THE DEEP WHATSIS by Peter Mattei


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A hotshot NYC adman-turned–corporate axeman wallows in drugs, drama and a dangerous crush as he watches his shiny hipster life blow apart at the seams.

Nominally a satire, filmmaker Mattei’s debut novel's enormous hurdle is that its protagonist is such a selfish, disagreeable SOB. Our main man is Eric Nye, the “Chief Idea Officer” at a trendy Manhattan advertising agency whose real charge is to downsize 50 percent of the company. Nye plays his role as the agency’s bigwig with aplomb, but he’s a complete train wreck, doped to the gills with antidepressants and alcohol, with a penchant for pointing out his raging erection and compulsive masturbation. What’s meant to be archetypal is largely passé as Eric visits the conceptual art show called “Show Us Your Tits” and chugs Sancerre between visits to the massage parlor. During one of his drunken escapades, he has a liaison with Sabine, a cute (and very young) intern, who becomes another of Eric’s risky obsessions. When Sabine shows up at work with a black eye, the HR department exiles Eric off to a commercial shoot in Los Angeles. A crippling panic attack in an airplane bathroom is just a precursor to a full-blown meltdown that ends with Nye’s hospitalization. Mattei hints at unreliable narration with a mysterious Wikipedia page recounting Eric’s bad behavior, a psychiatrist who turns out to be unlicensed and clues from a horrible childhood incident that drives Nye’s demons. Unfortunately, Nye’s sneering disdain for the trappings of his own lifestyle and the melodramatic portrayal of his anxiety disorder are off-putting enough that even a final twist can’t salvage the story.

Like hair metal, cocaine nights and Miami Vice, this yuppie burnout saga is past its sell-by date.

Pub Date: July 23rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59051-638-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Other Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2013


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