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The Deep Whatsis

The Deep Whatsis

Peter Mattei (The Friday Project 2013, Trade Paperback) 250 pages, £7.99 cover price

Advertising's Deep Throat...

There is an extended note along the spine of this paperback, which is a different sort of marketing and likely a clever one, given that paperbacks are stacked sideways along bookstore shelves. You've heard of bookstores. There may even be one left in your community. In any event, that note reads: 'The Deep Whatsis by Peter Mattei is the bastard love-child of Bret Easton Ellis and Chuck Palahniuk. Eric Nye is a character you'll either love or hate. Probably hate.' Nothing like supplying a short review, publisher written, with every novel sold. So much better than having to dig about for those annoying newspaper or magazine reviewers. Ahem.

I'll say this; that short blurb is pretty darn accurate. Eric Nye is the Creative Director at a New York-based advertising firm. His principal task however is firing people, with half the payroll to be cut loose by corporate edict. Anyone who walks into a meeting with Eric and sees both him and the head of HR standing there has the instant sinking feeling of waking up and seeing a coffin salesman standing at the foot of one's hospital bed. Welcome to doom. Have a nice day.

Understandably, being a corporate Grim Reaper can have its effects on a man's mindset. Eric is single, content to have serial affairs as well as constant, um, wanking. Because of certain medications he is on, our man has a permanent erection that he relieves by relieving himself. He must have a terribly embarrassed time being measured for suit trousers. He has one sort-of friend named Seth, whom Eric hates and only invites out for lunch in order to abuse him. Lovely man, Eric; absolute salt of the earth.

Needless to say, complications arise. At the end of a night of drinking and recreational drug use, Eric invites a young woman back to his swank apartment where she passes out and vomits on his bedside throw rug. No sex and a nasty stain to clean up. Oh dear.

That of course is not the end of the affair, as it were. Sabi – Eric eventually learns her name – becomes an intern at the same advertising agency and it is suspected that he may have given her a black eye. Well he didn't; unless of course he did. You see, he suffers from some fairly scary psychological issues leading to panic attacks, blackouts, and occasional random writings which he does not recognize as his own.

The above menu of mental breakdowns leads eventually to a rather large issue with The Deep Whatsis. Without giving the whole plot away, Eric is eventually placed in the psych ward of an L.A. Hospital. Even after being placed in bed restraints and fed a barrelful of psychological mood stabilizers, he is released in two and a half days, pretty much as right as rain. (Now how should I phrase this? Oh, I know!) Fat bloody chance. I'm all for a little suspension of disbelief here and there, and bizarre occurrences certainly do happen in life, but absolutely no one with the brain mess of an Eric Nye is going to be cured in the time it takes to apply two coats of paint to a living room. It's just not going to happen.

Coming back to that spine note, I get the references to Ellis and Palahniuk. Mattei has the former's addiction to Brand Name Porn and money, while he shares Palahniuk's cynicism about modern pop culture. The best parts of this book are the deconstruction of the advertising industry and how clients are manipulated in order to in turn manipulate the public. No wonder Eric is always masturbating; the whole industry he works in is one big circle jerk. Good times.

This novel is a fairly entertaining read and funny in a miserable kind of way. Eric Nye is an engrossing character, although he is most interesting before his mind starts to unravel. Peter Mattei must have made the choice to write that unravelling with the intent of humanizing Eric. Without that, who would want to spend an entire 250 pages in the company of a complete bastard? Well, I would. Eric is a darn interesting bastard as bastards go.

Last point. Besides the analyses of the advertising industry, there is an important life lesson to be found here. The title, The Deep Whatsis, refers to a certain sex technique. I'd tell you what it is, but I have a nasty sore throat, so I must sign off and pop round to the drugstore to pick up a package of Fisherman's Friend cough drops and a bottle of almond oil. I'm sure the combination will prove a great relief. Be seeing you.

4 out of 5 stars


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