Cover image for Syrup : a novel
Syrup : a novel
Barry, Max, 1973-
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Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 1999.
Physical Description:
vii, 294 pages ; 24 cm
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He's young, he's in LA, and he's trying to carve a path in the most powerful, corrupt, and insane industry in the world: marketing. So when Scat (you don't get far in this business as plain old Michael) is hit with a million-dollar idea for a new soda, he teams up with 6, a woman whose cold-blooded political skill is the perfect counterbalance for his naivete. While she knows all the angles, her own angles leave Scat sleepless. Together, can they hold on to the idea when the stakes are seven figures? Or will success remain one knife in the back away?Outrageously funny, smart, and hip, Syrup is a one-gulp adventure through the sticky worlds of corporate and sexual politics. In the book everyone will want to read this summer, Maxx (nee Max) Barry delivers a pitch-perfect sendup of our obsession with having it all. Self-absorbed and hilarious, Syrup is a Bright Lights, Big City for the late 90s.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Barry's delightful first novel delivers a charming and hilarious send-up of the wicked world of marketing. The action is set at the almost obscenely gigantic Coca-Cola Company in L.A., home to all things shallow and greedy. Young Scat, whose main goal in life is to become famous, has ruled out acting or being a rock star. The alternative, he concludes, is to be very young and very rich. To that end, he comes up with a brilliant idea for a new cola, which is promptly stolen by his roommate, Sneaky Pete, a character you truly love to hate. Sneaky Pete beats Scat at every turn and begins a meteoric rise to the top of the marketing empire at Coke, leaving Scat with only one hope for victory (and revenge): the beautiful 6, a cool operator who tortures Scat like a cat with a mouse. If this were a movie, Mike Myers would undoubtedly play both Scat and his Asian nemesis, Sneaky Pete. But don't wait for the movie. This terrific comic novel is certain to provoke as many belly laughs in print as it might one day on screen. --Jenny McLarin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Lampooning corporate "ethics," sexual politics and the marketing and film industries, this clever debut satire by 25-year-old Australian writer Barry will have readers nodding in agreement and quoting it to their friends. Ingenuous new marketing graduate Scat (he feels that his full name, Michael George Holloway, just won't do for a career in marketing) moves to L.A. hoping to become rich and famous. After he gets a million-dollar idea for a new cola product, cheeky and arrogant Scat approaches a beautiful, ruthless marketing manager named 6 at Coca-Cola. The new product's name is, hilariously, a "dirty" word, spelled unconventionally and in stylish font on a black can. But before Scat's cash cow can be milked, his roommate Sneaky Pete steals the idea, is hired by Coke, and soon holds the purse-strings for Coca-Cola's biggest marketing undertaking ever, a $140 million movie. The infuriated Scat joins forces with 6 to create their own, better movie, with a measly $10,000 budget. With Scat's creative ideas, 6's business acumen and the help of 6's film-major roommate Tina, and Scat's actress ex-girlfriend Cindy, they set out to beat Sneaky Pete at his own game. Scat and 6 have an affectionate, wary bond (even though Scat's crazy for her and she claims she's a lesbian), and together they nimbly dodge the clever, ever-surprising political landmines that Sneaky Pete sets in their path. In the end, Scat's na‹vet‚ and creative enthusiasm help him win his dream and the girl. By that point, readers will be rooting for him and will know much more about the politics of business, films, marketing and sex. Foreign rights sold in France, Italy, Germany and Australia. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Twenty-three-year-old marketing graduate Scat (n‚ Michael) is in search of the American dream of wealth, fame, friendship with movie stars, and true love. He thinks he just may have it all in sight when he comes up with a brilliant idea for a new soft drink, Fukk Cola, and the beautiful new-products manager at Coke, the improbably named 6, agrees that it has definite possibilities. Unfortunately, Sneaky Pete, Scat's roommate, lives up to his name and steals Fukk in order to get a head start up the corporate ladder. Many connivances and contrivances later, 6 and Scat take on Sneaky Pete and his assistant @ directly in a last-ditch struggle to assume ascendancy at Coke. Will 6 and Scat fall in love? Will they succeed in vanquishing Sneaky Pete? With Winona Ryder, Brad Pitt, and Tom Cruise making cameo appearances and Gwyneth Paltrow acting as deus ex machina, how could dreams not come true? Never as hilarious as the author intended, this first novel remains a moderately humorous riff on advertising and corporate life.ÄNancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One 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. fame 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're twenty-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 idea 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. backup 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. college 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.) graduation 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. hello 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. career plan 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. Copyright © 1999 Max Barry. All rights reserved.