Photo by Lauren Thomas
Max Barry is an
Australian who pretended to sell high-end computer
systems for Hewlett-Packard while secretly writing his
first novel, Syrup (1999). In
fact, he still has the laptop he wrote it on because
HP forgot to ask for it back, but keep that to yourself.
He put an extra X in his name for Syrup because he
thought it would be a funny joke about marketing and failed
to realize everyone would assume he was a pretentious
Government, his second novel, was published in 2003
with no superfluous Xs and sold much better.
Max's third novel, Company, was
published in 2006, and his fourth,
in 2012, was based on a
real-time interactive web serial
written and delivered in real-time one page per day from
this web site. It made more sense than it sounds.
Max's fifth novel, Lexicon,
was named one of the Best 10 Books of the Year by
Max also created the online political
for which he is far more famous amongst high school students
and poli-sci majors than his novels.
He was born March 18, 1973, and lives in
Melbourne, Australia, where he writes full-time, the
advantage being that he can do it while wearing only
I think I must look like I’m smiling when I’m actually in a lot of pain. Like
today, in the middle of a 15km (9.4mi) run, I’m barely
keeping it together, so my face is a rictus of agony, my
lips pulled back from my teeth in a skull-like grimace,
and people running in the other direction are all, “Hi!”
and big smiles and eyebrow jiggles. This has been going on for a while.
At first I just assumed runners were naturally friendly. But there’s
some surprise in their reactions, so I think I must be grinning at them.
They are definitely not picking up my real feeling, i.e. that I am
moments away from death. If they were, they’d look a lot
My Dad would have turned 70 today. He was some kind of runner.
I only began running after he died, so I never appreciated this.
Now I realize his 2:45 marathons are practically superhuman.
I can maintain that pace for approximately 10 minutes, and that’s
I’m working on too many books again. Sorry about that. It’s
a fast way to finish none of them. In the meantime, though, I
am drowning in foreign editions. I love getting foreign editions.
I could never throw one away. So I have shelves of
Portuguese Jennifer Governments and French
Syrups. And now a Chinese Machine Man!
This novel gets the most interesting covers:
The new Lexicon paperback is still selling well, which is great but
doesn’t quite free me from the constant terror of thinking my
career could end at any minute. I’ve thought about the reasons
behind this feeling, because it’s been there essentially the entire
time, and have concluded it’s because when you’re an
author, your career really could end at any minute. Each year it
doesn’t is like a little miracle. I visit my Dad’s cemetery on his birthday,
just to say hello and talk about the last year, so that’s what I’m
going to tell him today: when I run, it looks like I’m smiling, and
holy hell he was fast, and this last year, it has been another miracle.
Someone explain to me how this happened.
Didn’t we just do
My baby SUCKS. Really well. That’s important. It took her a few days
to get the hang of it. But now: awesome at sucking. I’m so proud of her.
It started like this: at 2am Tuesday Jen woke me to say her waters
had broken. I was confused, because we were scheduled for a
Caesarean delivery at 9am, had Jen forgotten? She wasn’t supposed
to labor. This must be some kind of miscommunication. But no.
The baby was coming. She’d heard she was to
be born today and decided to take charge.
Off to the hospital we went. Fifty-two minutes before the
time we had booked four months ago, she arrived: Matilda Margrett Barry,
weighing 8lb 11oz, dazzling onlookers with her rich thatch of red
The smell. The smell! I had forgotten how good this was. She smells
like distilled contentment.
Matilda is strong and likes to have her hands near her face.
Because of this, sometimes she facepalms. I have to get a photo
of that and release it on the internet. She had a restless first few days,
but now the sucking is under control, has been happy and very snuggly.
She snuffles and snorts. Her big sister Finlay, who turned five
yesterday by the way,
can you believe that? Her big sister is super-super excited.
Look at that smile. There’s ownership.
Today we arrived home. It’s been a great day. I wish you all this
kind of happiness.
P.S. I once wrote a blog about how before I
named my next child, I would
make sure the domain name was available.
Well, I completely forgot about this until Day 3 in the hospital, long
tweeting her arrival. The five panicked minutes between realizing this and securing
matildabarry.com were the most nerve-wracking part of the entire experience.
I shaved my head totally bald and the skin is so baby-smooth I can’t
stop touching it. That’s not relevant to anything. I don’t know why I
brought it up. But seriously. Baby-smooth.
So I didn’t blog or go on Facebook or Twitter for six weeks and you
know what? It was kind of good. It was like walking into the desert
and rediscovering Nature. It was like being born again. It was like
looking at a photo of who I used to be.
No, not really. It was pretty much like this, only I had more free time
and hadn’t heard of Zach Anner.
I have been doing lots of writing. The last big Machine Man
novel rewrite is almost finished, and I started something new. I
was planning another serial, but this kind of grabbed me and it’s
not at all serial-like. So now I’m not sure about serials.
I’ll see where I am in three months.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know I’m here and writing and
I know who Zach Anner is. Also: baby-smooth.
I have a bunch of blogs backed up. Wait. That sounds disgusting.
Pretend I didn’t say that. What I mean is: I keep thinking of things
I want to blog about, but before I do I get distracted by emails or
real writing or my wife getting pregnant. I know. You could argue
that I have prioritization issues. On the other hand, you could argue
I don’t. It’s not like anyone pays me for these. I only do them for
the look on your face. That’s right. I’m watching you. I’m watching
you right now. See that webcam? Give me a little wave. Hello,
my pretty. Hello.
But that’s beside the point. The point is: my wife is pregnant.
I can’t believe you didn’t react more when I mentioned that
a second ago. You barely frowned. Oh, wait. I see. You were wondering
if you already knew about that. I guess I didn’t really telegraph it. I
just kind of slipped it in there. But enough about the conception.
Ha ha! Joke. We used IVF. Not because we have to. We just like to
employ advanced medical technology wherever possible. It’s expensive,
but we think it’s worth it. They say you can’t genetically
engineer your embryos, but once you get inside and they close
the door, you totally can. We went for a female green-eyed redhead
with a propensity to sneeze in sunlight and a tail like a fish.
Last Friday we went along for our 20-week scan. We decided to
find out the sex this time, because Jen wanted to find out the sex
and I couldn’t stand the idea of her knowing something I didn’t.
It would have thrown off the delicate power balance of the whole
relationship. You might think that’s silly but that’s what they said
about Palestine. I don’t want a repeat of that. Not in my house.
So off we went, and Dr. Andrew showed us that we’re having a girl!
He showed us in a way that would be truly mortifying if the girl
was aware of it, by the way. I kind of feel sorry for girls today
growing up with DVDs of their prenatal scans tucked away in their
parents’ bedside tables. You just know they’re going to come
out at the 21st party. Anyway, there it is: we will have two girls,
and the new one will own nothing new until she leaves home.
Before Finlay was born, her placeholder name was “Popsicle”
(Poppy for short),
because she was brewed from a frozen embryo.
As we were walking out of the clinic, Finlay said, “We should call
her Chandelier.” I don’t know where that came from. But that’s the
placeholder. Chandelier Barry. A new light in the world.
I have a little parenting problem. I need some advice. The other day I was out walking with Finlay (four years old; I know, I can’t believe it either) and an elderly woman stopped to coo over her. This woman was clearly someone’s grandmother. She was matronly. I’m thinking of the word “battleship.” You know what I’m getting at.
“So cute,” said the grandmother. I said thanks and Fin said nothing and the woman began to move away. Then Fin said, “She’s got big boobs.”
Into my stunned silence, Fin added, “Really big boobs.”
A few days later, out with her mother, Fin remarked about a passer-by: “She has large upper arms.”
Before that, on a train: “Look at that little person.”
We’ve tried to raise her to believe there’s nothing wrong with people who look different. That differences are interesting but not shameful. That seems to be working. It’s working a little too well. What do I do now?
I don’t want to tell her that some people are embarrassed about how they look. That starts with “are” and ends with “should be.” I can see a case for not commenting on people’s weight, because being very over- or under-weight is unhealthy, and we’ve talked about health and eating balanced meals. But I know she’s going to spend her life drowning in messages about body size, and she doesn’t need that yet. Also, it only deals with the “large upper arms” comments, not the “Look at that little person” ones.
My feeling is that while there is nothing wrong with being a three-foot-tall grownup, and it is interesting, they probably don’t want to be singled out for it all the time. But maybe this is my hangup. I wouldn’t be offended if a four-year-old pointed at me and said, “That man has no hair,” but if his mother acted embarrassed and tried to shush him, I would. Because she would be making it into a bad thing. Maybe it’s the same with everything.
But that leaves me, what? Smiling at amputees after my kid points out they have no legs? Saying, “Yes, you’re right,” when she remarks on the size of an obese man’s buttocks? This is a minefield. What do I do?