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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 29
Mar
2007

Travel Diary: Day #5 (Milwaukee, Madison)

Writing “I smell worms,” says Mary.

Mary is my media escort for the day. We’ve just stepped out of her car at FOX-6, ahead of my first TV interview in eight years, and Mary can smell worms.

“Ewww,” she says. I look down and see that what I initially took for sticks strewn across the sidewalk are indeed long worms: dozens of them, hundreds. We have to pick our way carefully toward the studio doors, and wipe our shoes of any collateral damage when we get there. On the one hand, it seems a little disgusting to be leaving a bunch of worms on the doorstep of FOX. On the other, it feels a little appropriate.

I still can’t actually smell them, though. That’s got to be some kind of super power: the ability to smell worms.

I’m nervous. I try a few calming techniques—thinking about it being over already, telling myself nobody cares, remembering that it’s only FOX, not a real TV network—but they have limited effect. “Dress cute,” Mary advised me on the phone earlier. I don’t think I packed cute.

I’m taken into the studio and miked up. Seen from behind, the set looks like something cobbled together by high school students for a play. Everything is scuffed, small, and fake. Except the presenters: interviewing me is Kim Murphy, and she’s lovely. She takes a couple of minutes to chat to me off-air beforehand, helping me settle in and feel more comfortable. And then, without warning, she’s reading from the auto-cue. It’s go time!

And here’s me on FOX.

I think I do okay, considering what a TV noob I am. I look pretty tired. But I don’t stammer or freak out or stare too obviously at the cameras. That’s a plus.

After the interview, Mary drives me to Madison. We stop along the way to drop into bookstores and sign stock. This can go either way: sometimes the person behind the desk is excited to meet me; sometimes I am clearly about the fifth author to stop by that day, and the novelty has well and truly worn off. Usually at chain stores it’s the latter, but at a Barnes & Noble on the way out of Madison, I get my best reception ever. By the time I leave, it seems as if half the store’s staff have been called over to meet me. It’s like I’m famous.

Mary is kind enough to suggest I catch a nap on the way, and also kind enough to not tell me if I snore in my sleep, or mutter, or jerk my legs around. Apparently I can do that.

Last time I was in Madison, January 2004, a huge blizzard was blowing. I fought my way to the store to find that endless rows of seats had been set up, and nobody was in them. I think I ended up reading to about six people, who were (of course) mostly sitting right up the back. That was tough. If I get more than six people tonight, I’ll be happy.

But it’s a good night for a book reading, I’m told: not so cold that you can’t bear going out, but not warm enough to want to do anything more exciting. I can’t see how many people are here until I actually step in front of them, but then it’s a pleasant surprise: there are lots. The store guy tells me later that he counted 55, which makes it my most well-attended reading so far. So all is forgiven, Madison. Thank you.

I can start to see differences in audiences. Tonight, I suspect that many more people have read the book than usual. Four people down the front are all reading along with me from their copy, which is kind of funny; I’m used to one or two people doing it, but not a whole block of them. It feels a little like taking English class.

There’s a long line of people to sign for afterward, and then I’m done. That’s four down! I’m halfway through this tour already.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 4528 days ago

Only halfway and the worms are after you already? I'd be booking a flight home immediately. Those earthworms, they're probably the killer earthworms that ate all the bees in the U.S. recently. For God's sake be careful!

Josh Brown (#3046)

Location: Secure, undisclosed
Quote: ""Strafe is in the contract""
Posted: 4528 days ago

I was interviewed for about 30 seconds on my local FOX affiliate and I had roughly the same experience. Your interviewer was much nicer but both rooms' furniture looked exactly the same.

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: 4528 days ago

the interview rocked

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: "www.MidwestRockLobster.blogspot.com"
Posted: 4528 days ago

You did great, Max.

Yeah, I had the TV morning show interview experience back in '92. It was nerve wracking, and I didn't hold my composure nearly as well as you. My interogator wasn't quite as cute, either, but I remember the furniture being old and dingy.

For me, the measure of my success was that as I left the station, the receptionist was pissed that so many people were calling. I was there in relation to a ballot initiative, and I succeeded in enraging dozens of people.

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 4527 days ago

Hee hee. Human juices.

Awesome interview.

I'll take your worms and raise you snails. Stepping on snails is an infinitely more grotesque experience, since with worms you don't actually hear the squish. Or, in this case, the crunch.

Sandy Hemingway (#827)

Location: Ann Arbor
Quote: "I became a real wife today! Wanna know how?"
Posted: 4527 days ago

It's a Midwestern American thing. We all can smell worms. They have a distinct smell.

By the way, I thought your outfit of multi-type stripes was cute, if that helps.

Jen Smith (#2659)

Location: Madison, Wis., USA
Posted: 4527 days ago

I have to agree with Sandy from Ann Arbor... being able to smell worms after a rain is like a low-level, useless superpower. You step outside, there's that wet, earthy smell and, sure enough, the wriggling things are everywhere. Bleah.

Good to have you in Madison, Max. I'm glad our fair city has been redeemed -- and if it ever works for you to come back during the Wisconsin Book Festival (which happens every fall), I'm sure you'd have double or triple the crowd.

Good luck with the rest of your tour.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4527 days ago

March 30, 2007

NON-TRAVEL DIARY: DAY #2

Hmmm...I've been thinking a lot lately.

Yesterday, I had one of the most odd experiences of my life. It wasn't really anything weird happening to me, but more of how I felt. I woke up at 7:30am after only 4 hours of sleep and lifted weights for about an hour and a half at the Student Recreational Center. Then I skipped breakfast. I was hungry all day, but I couldn't eat because I had class. At around 3:00, I got out of my last class, and my friend Jeremy called me saying that my blood donation appointment was at 3:30. I had completely forgotten about it. So I quickly ate a huge meal and then spent the next 45 minutes being asked about my sexual experiences. No, I have not been paid for sex with drugs or money, not even once. No, I have never had sex with a male, not even once...I feel like the computer that asks me is surprised every time I answer no to those questions because it keeps asking me questions like it's really skeptical of my responses.

After I donated, I felt really weird, so I fell asleep. When I woke 3 hours later, I felt really disoriented like I was on some sort of drug. It was very strange like the room wasn't spinning, but it definitely wasn't staying in the same place. But I had to cope with this because one of my friends was like "It's nice out! Let's go for a walk!" So I went for a walk which lasted about 4 hours and consisted mostly of us sitting on a park bench staring at a parking lot, and me being like "Hey, I feel like I don't know where I am right now." It was an overall odd experience.

...and no, there were no drugs involved, just a lack of food a blood and sleep...

-adam speicher

PS I'm still feeling really weird, so if this blog is odd, it's the after effects of donating blood without eating much before hand.

Sal (#3049)

Location: New York
Quote: "purple haze is in my brain, lately things don't seem the same"
Posted: 4527 days ago

Serendipity led me to you, Max ... well, to your books. Found two in my library (I'm a librarian; this is my second career, and I am "somewhat" older than you, what I see are your fans, and your demographics): Syrup, and Jennifer Government.

Read "Syrup" in less than two days; did 180 pages the first day. I really dug the book. Brilliant characters, fast pace, laugh-out-loud joy.

Started "Jennifer" late last night, read a few pages, but it was time for sleep (started work today at 9am). Wasn't sure if I liked the second book, thought I did.

This morning I read (on the Internet; as a librarian I'm allowed to surf the Web DURING work hours, and can call it "doing my job" -- one of the great joys of being a librarian) that Rudy Guiliani said he'd allow his (third) wife to attend Cabinet meetings, would consider her one of his best advisers, and would "be comfortable" having her get involved in "issues" she liked.

She, in turn, who once worked as a nurse and a pharmaceutical sales rep, said “if he asks me to,” she would attend White House policy meetings, “and certainly in the areas of health care.”

So, the slime would let the bimbo attend meetings where US policy is made? I suddenly thought, the plot of "Jennifer" seems tame, in comparison.

Enough of my bluster. How come you ain't coming to New York City?

Machine Man subscriber Kathy (#3043)

Location: Madison, WI
Quote: "Never play leapfrog with a unicorn"
Posted: 4527 days ago

Yes, the Madison reading was wonderful. Thanks for all the personalized signings in my books. I can't wait until my Dad reads "Happy Birthday Bob!" in his copy. He'll be so surprised.

Unless, of course, he's reading this.

Hi Dad! Surprise!

Tony Quin (#1310)

Location: Plymouth -urgh
Quote: "Yoga is NAILS"
Posted: 4527 days ago

"Badger mutual"?

The interview started well, you said "yes"! ;) Then I stopped watchinga s I haven't read it yet and don't want to spoil the darn thing.

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4526 days ago

She compared your book to Office Space? What a crazy lady...

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