: 4682 days ago

i went to barnes and noble to get company for my sister for xmas... it was out of stock..they said it was out of stock at like the 3 or 4 closest barnes and nobles except 1...
and no offense but i aint driving mad far to pick up a copy for my sis-- but i was happy for u that it was sold out everywhere =)

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 4682 days ago

The day you don't find loose change worth fighting homeless people for Max, is the day to give all your money away to charity and live like a monk. A Buddhist one obviously, not one of those secretly corrupt Christian ones.

And Shabooty... why drive anywhere? Get it online, d'uh.

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 4682 days ago

Max(x), if you ever do a book-signing tour through Germany, I'll have you write that particular line into the new book.

And yes, I think you should make sure that the expensive shoes, more of them in one place than witnessed ever before, are in your new book as well. Can't help it, I'm a girl.

Machine Man subscriber Danni (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 4682 days ago

Since my only experience of expensive shoes is in your books, I will be incredibly disappointed if you don't manage to slip them in somewhere.

Merry Christmas Max, Jen and Fin :D

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 4682 days ago

John Irving has a bear or two in most of his novels, a reference to expensive shoes 66.66% of the time seems fine to me.

You might want to try the approach William Gibson used for his latest book, Spook Country - he started lobbing chunks of it into his blog as he was writing it - random disjointed excerpts with no context, explanation or warning. It was quite fascinating. He apparently got mail pointing out that the names of a character or two he'd used in previous books, so he changed them and moved on.

Arancaytar (#2358)

Location: Frankfurt
Quote: "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. -Sagan"
Posted: 4682 days ago

Well, I just put Jennifer Government on my christmas wishlist, after planning to read it for about... wait, nearly three years now. The day I discovered NationStates.

Happy new year!

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 4682 days ago

I love that line though. I always wonder when the character is going to be surrounded by more expensive shoes than he has ever seen in one place. Let's me know I am reading Max Barry (in case the cover didn't already clue me in).

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4682 days ago

Haha. Wow. I never noticed that.

Kit (#850)

Location: UK
Posted: 4681 days ago

I think u should write fukk cola into ur next book somehow too.

Thomas (#1221)

Location: Germany
Quote: "One more, and I'm going to consider you my penpal."
Posted: 4681 days ago

I noticed, if you take the last letter of Syrup, the last letter of the first word of Jennifer Government, and the 3rd but last letter of Company, you get to spell P-R-A-?-?.

I wonder where Max is headed.

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Posted: 4681 days ago

What is this now, the Max Barry Code?

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4679 days ago

That would make an interesting book. Well, MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE...or chanukkah, or kwanzaa, or whatever.

toothling (#2675)

Location: home
Quote: "passion is inversely proportional to the a mount or real information available."
Posted: 4679 days ago

Dude, what's with all the different phrases in your books? It's really inconsistant, and I think it's damaging your writing quality. I think your books should all just be about how the main character has never seen so many shoes before. It's worked in a couple of scenes in your books, so I figure it's foolproof.

Tylosand (#2855)

Location: Ontario, Canada
Quote: "Jag Strand Tylosand!"
Posted: 4675 days ago

If it works, use it. That's basicly what writing is about, hm? Using the same line once in every book just begs people to buy more to see if the same line appears in other books.


Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 4671 days ago

I think your next book should be about a sgoe manufacturer. Named Allevia.

Greg Karber (#1568)

Posted: 4670 days ago

Marleen, comments like that keep me going in life.

Jeff T. (#2591)

Location: USA
Quote: ""WHO ARE YOU?!""
Posted: 4668 days ago


Jennifer (#2882)

Posted: 4662 days ago

I bought your book from some guy in Texas (I think it was Texas...) on amazon and I recieved the book today! I will be reading it starting tonight. YAY! Your awesome and I LOVE if you wanna see my nation, go to

God Bless,


Jennifer (#2882)

Posted: 4662 days ago

By the way I mean I bought the book Jennifer Government lol

Theo (#2909)

Quote: ""I don't take no stock in dead people"- Mark Twain, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn""
Posted: 4653 days ago

In your next book it'd be funny if you ened up writing a scene where the hero fights a homeless guy for loose change.

Someone'll point it out to me, chuckle, and say "Hey, look, he fights a homeless guy for loose change," and I'll laugh, and give "Huh, I wonder where he got that idea."

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 @:"
Posted: 4650 days ago

I am waiting for Max to comment on the "Wee for a Wii" contest death via water intoxication
bet the folks at Nintendo liking the publicity =p

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "people are kind of overrated "
Posted: 4650 days ago

I'd have to say that I'm highly upset. I never got a handy e-mail telling me that there was a new post by Max. Secondly. I think it's damn good when words repeat. My favorite singer uses the same sets of lyrics in her songs and it gives me less to remember when I sing. So, it really could be a positive thing.

shalini (#717)

Posted: 4616 days ago

hey great to see you in saturday's age. it's about bloody time!

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