Whether you know it or not, it’s highly likely you’ve read this book before in one incarnation or another. Did you read Joseph Heller’s Something Happened? Or Joseph’s son Ted’s book, Slabrat? Have you read any Bret Easton Ellis? Did you read Gavin James Bower’s Dazed and Aroused? Did you read Joshua Ferris’ And Then We Came to the End? Have you ever read a novel with a disaffected cynical narrator who says the things – gasp – that we would maybe sometimes think but never say aloud? If you have, it’s possible you’ll find yourself feeling like there’s a glitch in the Matrix when you start reading Peter Mattei’s The Deep Whatsis.
Our narrator (this time around) is responsible for firing people at a big ad house called Tate. We meet him at the end of a casual encounter with an intern who goes on to stalk him throughout the book. He fires people (picture the scene from that George Clooney movie, Up in the Air – some people react well, some people don’t) and for the most part he doesn’t give a shit. He doesn’t eat. He buys things. The stalking intern gets him in trouble. Where Bret Easton Ellis, say, writes short, flat sentences, Mattei’s hero rolls on like a valley girl:
“Intern is extremely cute, alright, granted, her face at least, no question, it’s like God smiling on sunshine, and she’s cool, she quote unquote gets it, but I still plan that after this morning’s pretend-awkward goodbye, which hopefully will happen in a mere couple of hours, to never see her again.”
She gets him in trouble at work, the HR lady with whom he fires people looking at him like he’s going off the rails, and his big boss – who doesn’t really like him anyway – sends him to a possibly discredited psychiatrist before firing him to LA to oversee an ad shoot – which he doesn’t really do anyway because he is fried and wired and a bit messed up.
You get over the deja vu after a little while and actually start to enjoy things, leastwise until he hits LA and then the novel loses some of its momentum. Yes, there’s a plot but it feels a little bit Police Academy (you remember how Police Academy films never had a plot and then in the last fifteen minutes there’d be an opportunity for all of the kooks and misfits to redeem themselves – it’s a bit like that).
All told then, it’s not earth shattering or groundbreaking or highly original or anything like that, but provided you know what you’re letting yourself in for it’s not an entirely bad way to while away an afternoon or two. Whether Mattei has any other tricks up his sleeve (can he imitate any other writers we like?!) is to be seen.
Any Cop?: Ish.