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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

Tue 09
Jul
2013

The Future, with Librarians and Lipstick

Lexicon You know what I discovered on book tour: AMERICA HAS GONE TO THE FUTURE. I was there two years ago but in the meantime America advanced about a decade. Now you use your phone to carry boarding passes and movie tickets. When you need a ride somewhere, you summon cars with an app. I tried to buy a sandwich in New York and the store didn’t take cash. DIDN’T TAKE CASH. I met two people who don’t carry wallets any more, just credit cards. In two more years, I guess, they will just carry phones.

Max Barry speaking at a podium at Barnes and Noble, New York Now I’m home in Melbourne, Australia, I’m all, “Ugghhh, stores that only take cash, how 2011.” I just bought some sushi and it seemed really stupid, handing over a twenty and trusting the cashier to remember and figure out the right change. That process is fraught with potential errors. If we didn’t already do it like that, and somebody invented it, it would seem like a terrible idea.

Besides marveling at technological process, I was in the States to read and sign books. During my New York event, a person asked, “What’s the worst thing about being an author?” At first, I was overwhelmed by things to bitch about, like, just that morning, I had really felt like some wheat-based cereal, but my fancy hotel restaurant only did Granola. This is the kind of rough justice I’m expected to put up with on book tour.

But beyond that, there was the whole thing about having a career that occasionally seems like it’s about to dissolve into nothingness, which is sporadically terrifying, and sometimes I write things nobody likes, which is disappointing, and working on the same idea for years at a time can be challenging, too.

Like, fifty copies of Lexicon, and pens to sign them with I didn’t catalog these pains, though, because they were hard to justify in the face of a room full of people who had all come out to see me and buy my books so I could keep writing stories for a living. That is just plain awesome. I think I’m getting more appreciative in my old age, by which I mean less deluded about how rare and special this is, getting to write books and have them published and people liking them. Thank you so much to everyone who reads my stuff, and comes to see me, and tells other people my books exist.

Speaking of which! I don’t know how you politely slip into conversation that you’ve received a crapload of positive reviews, but CHECK THIS OUT: a crapload of positive Lexicon reviews! You have to admit, that’s a lot. Even I feel like buying a copy after reading that.

Lots of copies of Lexicon on display at Better Read Than Dead, 256 King St, Newtown NSW, Australia If you have bought a copy, and now you have questions, you might want to join the @Penguinusa Twitter Book Club and tweet questions at me. The first session is Tuesday 7pm EST (US).

Another thing I’m doing is fielding outrage from librarians. At the end of Lexicon are Acknowledgments, which contain this:

And, hey. You. Thanks for being the kind of person who likes to pick up a book. That’s a genuinely great thing. I met a librarian recently who said she doesn’t read because books are her job, and when she goes home, she just wants to switch off. I think we can agree that that’s as creepy as hell. Thank you for seeking out stories, the kind that take place in your brain.

This sparked some amount of LIBRARIAN RAGE, expressed via email and Twitter. In retrospect, I should have seen coming, because I am married to a librarian and know how they work. See, librarians come in two flavors: Kick-Ass Librarians and Mundane Librarians. Kick-Ass Librarians love books with a deep and fiery passion, and have firm opinions about censorship, and will cross burning coals and defeat ravenous lions in order to deliver an age-appropriate book into the hands of a willing reader. Mundane Librarians—of which there are very few, compared to Kick-Ass Librarians—just do the job. To them, books are rectangular things that need to be scanned and filed. When I say it like that, it doesn’t sound so bad. But to Kick-Ass Librarians, a Mundane Librarian is a new mother in a Birthing Ward who says, “Yeah, I just had a baby. He’s around here somewhere.” It tears at the insides of Kick-Ass Librarians that these people are entrusted with the care of books (and readers!). And it burns them up to think that people believe all librarians are like that: Mundane.

So I am sorry for not being clearer about that, Kick-Ass Librarians.

Many copies of Lexicon at Pages and Pages Booksellers, 878 Military Rd, Mosman Junction NSW, Australia Finally! Are you Australian? Do you want to win a copy of Lexicon? Do you sometimes lie awake, regretting things you did in high school? If you answered YES to at least two of these questions, and they were the first two, post a comment here on maxbarry.com plaintively begging and/or arguing the merits of your case! The Australian publisher is kindly letting me give away five copies. Entries close Friday 5pm!

Also! I just saw a minute ago that Syrup is opening in Canada this weekend in Toronto and Calgary! That is literally all I know. I know this seems like an incredibly stealthy way to release a movie, not telling anyone where it’s playing, but that’s because you don’t understand marketing, and apparently neither do I. OH WAIT I just sleuthed out some info: Friday in Toronto at Carlton Cinemas. You can even win free tickets.

And that reminds me! Sorry, I have to mention this, too. While I was in the US, I managed to collect two movie souvenirs. One is a can of Fukk, which by rights belongs to Mat Coad, because he won a competition to design a Fukk can on this site six years ago. The other is the book “Lipstick Lesbians… And Why Men LOVE Them! (A Girl’s Guide to Giving Straight Guys a Hard Time),” which Scat discovers in 6’s apartment:

Screenshot from the movie Syrup, with Scat, played by Shiloh Fernandez,
pulling down a book entitled Lipstick Lesbians

As it turns out, the designer of this prop, whose name I’m going to put here as soon as I discover it, not only did an amazing job creating this work of art, but also embedded jokes on the rear side:

Front CoverRear Cover

Which I just think is awesome. Also, apparently he used The Scarlett Pimpernel as a template.

Max drinks from a can of Fukk

Comments

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!

Matthew (#6407)

Location: Perth
Posted: 2265 days ago

I'm a huge Max Barry fan. Bought all the books (except Syrup because it went out of print before I discovered Max). Multiple copies because I lent them out to friends and never got them back (this was expected). Even sent a gushing fan email which was answered (!!!) and resulted in the replacement of Wilbur Smith in my "fav. author" list. But that was when I was employed... now I'm on a disability pension and I can't afford Lexicon. Sigh.

Machine Man subscriber Scott (#5339)

Location: Pennsylvania
Posted: 2265 days ago

Just have to say that Lexicon was awesome. I could not put that book down and will be reading it again after my nephew Shane (he worked on the film Syrup as a producer) gives it back to me. Totally blown away again. Thanks for writing.
Scott

Machine Man subscriber Xavier Desroches (#1840)

Location: Brossard, Qc, Ca
Quote: "Smile, Tomorrow Will Be Worse... - Murphy"
Posted: 2265 days ago

@Matthew: If you are asking for someone to buy you a book, it worked. Send me an email (My first name, dot, my last name, at Gmail dot com) with your postal address and I'll try to order you a book online, to be delivered to your place. I can't make any promess since I never ordered a book to Australia (that's where Perth is, right?) from Canada (that's where I live, right?)
Oh, and the offers is only for you, and expires in two weeks (July 23rd.) It's not an actual official offer, I just don't want a random person to ask me for a book, or you to write me in 10 years saying you'd take that book :-P )
Till then, have fun!

Adam (#6408)

Location: australia
Quote: "Bite my shiney metal ass!"
Posted: 2265 days ago

I likes books. Me likes to read Lexicon? Free copy Lexicon? Please Please Yes Yes. In all seriousness a copy of Lexicon would be awesome! Yes yes.

David Hinder (#5084)

Location: Western Australia
Posted: 2265 days ago

I'm a few weeks into my university break and I need something to cleanse my mind of bland and boring academic-speak. I'm a big Max Barry fan, and even managed to incorporate a discussion of Machine Man into one of my legal studies classes. That's gotta be worth something, right?

Anyway, I'll shamelessly put my hand up for a free copy.

Machine Man subscriber coolpillows (#3749)

Location: new york general sort of vicinity
Quote: ""It's not working" -- Joseph Clark"
Posted: 2265 days ago

I feel like I have to respond here in the same way that Max writes about how great it is to be a writer who makes a living writing. Was really EXCITED to see Max at the NYC appearance from where that picture above was taken. It was my first chance to meet Max. He's sorta known me & acknowledged me in Machine Man in print as one of the peeps that read the original draft online. I was to the left of that picture of Max above. If his head were shinier and the photo were extremely high resolution, you could see my reflection.

I'd also like to add the person who asked "what's the worst thing about being an author" was a young boy maybe 15 sitting with his mother. (him being a fan and a boy makes him a fanboy.) Interesting to think this young, aspiring writer is probably wondering what it must be like to be a writer and, having heard the risks, the horror stories, the odds, he figured, "Okay author, break the news to me, how much pain is involved?" Well Max nailed it and I'm sure his mother winced as she realized her son was not discouraged from writing by this respected author.

Also the last question was totally off base and something about Australia and China politics. That's how NYC book signings are. Lastly, I'll leave everyone with Max's signature on my iPad...since I had bought the ebook. How else could he sign it?

pic.twitter.com/25vCWRkx2E

Go Max! Go Lexicon! Go Australia and China!

Joanna (#5296)

Location: Seattle, WA
Quote: ""The wise man despises no one. Instead, he watches him closely and tries to discover the roots of what he sees." (Gogol, Dead Souls)"
Posted: 2265 days ago

Those are awesome reviews!! I love "Absurdly enjoyable." I can't wait to read Lexicon once I get my hands on a copy! Thanks for visiting us in the U.S.-- hopefully I'll see you next time you're in the Pacific northwest. When on book tours, will you deign to sign your older books, too, or just the latest?

Machine Man subscriber Alex (#237)

Location: London, England
Quote: "We're today's scrambled creatures, locked in tomorrow's double feature (Bowie)"
Posted: 2265 days ago

It is truly an awesome story. Good review left on Amazon. More people must know.

'Nuff said...

lu77 (#5471)

Location: melbourne
Quote: "everything is simple, nothing is as straight forward as it seems."
Posted: 2265 days ago

I am Australian, I want a copy of Lexicon. I'm also a librarian. I guess I'm the kick ass kind. It doesn't enrage me that the woman on the front desk at a library isn't passionate about reading. She's probably minimum wage, possibly never went to library school, and you know, when there are shows out there like Newsroom and West Wing, and Girls and New Girl... I don't entirely despair of non-readers.

I mean that'd be like me despairing of the people who don't understand why I'd ask them to read this or that amazing book by Max Barry. A true Kick Ass librarian would be fascinated by the way Max crowd sources the writing of his books and puts the ebooks out there for readers who want to read - the fact that you're married to a librarian now makes a lot of sense! But those who look at me blankly, and say "I'm only into knock offs of Jane Austen period works" well it's hard to argue with that, a passionate reader that knows what they like - you can't knock that, well you can, but as a librarian I feel I shouldn't dice with the tender passions of a reader.

I also lie awake at night thinking about stupid things that happened to me in High Schhol, like the multiple times someone called out "Loser!" and I turned around because I thought they were calling my name:- Louisa. Or the time I saw a bunch of kids tearing up a cassette tape they'd found on the ground and me going "phew I'm glad that's not my awesome tape of live acoustic performances I'd taped off Triple J of Angie and Simon of Frente! And Redd Kross live at the wireless." only to find out... Actually... It WAS that exact tape...

I'm sure there's more, but I've blocked it all out.

This isn't really a good job of begging is it? I guess it's more my style to try to entertain than whine. I find it gets me farther with the honours students that think they only need google for their mini thesis or the academics who are sure they don't have time to hear about the awesome video database that shows exactly the thing they've been trying to explain in their lecture. Make em laugh! I say! Or at least give the impression you're an honest, reasonable human being who will be there for them in their time of need when their references are all eaten by Microsoft and they need to find 30 articles and/or books FAST.

I probably will meet your wife sometime in the future, Melbourne librarians are an incestuous bunch!

lu77 (#5471)

Location: melbourne
Quote: "everything is simple, nothing is as straight forward as it seems."
Posted: 2265 days ago

I misspoke/paraphrased poorly, obviously crowd-source-writing a book would be fascinating/ ill-advised. But I don't quite know how to describe the Machine Man process

Machine Man subscriber Randy (#2374)

Location: Ravena, NY
Quote: "I could write a book about being lazy. I just don't feel like it."
Posted: 2264 days ago

Lexicon is an awesome read. I've recommended it to several friends already!

Karan (#1376)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Quid Quid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Viditur - Anything said in Latin sounds important"
Posted: 2264 days ago

Hey, my can design is still up there, that's neat :) Still wish it'd made it through!

Loving Lexicon, Max, 80% of the way through but pesky things like working and sleeping keep getting in the way. I even bought an actual paper copy from an actual book store, rather than just looking for the Kindle version. I'd beg for a copy to give away to friends to spread the goodness that it is, but I suspect there's others more deserving.

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 2264 days ago

I'm not Australian. I don't want to win a copy of Lexicon. And I regret EVERYTHING I did in high school.

Gimme a copy.

Machine Man subscriber Toby O (#2900)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "You can't sell your soul to the devil if he's not buying"
Posted: 2263 days ago

I'd rather you did a book signing in Sydney then even more people would win.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 2263 days ago

7/11/2013

AND THEN IT HAPPENED...

Summertime and allergies go hand in hand in Indiana. For me, I am allergic to grass, trees, and pollen, which exist pretty much everywhere except deserts and the North Pole.

Each day, the joys of allergic reactions plague my small cubicle in the center of my building.

Today. I sneezed. It wasn't just a regular sneeze. It was the king of all sneezes. "Bless you's" rang across the office. And as their voices died down, it happened. I heard a faint cry. No. Not like a baby cry. It was a beeping...a cry from my car. It seems, my sneeze had set off the alarm.

I slipped quietly past my coworkers hoping none would notice. But just as I reached the door, someone asked, "Who's car is that?"

Without a response, I quickly opened the door, ran to my car still beeping, and never returned.

Today was the day. I sneezed so hard it set my alarm off.

-Adam

Jorge (#5668)

Location: Off Burdekin Avenue
Quote: "Ommmmmmmmmmmmm"
Posted: 2262 days ago

Amazing reviews for Lexicon, congrats, Max.

I also want my free copy of the book. It would be very useful to have a free copy, being broke and unemployed, but especially coz' I ma currently number #126 on the Public Library queue for this book. At this rate, I'll be able to borrow and read it in November, when half the whole bloody planet will have read it. And, that, my friend, is just not fair.

I could have gone on and on and on about why I should be one of the Chosen Five, but to be honest, I have no words with which to express myself. You see, I still don't have the Lexicon!

Cheers from Amaroo, Canberra!

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2262 days ago

Competition closes! Unless you're West Australian! I guess I should wait another 1hr 45 minutes. But I won't be at the keyboard then. So: if this post is 2 hours old, the competition is closed. I will be BACK with WINNERS tomorrow!

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2261 days ago

Since there are six worthy applicants, we'll make it six books instead of five. I am emailing you guys now.

Matthew (#6407)

Location: Perth
Posted: 2261 days ago

Mr Barry, you are a prince among authors.

lu77 (#5471)

Location: melbourne
Quote: "everything is simple, nothing is as straight forward as it seems."
Posted: 2252 days ago

received my book in the mail last week, still only half way through, i'm trying to savour the ideas! I happened upon a bookstore on sunday called 'embiggen' and started going through all the poopular science and psychology. And talk about the perfect bookstore! the guy said he ran the launch of the book and knew it back to front, so I was able to ask things like 'what psychology book would complement Lexicon on the topic of 'Persuasion'. I ended up walking out of there with 2 books but 4 more in the back of my mind to come back for if I manage to pick up my reading habit to a 'staying awake for non-fiction reading' state of mind.

I bought "The Invisible Gorilla" by Christopher Chabris
and
oh i've forgotten the title.... had a gumball machine on it. it was the one the shop bguy specifically recommended.

and i bought the ebook of "Drive" by Daniel H Pinnkus because I thought I had it already.

anyway it was a fun day, now i have something else to read while I stretch out Lexicon as long as I can.

lu77 (#5471)

Location: melbourne
Quote: "everything is simple, nothing is as straight forward as it seems."
Posted: 2252 days ago

ahhh it was 'predictably irrational' by Dan Ariely... highly recommended by a guy who knows his stuff and knows the Lexicon backwards as far as 'complementary reading'.

Jorge (#5668)

Location: Off Burdekin Avenue
Quote: "Ommmmmmmmmmmmm"
Posted: 2251 days ago

Yeah, got my copy of Lexicon! A hardback, too! Thanks, Max! Awesome, looking forward to reading it. And I'll write my own review in Spanish, too. Cheers.

Dale Birch (#5598)

Location: California
Quote: "fear's a good thing, it teaches us humility"
Posted: 2211 days ago

I feel I should be given a copy of Lexicon, even though I could answer yes to only the second and third questions; and, of course, even if I missed the deadline. You see, I'm an American, and I live in the future where I receive my new copy of Lexicon 2 days from now, and it will be badly damaged.

The Fed Ex guy leaves it by my front door, just like everything I ever get from Amazon, and an interesting thing happens when he returns to his truck. The skies literally open up and torrential rain begins to fall. The rain comes so fast and furious that it washes my copy of Lexicon down the sidewalk towards the gutter in front of my home. From what I gather, the Fed Ex guy feels duty bound to "save the freight" at all costs.

When I arrive home 2 days from now, I discover a rather morbid scene taking place at my home. There in front of my house are an ambulance, a police car, a fire truck, and sadly, a van from the coroner's office.

Seems the Fed Ex guy will be struck by lightening for his troubles, and found quite dead in my driveway. How will I ever forget when I see his remains there on the stretcher, covered from head to toe with the coroner's blanket, one arm extended from beneath the blanket, clutching my copy of Lexicon in his lifeless hand. Soon that Amazon packaging with the happy face logo thingy will be so ironic to me...

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