Friday, February 5, 2010

Max Barry

I think Max Barry is another author. I like writing about authors. The thing is I'm not sure if people like READING about authors. I notice that my posts about authors don't often get a lot of comments. Oh well. I'm still going to write it. I enjoy it. I'll just imagine that people are reading. Maybe people ARE reading, and they just aren't inspired to comment.

I'm pretty sure that Max Barry wrote Jennifer Government. I read it several months ago. I liked the premise; it's fun and futuristic. I got a bit bored with the actual book, though. It could have just been my mood at the time. Who knows. Maybe I should reread it someday.

The basic idea behind the book is a world where capitalism takes over in the extreme. Everything has corporate sponsorship. Now I can't remember much. Let me go and grab the book...trigger my memory. Maybe I'll quote a passage or two.....

All right. I got it. The first sentence in the back of the book describes the premise well. Taxation has been abolished, the government has been privatized, and employees take the surname of the company they work for.

I'd probably classify the book as a futuristic black-comedy.

Anyway, I should probably start researching now.

Lord Wiki has a short entry on Barry.

He was born on 18 March 1973. He's four months younger than me.

When he published his first book (Syrup), he added an extra x to his name to be funny. But I guess people took it to mean he was a pretentious asshole. Why? I can't say I get the joke, but I don't know why it would indicate that he was pretentious.

Barry lives in Melbourne.

He has a wife.

He has a daughter.

Before becoming a writer, he worked for Hewlett Packard.

He created an online game called NationStates. It was supposed to help advertise Jennifer Government. Interesting. Lord Wiki has a fairly long entry on it. It's a role-playing game where you get to create the government for your own country. It actually sounds really fun. I wonder if it was popular.

Well, it sounds like it The game started in 2002. By 2004, two million countries had been created.

Here's the website. I'm making myself a country. It's kind of annoying. You have to choose a flag, but the choices are flags of other countries. Why do I want my country to have the same flag as another country?

Well, my country has the Aboriginal Flag. That's the default one in the game. It took me awhile to get a name. First of all, I lack creativity when it comes to that. ( I should have waited until Jack woke up. He loves making up names) Then when I thought of names, they were all taken. I ended up going to a website that has Aboriginal words. I chose Muuwa which is supposed to mean white cockatoo in one of the Aboriginal languages. That's probably a crazy name for a country. But what can I say? I like cockatoos.

The name of my currency is wombat. I don't like wombats as much as cockatoos. I just thought it wound sound cute. Here's your coffee. That will be three wombats, please.

Okay, so you sign up. They ask you a few pointed questions about your country. Then they start sending you issues to make decisions about. The first one they sent me was about whether I wanted compulsory voting or not. I chose yes.

I'm TOTALLY loving far.

I need to get back to Lord Wiki, though....

He says that Jennifer Government has been optioned by Second Eight Productions, which is owned by Steven Soderbergh, and George Clooney. His book Company is also in line to become a movie.

Lord Wiki has a list of Barry's books. The first was Syrup. That came out in 1999. Jennifer Government came out in 2003. Company came out in 2006. And then he has an online serial novel called Machine Man The first forty-three pages of the novel are free. Then you have to pay $6.95. That's fairly reasonable. I'm not sure if I'll buy it or not. Well, maybe I'll read the free part sometime, and I'll see if I like it enough to pay for the rest.

Lord Wiki has some descriptions of the other novels. I'm going to give that a quick glance.

Syrup is about a guy who comes up with a new product for Coke. It's a satire about marketing and all that.

Lord Wiki says that people compare Jennifer Government to George Orwell's 1984. They're both political satires. But they're opposite sides of the coin. 1984 deals with a world with too much government. Jennifer Government deal with a world in which there is not enough.

In the book, the United States has pretty much taken over the whole world. It's kind of like me wanting the US to take over Mexico. Okay, but really..... I don't want us to take OVER Mexico. It's more like I want us to merge into one. I want to get rid of big fences and be all together. Is that so bad?

Lord Wiki says that Jennifer Garner has expressed interest in playing the title role in the movie, but Max Barry prefers Nicole Kidman. I guess we'll see what happens with that.

Now I remember (well, because Lord Wiki told me) why the title of the book is Jennifer Government. As I said before, people's last names are the company they work for. Jennifer works for what's little left of the government. Therefore her last name is Government.

Lord Wiki says Company is about a mysterious corporation called Zephyr. It has a CEO that no one has met before, and I guess people aren't sure what the company actually does.

I have to check on my beloved new country. I just got two new telegrams. I've gotten a total of five so far, and I've just joined. People are wanting me to join their region. I'm not really sure if I should or not.

Well, I just did. I moved my Republic of Muuwa to Futaba Aoi.

And I'm also going to move from Lord Wiki's site to Max Barry's. There's a photo of him here. He's handsome and bald.

His bio page says that his NationState game is more popular than his novels. That's kind of like me. Well, no. I didn't create a game. But my blog is much more popular than my novels. And both my novels and blog are MUCH less popular than Barry's novels and games.

Here's a Q and A page.

He's a funny guy. He has the type of sense of humor that I like. So I'm not sure why I didn't like Jennifer Government more. Anyway, he's asked if it's true that Syrup is supposed to represent Hewlett Packard. He says: That's a filthy lie. Why, if HP was like Syrup, it would be a seedy den of politics and corporate back-stabbing, brimming with sexual tension. That is absolutely not true. There was very little sexual tension.

But then he goes on to clarify that he's joking. Hewlett Packard was a fine place to work. I wonder if that's true, or if he's just being nice.

I'm doing a lot of laughing out loud here. I love his response about whether all second novels are crap. He says they are, so he wrote a second novel and burned it. Therefore, his published second novel is really not his second so it will be fine.

This page has a list of books that he likes. I'm looking for ones I've read.

I read The Beach by Alex Garland. That was pretty good. I saw part of the movie, and didn't like it that much.

I read The World According to Garp. I liked it, but my favorite John Irving book is A Prayer for Owen Meany.

The Nanny Diaries.....
I've read that and seen the movie. I like them both.

The Time Travelers Wife. GREAT BOOK, but I didn't much like it. It made me way too sad.

The Pillars of the Earth. That's my dad's favorite book. He and my mom love it. I read it a few months ago. I liked it, but not as much as they did.

Life of Pi. That's a great book. I don't remember it much, though....something about religion? And there's a tiger on a boat.

Catch-22. I think I read this. Maybe? I think it's one of those classics I felt obligated to read, but I ended up daydreaming through most of it.

Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks. Well, that's the one Catherine Jinks book I didn't much enjoy.

All in all, I like his taste in books, though. He's eclectic, and not a literary snob.

There's a book on his list written by Hugh Laurie. I did not know that guy wrote books.

So far I'm totally loving Max Barry.

And my country is now 58 minutes old.

Here's it's description:

The Republic of Muuwa is a fledgling, socially progressive nation, notable for its absence of drug laws. Its compassionate, intelligent population of 5 million are fiercely patriotic and enjoy great social equality; they tend to view other, more capitalist countries as somewhat immoral and corrupt.
The government -- a sprawling, bureaucracy-choked, socially-minded morass -- concentrates mainly on Social Welfare, although Education and Healthcare are on the agenda. The average income tax rate is 45%, but much higher for the wealthy. A substantial private sector is led by the Furniture Restoration industry, followed by Woodchip Exports and Door-to-door Insurance Sales.
Crime is well under control. Muuwa's national animal is the human, which frolics freely in the nation's many lush forests, and its currency is the wombat.

Is that awesome, or what. I didn't write it by the way. The game writes it for you using choices you have made.

His website has a blog...well, it's actually the home page of the blog. I'll read some of it. His most recent entry was on 22 January. Here he compares corporations to lawn mowers. It's a pretty good analogy. He says: Lawnmowers are good at cutting grass. It’s all they want to do. They’re not very concerned about what gets in the way of cutting grass. If, for example, we discover that one of the lawnmowers sometimes kills people, the lawnmower would rather pretend there isn’t a problem than stop mowing lawns. It seems callous to us. But you have to remember, it’s not a person. It’s a lawnmower.

I don't think he's totally anti-corporation. He's more along the lines of be-very-weary of corporations. Is there a difference? Well, yeah. I think there's some people who blindly hate all corporations, and think all executives are evil greedy bastards. Barry sees it more as a system that naturally creates unfairness and other undesirable situations.

It's kind of like how I see teachers and classrooms. I don't think most teachers are naturally uncaring and incapable of helping children learn. But when you have one adult responsible for over twenty-five children, it's bound to have negative results. There are exceptions, but I think most humans will fail at the experiment. Children are going to end up being ignored—lost in the crowd.

On 23 December, he wrote about other Max Barry's he's found online. He complains that one is more handsome than him. Then he provides a video of his daughter's ballet recital. That's so fatherly.

His entry from 7 December confuses me a bit. He says if your book is bad, don't blame your writing. Blame your idea. I'm not sure if I agree with that. And for Jennifer Government, I think I liked his idea better than his writing. Although neither were too bad.

No one seems to like The Dream Games (except me and a guy who works for NASA...and maybe my dad. But I don't know if my dad was lying or not, because before reading it I gave my parents grief for not being more supportive of my writing). Anyway, I wonder if it's my idea that doesn't appeal to people....or my writing.

The Republic of Muuwa is now 78 minutes old. But I haven't gotten any more telegrams. Things are quiet now that I've settled down in a region.

Oh! I just realized that you can create your own flag. That's cool. I love the Aboriginal flag, but I kind of feel like I'm stealing. Maybe I'll have Jack make me a new flag later.

Actually, I might do it myself. I found a picture of a cockatoo. I could use that.

Crap. I can't manage to do it. I'm having file problems.

Okay. Now I got it. I just had to add .jpg to the file....not too hard. It's not the most creative flag, but I feel better not stealing someone else's, especially since he who created it is kind of picky about other people using it.

Back to the blog....

On 4 December, Barry invites (well almost begs) for people to give their opinion on his online novel. He kind of reminds me of me! He says he's a feedback junkie. Yeah. That is definitely me. I love getting comments. Although sometimes I get stressed out about responding to them. I swear. I think responding to comments is actually harder than writing the blog post. One of the worst is when someone writes a comment pretty much saying they agree with what I've said. Then I stupidly respond by pretty much saying I agree with what they said. It's so silly.

A basic example would me writing a post about how wonderful Australia is. Then someone comments, Yes! Australia is a great country. I respond with: I agree! Well, of course I agree. I just wrote a whole post about it. I just can't usually think of a more creative and intelligent response.

I'm looking at the archives of his blog. He has a LOT of posts. I'm not reading all of them. I'll skim through and see if there's anything that stands out to me.

He wrote an adorable post about his daughter in August. I love that he loves his little girl so much. It warms my heart. I was thinking about all this yesterday. I think there ARE some benefits to single-parenting. But there is something often lacking. That's the joy of sharing your child's adorableness with someone. Very often Tim and I exchange these little looks as Jack does something totally precious. If you gush too much about your child to other people, they often think you're bragging and/or annoying. But you can gush as much as you want with your parenting partner. Well, at least in some cases you can. If you can't, then it might be best to do the single parenting thing.

No, I'm not trying to say Max Barry shouldn't be gushing about his daughter online. It does sound like I'm saying that, doesn't it? But that's totally not what I meant. I was just touched by how much he loves his daughter, and it reminded me of how much Tim loves Jack. And I was thinking I'm glad to have a parenting partner that shares my belief that Jack is the most adorable, brilliant, spectacular kid in the universe.

Here's a video of Max Barry talking about McDonalds. It's fairly short, and interesting. He says that people choose fast food corporations, because they feel they know what they're going to get. When you go to a privately owned restaurant, it MAY be a million times better than McDonalds. But there's that fear that it might be much worse. I think he has an interesting point, and there's probably much truth to it.

We talked about it on our road trip. When we left our house, I declared that we should avoid fast food and chain places. Then the first place we ended up going to was Burger King. That was because the nonchain restaurant we saw on the navigation system no longer existed. We weren't pleased with Burger King, but Tim and I both admitted we felt safer there. Tim's theory is that fast food restaurants are more careful because they don't want food poisoning to go on their record. Also, I guess they're more likely to get sued? I don't know how that all works and why privately owned restaurants would worry less? But Tim has worked in the restaurant business, so he knows more about it than I do.

All in all, we did mostly eat at privately owned restaurants. I think the only other chain restaurant we did was Ruby Tuesday. I liked that.

I might disagree with Tim, though. I think the executives care about you not getting food poisoned. They don't want that on the company record. But what about the people actually making your veggie burger? What if you get a disgruntled worker who thinks it's a waste of time to wipe his ass after taking a crap?

Anyway, I think I'm going to quit. My eyes are tired.

Okay, honestly....I wrote that sentence about twenty minutes ago. Then I decided to do more work. I moved that sentence down and added more stuff. But now I'm really going to quit. There's also a 40+ minute video on YouTube with Max Berry talking. I'm too lazy to watch it, but I'll provide the link in case you want to.


  1. This is the first blog I've read of yours, and I really like it. I think in depth about books I read like you do. I haven't really written it down like this, but I love it and I will look forward to reading more. I love the way your analysis the book and then learn about the author and analysis him/her. Your points were so interesting! I don't know if you do a lot of this, but I will read on!

  2. Cathy,

    Hi! Thank you so much! I was just thinking today that I'd like to find more people who love books as much as I do. Do you read a lot?

    I love reading, thinking, learning, making connections, etc : )