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There is a grand war going on in todays world that many of us are unaware of, but are affected by everyday. This war takes place at home, on the highways, in magazines, and in stores. It is the war of marketing. Just about every company that sells something is in this war, with each competitor using catchy slogans and false perceptions to try and persuade the consumer into choosing their product over the other companies product. And Syrup, written by Maxx Barry, tells the story of this war in its own little way, using satire as its main weapon. He uses Syrup to satirically compare his characters to real world marketing and emphasizes this through making his novel seem like an ad campaign.
Enjoy. As a former employee of Hewlett Packard and a teacher of marketing, Maxx Barry knows a thing or two about the marketing world (Maxx: the bio). He even markets his name. Maxx Barry is actually Max Barry (Maxx: the bio). He added another x to his first name to make it look cooler, which, in fact, is actually a simple marketing technique. From his old job, Barry took a lot of what was around him and made it into Syrup.
Although much of the novel may be exaggerated, it still retains the basic structure. Barry also has taught marketing at two major universities in Australia (Maxx: the bio). This shows in his novel. He has mini lessons at the beginning of each chapter, telling various marketing strategies that are used by major companies. Some other influences his career has played in the writing of Syrup can be seen in the characters and lingo used in the novel, many of which was picked up while he was working at Hewlett Packard. However, he has never actually been to America, and this is where the story takes place. So, in turn, he took what he saw on the television in Australia and used that as his backdrop.
He calls it TV America.(Maxx: the bio) As for Barrys writing style, it is quite original, considering this is only his first novel. It can best be expressed as short and snappy like a series of TV ads, as described by Barry (Maxx: the bio). And this is extremely true, as can be seen just by reading the first page, where the pages are split into sections by bubble graphics. His sentences are full of energy and he employs loads of humor and satire throughout the novel. Barry writes with a purpose of creating suspense to make the reader keep going to find out what is going to happen next. He also employs lots of character divergences where they often fantasize and daydream.
This helps build up the characters personalities by letting the reader delve into these characters psyche. Now, let us move onto the plot structure of Syrup. Barry has a unique style of telling a story and he also has a unique way of putting together a plot. The pages read as if they were a series of TV ads. This contributes to the plot of the story. Since the basic premise is to satirize the marketing industry, this type of page set-up adds to the humor as well as the plot. This, in turn, rolls into the flow of events in the story.
There is not a single moment in the book where something is not going on or ideas are not being thought up by the characters. There is a constant motion. This adds to the plot because it keeps things on a fast pace and allows for all the wacky events to take place. Speaking of wacky events, that is another aspect of the plot structure. How all the events and occurrences seemingly have something to do with one another is great. Barry turns one minute incident and has it affect the outcome of a much larger event later on in the story.
For example Scats misfortune with the loss of his soda idea turns into a chance to run the ad campaign for the soda which in turn flows into him directing the biggest movie of all time. He also uses foreshadowing in the plot structure as well. For instance, the character name of Sneaky Pete is foreshadowing in itself. It kinda makes the reader think and wonder if he is a type of person that can be trusted or not. And as it turns out he cannot. Who would have thought? The plot is also extremely chronological.
Barry employs very little backtracking, which in turn keeps the constant motion of the story going. If there is any sort of side tracking, it is usually beneficial to the outcome of the story. Barry strays away from using too much extraneous information so as to keep a pretty straightforward plot structure. Again, the information that is added does actually have something to do to the outcome of a certain event. Next on the agenda is the main literary tool that Barry used throughout Syrup. This tool is satire.
The entire book is satire, even the cover and the back of the book is satire. Now what exactly is satire? Satire is, in the modern dictionary, defined as a kind of literature that ridicules human folly or vice with purpose of keeping others from falling into similar folly or vice. Ok, so what does all that mean. Well it basically means that a satire makes fun of something or someone. And in Syrup the main target is the marketing industry. Barry uses his experience in the corporate world to constantly bombard the marketing industry with insider type humor that everyone will still be able to understand.
However, the company that Barry worked for is not in this story. Instead he opted for Coca-Cola Company because of its international status and reputation for being a marketing powerhouse. Just about all the satire in the book revolves around Coca-Cola. Starting with the very first adventure that the main character, Scat gets into. Barry satirizes the trend of how companies put out new products that are basically the same as the original but have different names or maybe different packaging. Then the company goes and raises the price of it.
Well he makes fun of this when Scat invents a new name for a cola, Fukk. It is meant to cater to the younger generation, but it is basically the same as the original cola. Barry also satirizes the people that are involved in the marketing industry in his characters. They all have certain images that are stereotypical. For instance, 6, who plays the New Products Marketing Manager, and also Scats love interest, is a typical workaholic lesbian obsessed with her image and the want to be the most successful at everything. Scat plays the typical driven entrepreneur that is looking for a quick way to get rich. Sneaky Pete plays the typical sly one who steals ideas and takes credit for them then reaps the benefits that come from them. And this goes on and on with the remainder of the characters that pop up throughout the story. Satire just seems to flow from the pages.
Next up is the part involving the characters of Syrup. And the most important would include Scat, 6, and Sneaky Pete. All these characters have certain qualities that add to the outcome of the story. Let us start with Scat. Scat can be seen as the main character and hero of Syrup. He is the catalyst for which all events take place. One of his traits, which is to have an immense drive to hit it rich and become famous, starts off one his adventures with his idea of a new product for Coke.
And he even thinks that in order to make it in marketing, he has to have a cool name. That is why he changes his name from Michael to Scat, which is only one of many different types of names throughout Syrup. 6, the marketing whiz that works for Coke, has the traits of wanting to do all she can do to succeed. This is another thing that affects the plot. Since that is her main trait, she helps Scat to come up with campaigns for his ideas even though she could get fired for doing so. And finally there is Sneaky Pete, the character that represents the bad guy in corporate America.
He is the type of character that only cares about the well being of himself with little regard to the feelings of others. A prime example of this is when he steals Scats idea for Fukk Cola and profits from his misfortune. The sneaky part of this is that Scat and Sneaky Pete were roommates. This shows just how spineless Sneaky Pete is. He stole from his friend for the bettering of himself. The final aspect of Syrup is the parallel between real world marketing and the marketing that is presented in the book.
Since Syrup is set-up to satirize marketing, it only makes sense that the entire book is put together to resemble a giant marketing ad campaign. It is treated like it is a mass produced item. The cover comes equipped with a mock nutrition table and a take on the Nike slogan, Just Do It. Except the books slogan is Just Read It. Barcodes can be found at the start of each chapter and the pages read as advertisements. They are broken up by little bubbles and have bold headlines that hint at what each section may contain.
The story itself can even be likened to a TV ad. This is because of its many pop culture references and short but sweet chapters. For example, one passage from the story reads, I want to be 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 Barrymores sex parties.
I want the American Dream.(Barry 1) This passage is the perfect start for the book and basically represents the tone of the entire story. The author himself even markets his name. He changed his name from Max Barry to Maxx Barry because it sounded and looked cooler (Lang 99). It seem as though he had no boundaries towards the tricks he would use to satirize the marketing industry. One last aspect in which the book parallels the real world is in the little tid-bits here and there among the pages. They are facts from actual marketing study cases. One example tells how grocery stores move food products around to keep customers looking around the whole store (Barry 46).
The book could almost pass as a textbook for a marketing class. However, when all is said and done, it all boils down to the satire. Syrup is a book that satirizes an industry based on satire. It can be looked at like one giant television commercial that is trying to hold onto the readers attention for the span of two hundred and ninety four pages. Barry had a purpose with this book with how he set-up the pages, the way the covers look, and the title. They all relate to marketing in some way or another. Syrup is a book that tells the story of an invisible war, yet still manages to have fun in the process.
It is all about the satire. Bibliography: Bibliography Arp, Thomas. Perrines Literature. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1998. Barry, Maxx. Syrup.
New York: Viking, 1999. Dabsheck, Lisa. The Australian Financial Review. September 1999. Lang, Alexandra. Spin Magazine.
1999. Smoron, Paige. Chicago Sun Times. February 1999. Stanton, William J. Fundamentals of Marketing. New York: DK Publishing, 1978. Advertising. Encyclopedia Americana.
1996. Marketing. Encyclopedia Americana. 1996. Maxx: The bio. Home page. 30 Aug 2000.
MaxxBarry.com. Syrup- reviews. Home page. 30 Aug 2000. Amazon.com..
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