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Maxx Barry is a survivor from the trenches of corporate marketing and has taught the subject at two major Australian universities. This is his first novel.
Me, Me, Me
i have a dream
I want to be famous. Really famous.
I want to be so famous that movie stars hang out with me and talk about what a bummer their lives are. I want to beat up photographers who catch me in hotel lobbies with Winona Ryder. I want to be implicated in vicious rumors about Drew Barrymore's sex parties. And, finally, I want to be pronounced DOA in a small, tired LA hospital after doing speedballs with Matt Damon.
I want it all. I want the American dream.
I realized a long time ago that the best way to get famous in this country is to become an actor. Unfortunately, I'm a terrible actor. I'm not even a mediocre actor, which rules out a second attractive path: marrying an actress (they inbreed, so you can't marry one unless you are one). For a while I thought about becoming a rock star, but for that you either have to be immensely talented or have sex with a studio executive, and somehow I just couldn't foresee either of those little scenarios in my immediate future.
So that really leaves just one option: to be very young, very cool and very, very rich. The great thing about this particular path to fame, Oprah and line jumping at nightclubs is that it's open to everyone. They say anyone can make it in this country, and it's true: you can make it all the way to the top and a vacuous, drink-slurred lunch with Madonna. All you have to do is find something you're good enough at to make a million dollars, and find it before you'retwenty-five.
When I think about how simple it all is, I can't understand why kids my age are so pessimistic.
why you should be a millionaire
I read somewhere that the average adult has three million-dollar ideas per year. Three ideas a year that could make you a millionaire. I guess some people have more of these ideas and some people less, but it's reasonably safe to assume that even the most idiotic of us has to score at least one big idea during our lifetimes.
So everybody's got ideas. Ideas are cheap. What's unique is the conviction to follow through: to work at it until it pays off. That's what separates the person who thinks I wonder why they can't just make shampoo and conditioner in one? from the one who thinks Now, should I get the Mercedes, or another BMW?
Three million-dollar ideas per year. For a long time, I couldn't get this out of my head. And there was always the chance I could have an above average idea, because they've got to be out there, too. The ten-million-dollar ideas. The fifty-million-dollar ideas.
The billion-dollar ideas.
The interesting part of my life starts at ten past two in the morning of January 7th. At ten past two on January 7th, I am twenty-three years and six minutes old. I am just contemplating how similar this feeling is to being, say, twenty-two years and six minutes old, when it happens: I get an idea.
"Oh shit," I say. "Oh, shit." I get up and hunt around my room for paper and a pen, can't find either, and eventually raid the bedroom of the guy I share my apartment with. I scribble on the paper and get a beer from the fridge, and by the time I'm twenty-three years and four hours old, I've worked out how I'm going to make a million dollars.
now hold on there, smart guy
Okay. So how do I know this idea is so good?
a little explanation
When I was in my senior year of high school, the counselor said, "Now, Michael, about college ..."
"Yeah?" I was distracted at the time by cheerleading practice outside his window. Or maybe I was just inattentive and daydreaming of cheerleaders. Not sure. "I'm doing pre-law."
This was my plan. I'd had it for years, and I was pretty proud of it, too. I mean, just having a plan was a big deal. When people (like my parents) asked, "And what are you going to do after high school?" I could say, "Pre-law," and they'd smile and raise their eyebrows and nod. It was much better than my previous answer, a shrug, which tended to attract frowns and comments about youth unemployment rates.
"Yes," the counselor said, and cleared his throat. Outside the window, or inside my mind, cute girls twirled red-and-white pom-poms. "I think it's time we looked at something ... more realistic."
I blinked. "More ...?"
"Let's be honest, Michael," he said gently. He didn't have a particularly gentle face—it was kind of bitter and jaded—and the effort he made to twist it into something sympathetic was a little scary. "You don't have the grades for it, do you?"
"Well," I said, "maybe not, but ..." And I stopped. Because there was no but. I didn't have the grades. My plan, perfect until this moment, was missing this small but crucial step: good grades. "Shit," I said.
And weren't the parents pissed.
If I'd been fooling myself, I'd been fooling them worse. They were already picking me out a dorm at Harvard and talking about Stanford as a "backup." It was a little difficult for them when I broke the news that I was going to need a backup for my backup.
When the only school that would have me was Cal State, they moved to Iowa. I'm still not sure if that was coincidence.
I majored in marketing because I was late for registration.
I mean, suddenly I was in college; I was in a dorm and I was surrounded by college girls. There was a lot on my mind. Now, sure, there were upperclassmen and faculty advisers dedicated to making sure that freshmen like me didn't miss registration, but it wasn't hard to ditch them in favor of more horizon-broadening pursuits. My biggest mistake was making friends with a guy who had just transferred from Texas and was pre-enrolled: I forgot all about registration. I was scheduled between ten A.M. and eleven, and I turned up at four the following Thursday.
I was lucky anyone was still there, because by then enrollments had officially closed. When I tapped on the glass door, my choice of two first-year electives was reduced to three sad little tables: Programming in Visual Basic; Masculinity in the New Millennium; and Introductory Marketing.
Masculinity in the New Millennium was actually kind of interesting.
But Marketing was unbelievable.
mktg: a definition
Marketing (or mktg, which is what you write when you're taking lecture notes at two hundred words per minute) is the biggest industry in the world, and it's invisible. It's the planet's largest religion, but the billions who worship it don't know it. It's vast, insidious and completely corrupt.
Marketing is like LA. It's like a gorgeous, brainless model in LA. A gorgeous, brainless model on cocaine having sex drinking Perrier in LA. That's the best way I know how to describe it.
mktg case study #1: mktg perfume
TRIPLE YOUR PRICE. THIS GIVES CUSTOMERS THE IMPRESSION OF GREAT QUALITY. HELPS PROFITS, TOO.
welcome to reality
The first principle of marketing (okay, it's not the first, but it doesn't sound nearly as cool to say it's the third) is this: Perception is reality. You see, a long time ago, some academic came up with the idea that reality doesn't actually exist. Or at least, if it does, no one can agree what it is. Because of perception.
Perception is the filter through which we view the world, and most of the time it's a handy thing to have: it generalizes the world so we can deduce that a man who wears an Armani suit is rich, or that a man who wears an Armani suit and keeps saying "Isn't this some Armani suit" is a rich asshole. But perception is a faulty mechanism. Perception is unreliable and easily distracted, subject to a thousand miscues and misinformation ... like marketing. If anyone found a way to actually distinguish perception from reality, the entire marketing industry would crumble into the sea overnight.
(Incidentally, this wouldn't be a good thing. The economy of every Western country would implode. Some of the biggest companies on the planet would never sell another product. The air would be thick with executives leaping out of windows and landing on BMWs.)
I ended up taking as many marketing classes as I could, and actually graduated from Cal State summa cum laude. If I'd just finished pre-law, I'd have settled into earnest conversation with the top law firms of the country, bandying about six-figure salaries, ninety-hour weeks and twenty-year career plans. Law seems very structured like that.
But marketing hates systems. Which is nice, in an idealistic, free-spirited sort of way, but it makes it a pain in the ass to get a job. To get a good job in marketing, you need to market yourself.
My name is Scat.
I used to be Michael George Holloway, but I had no chance of getting into marketing with a name like that. My potential employers, who had names like Fysh, Siimon and Onion, didn't even think I was making an effort. The least I could do was echo their creative genius by choosing a wacky, zany, top-of-mind name myself.
For a while, I seriously toyed with the idea of calling myself Mr. Pretentious. But when sanity prevailed, I chose Scat. It sounded kind of fast-track.
So, armed with my new name, I was ready to hit the major corporations for a job. I was ready for the work week, tailored suits, corporate golf days, pension plans, Friday night drinks, frequent flyer programs and conservative values. I'd take it all.
But then I get my idea.
Posted June 26, 2011
Fun, witty and full of characters you'll never forget. You'll never look at advertising the same way again after Syrup. Company and Jennifer Government are also great reads.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 14, 2014
Posted March 6, 2011
While it was an easy and relatively entertianing read, I had a problem with the characters. They are so shallow, materialistic, and self-absorbed that the entire time you're reading the book you are in anticipation of them getting what's coming to them at the end. I mean, the characters were so selfish that I couldn't wait for them to have some epiphany...or some bad karma, at least. But they never get their comeuppance, which seemed to pull the rug out from under the entire plot. I guess after reading Max Barry's other two books (which are AWESOME), I was expecting a bit more. All in all, it was still a decent book, just a little disappointing.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 26, 2009
I Also Recommend:
Follow this link to read my full review of Maxx Barry's Syrup.
I enjoyed the plot of the novel, and while I found Barry's characters to be a bit lacking in the development department (the love story didn't hold my suspension of disbelief), they were not distracting to the point that I couldn't enjoy this satirical look into the world of carbonated beverage marketing.
Posted March 21, 2009
This is another brilliant book by Max Barry who is one of the best satirists out there regarding office and business situations. This time he pokes his wit at the Marketing Industry. The main character who calls himself Scat (because it is a cool name) claims that every individual can come up with three million dollar ideas per year. Scat has his first; coming up with a revolutionary name for a new Coke drink. He tries to pitch it to a young marketer called "6." Immediately Scat is intrigued by 6 and falls in love with her even though she has made it clear that men are not her thing.
Scat's idea is a big smash but unfortunately it is undermined by his roommate, aptly named Sneaky Pete. The book moves rapidly with Scat coming up with great idea after another hoping to be rich and land 6 to boot.
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more work by Mr. Barry!
Posted September 26, 2008
This is another brilliant book by Max Barry who is one of the best satirists out there regarding office and business situations. This time he pokes his wit at the Marketing Industry. The main character who calls himself Scat (because it is a cool name) claims that every individual can come up with three million dollar ideas per year. Scat has his first coming up with a revolutionary name for a new Coke drink. He tries to pitch it to a young marketer called ¿6.¿ Immediately Scat is intrigued by 6 and falls in love with her even though she has made it clear that men are not her thing. Scat¿s idea is a big smash but unfortunately it is undermined by his roommate, aptly named Sneaky Pete. The book moves rapidly with Scat coming up with great idea after another hoping to be rich and land 6 to boot. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more work by Mr. Barry!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 31, 2008
I loved this book. I started it one evening on the subway home from work...and didn't put it down until I finished it. I read it in 6 hours. It is PHENOMENAL. The storyline, the writing, the humor, the situations... everything. I love it, and would highly recommend it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 11, 2005
Posted September 17, 2004
a friend of mine is a literary critic and - if it needs saying - avid book lover. and She's more than once spoken of literary characters with whom She's fallen in love, and expressed surprise that i've never fallen in love with one. but i hadn't. and now i have. i think about 6 - i long for Her, i miss Her, i feel i need Her - while i'm washing dishes or playing computer games. it's a good, if somewhat sad, feeling. i loved this book - i'm sure largely, though not solely, because i was falling in love with 6 while reading it. i plowed through its 294 pages in all of two days, which is unusual for me. i found it funny - i laughed out loud a number of times, which is definitely a mark in its favor - and smart and intriguing, and unlike one reader who gave it two stars - something about people not throwing hash browns (?!) - i also found it compelling and intriguing and i did very much care what happened with Scat and 6. its tone reminded me of Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland (i see that another of his books is listed as one of the 'people who liked this book also bought' titles), but not such that i think it a rehash or anything. i haven't read another book like this one. my only (and very minor) complaint about it is that i feel Mr. Barry needs to expand his store of adjectives. he mentions 6's 'midnight hair' and 'dark eyes' too often; adjectives like these should be used no more than once if the description is to retain its power. but that's the only thing i felt called for improvement. i thoroughly enjoyed this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 6, 2004
I finished this book literally shaking with anticipation for each next page. I felt like I was in Scat's body. I hated Sneaky Pete so much. I desperately wanted to have sex with 6. I still do, actually. The book had amazing feeling and intensity, and I find its black humor to be some of the best that I have ever read. If Max Barry does not continue to write books, or at least make a movie of 'Syrup,' I will personally fly to Australia and beat the stuffing out of him. Thank you for this piece of art, Mr. Barry.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 17, 2003
Absolutely the best novel I have read in quite some time. I could not put it down; it actually made me want to put my computer away for a bit. If you work in a corporate environment, get this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 26, 2002
This is the first book that I have read from start to finish in one setting. I have never picked up a book that I could not put down to take care of other business. TWO THUMBS UP. I think that it could be because I work for Coke that I find this so interesting and so true in many ways. I look forward to reading anything else Maxx Berry decides to write. I highly encourage everyone to read this book!!!!!!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 21, 2001
Posted October 17, 2000
I may only be 12 but have I got some news for you. I know a good book when I read it and Maxx Barry's Novel, Syrup is a great book for ADULTS. Some content may not be suitable for children under 16. Scat, a marketing executive with only one thing in his mind, money, gives his Idea to Coke-Cola, a multimillion dollar Idea for a new Cola. He goes down to register only to find out that his sneaky room mate, Sneaky Pete has stolen his Idea. He then works with a long time Coke Employee to make a new Coke Summer Campaign. I suggest reading 'Syrup' By Maxx Barry Today.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 20, 2000
This novel was too tricky. I got past that early because Sneaky Pete and his silence compelled me into the story. And I liked 6. I thought she was hot and felt I was in for a bangtail story with people slinging hash browns off balconies at the end. But it never happened. The story falls apart as soon as the movie making aspect come into it. The characters begin as cartoon figures and remain so. There's no backstory. The continued use of the screenwriters most tooled prize--setting deadlines to increase the tension--is the only engine that drives the story through the second half. By the end I didn't care what happened between 6 and Scat, felt the story dying on the vine, and only finished it because I'd bought the book. Too tricky. DisappointingWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 29, 2010
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Posted January 2, 2009
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Posted September 20, 2009
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Posted December 25, 2010
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Posted December 14, 2010
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