Mon 02

Travel Diary: Day #8 (Austin, Phoenix)

Writing On the plane from Austin to Phoenix, I finish my advance copy of Rant, the new Chuck Palahniuk novel. Somehow I have ended up reading incredibly explicit books on every flight. I flew from Melbourne to LA with Past Mortem, by Ben Elton, and unexpectedly found myself in the middle of the filthiest sex scene I’ve ever encountered. Seriously, it was very educational. Only a Brit could could produce a book that’s essentially a comedy of manners, but with felching. I was sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with a mother traveling with her two young children, and had to tilt the book away from her during these passages. The danger then was that the man across the aisle would think I was trying to show it to him. It was a delicate balance.

Next up was Craig Clevenger’s Dermaphoria, and a sex scene involving a dripping tap. By the time I got to Palahniuk, I decided that if people didn’t want to know about olfactory cunnilingus, they shouldn’t be reading over my shoulder.

All three were great books, by the way. I’m now going to get myself a copy of Clevenger’s first, The Contortionist’s Handbook. And Rant is brilliant; nobody messes with my head as delightfully as Chuck. Definitely one of my favorites.

It’s my first visit to Phoenix, and the city has a great feel. Although maybe part of that is my joy at seeing the sun again, which I last sighted in Denver. My cab driver is an effortlessly cool Jamaican man who jabbers into his cellphone and gestures wildly with his free hand, controlling the steering wheel with, as far as I can tell, sheer willpower.

Phoenix has palm trees, mountains popping unexpectedly out of endless plains, and cacti. The latter strike me as jokes, as if somebody put them there to be funny. I’m not really sure why. But they are very amusing.

I settle into my hotel, pausing only to note that the doormen wear shorts, and then it’s off to Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. I’m supposed to do a 2-hour writing workshop ahead of my reading, and not really sure what that means. I’m imagining maybe five or six people and an interactive session where I set them a writing task and then we discuss their work. While they’re writing, maybe I’ll go out for pizza.

But 20 or 30 people have turned up, and the questions fly. I end up doing the entire session as Q&A. I think most people are relieved at not having to write something and talk in public about it, although a few were clearly looking forward to that part. I guess my next workshop should be longer.

Some people leave, others arrive, and then I do my reading. Halfway through, I realize that a young girl in the audience, maybe eight years old, is staring at me stonily. At first her gaze is startling, and then I find it funny, and have to deliberately avoid looking at her to keep it together. Really, you try reading something in public while a little girl with eyes the size of dinner plates stares at you unblinkingly. It’s not easy.

Afterward, her mother brings her up to have a book signed, and I learn that her name is Kaia. Kaia has a question: “Have you met The Wiggles?” She thought that seeing as we’re all Australian, maybe I occasionally bump into them. But, sadly, no.

In line, Lisa gives me a home-made rabbit. It’s extremely cute, with long, dangling arms and legs, and wearing a sweater. She tells me not to give it to Fin, though, because the hands and feet might pop off and choke her to death. But I can put it on her bedroom shelf, where it can smile down at her temptingly.

As I’m leaving the store, a young, muscular man rushes out the darkness at me. “Max! Max!” This turns out to be Kale, who wants some books signed but I guess didn’t want to wait in line. It’s just as well for Kale that I’m not very famous. If I was Jimmy Carter, my bodyguards would have put five slugs into him. Maybe one day I will have armed bodyguards. One day.


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!

Dead (#724)

Location: Ipswich, Australia
Quote: "5'4" and bulletproof."
Posted: 4846 days ago

"Maybe one day I will have armed bodyguards. One day."

Keep chasing that rainbow!

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 4846 days ago

I heard Leprechauns were at the end of that rainbow and if you've ever seen the movie(s), that's not a good time.

Erin (#1296)

Location: Chandler AZ
Posted: 4846 days ago

:) Kaia's thrilled to see her name in print. She wasn't really sullen... she was just concentrating very hard.

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: 4846 days ago

grow tits and just maybe borat will go after you, max...


Andrew Riley (#3064)

Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA
Quote: "Everyone should have enough money to get plastic surgery."
Posted: 4846 days ago

You came to Phoenix and I had to miss it because my 2 year old was sick. DAMN YOU CRUEL FATE!

Crystal (#3056)

Location: Tempe, AZ
Quote: "Do or do not. There is no try."
Posted: 4846 days ago

It was a pleasure to attend your workshop, and to have you ask me why I was there :) (I was the girl in the red shirt).
Thanks for such a great session, it was so informative and funny.
Hope you come back soon!

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: ""
Posted: 4846 days ago

Wow, Dermaphoria hooked you on Clevenger? It's the other way around for most of us. Contortionist's Handbook is awfully good, Dermaphoria kind of a let-down. Sophomore slump? Dunno, I'll wait until the third book comes out to say...

marc thorn (#3066)

Location: sherman oaks, ca
Posted: 4846 days ago

oh, dermaphoria eh? hmmm, yeah, that's interresting alright... very interresting indeed... would it happen to be a copy signed by the author himself? was it, by any chance, maybe given to you by, oh, i don't know, say... ME? well if so, i'm glad that you read it and liked it. and in response to what someone who posted right before me had just mentioned, yeah, the contortionist's handbook is maybe a "better" introduction to craig, but i think dermaphoria is almost right up there. it is for me anyway. so that's it i suppose, glad you liked it.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 4846 days ago

Right! See, this was before I started making notes about who gave me stuff. Thanks Marc!

Justin (#2009)

Location: Halfmoon, NY
Quote: "Max(x) is awesome!"
Posted: 4846 days ago

olfactory cunnilingus - now there's a band name if I ever heard one!

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4845 days ago

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007


So anyway. It was April 1st...two days ago. I was hanging out with my good friend Carly who I have been spending a lot of time with. I decided to ask her out. She willingly accepted. Now we are "in a relationship". I announced it on Sunday. Oddly, no one believed me. I couldn't figure out why. Apparently, it was "April Fool's" Day...and apparently I'm a loser...

...and then I found ten dollars.

-adam speicher

austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 4845 days ago

Holy crud. It's my birthday.

Sudi (#2895)

Location: Ithaca, 10 square miles surrounded by reality
Quote: "Mostly lucid"
Posted: 4845 days ago

This is kind of unrelated but your blog mentioning other authors you liked set me off on the search- so here are the results:

Its an auhor map: Type in an author's name and the system returns a map of other authors that readers have also read or liked- here's my search with 'Max Barry' -trying to make this relevant :)

The site also does the same thing for movies and music.

The project is called 'Gnod' and its creator describes it as: "Gnod is my experiment in the field of artificial intelligence. Its a self-adapting system, living on this server and 'talking' to everyone who comes along. Gnods intention is to learn about the outer world and to learn 'understanding' its visitors. This enables gnod to share all its wisdom with you in an intuitive and efficient way. You might call it a search-engine to find things you don't know about."

But what set my red flags screaming was his comment elsewhere: "It might become the ultimate source of wisdom and understanding one day."


Comments are now closed for this post.