Books: The Deep Whatsis / Diary of an Oxygen Thief
Authors: Peter Mattei / Anonymous
Types of Books: Fiction, potentially asshole recovery manuals if taken somewhat seriously
Why Do I Consider These Books Odd: Eh, they aren’t that odd in and of themselves but considering them together shows me how enjoyable shitty people can be when they know they are shitty and just accept it.
Availability: The Deep Whatsis was published by Other Press in 2013 / Diary of an Oxygen Thief was published by Gallery Books in 2006 and you can get a copy of both here:
Comments: Analyzing these two books together, because one hits the mark with me and the other doesn’t, might lead one to believe that one of these books is somehow bad, or at the very least lacking. That’s not really the case. Rather, reading these two books around the same time showed me something very interesting about myself: I like unrepentant assholes. Don’t get me wrong – redemption arcs have their place and can be enjoyable, but after a while I tire of the trope of callow men with some measure of success deciding that their lives are empty and meaningless and that their chosen work is unsatisfying and that maybe, just maybe, they can be better men. If the catalyst for change is the presence of a manic pixie dream girl, all the better for the formula.
It’s jaded to think that this formula got hijacked from the early successful Palahniuk novels but, yeah, many books told from the perspective of a male protagonist who is sick of his immoral job, who meets an outsider woman and experiences a strong philosophical shift have the aura of Fight Club about them. I mean, it’s a common trope but perhaps I see it clearer after Palahniuk did it so much better. The Deep Whatsis doesn’t have a Tyler Durden twist and is almost 99% non-violent, but it follows the script and at the end left me feeling like I really needed the protagonist to burn something to the ground because otherwise this book is more or less just a version of several George Clooney movies, like Up in the Air, where the lovable rogue discovers he’s an asshole and learns from the experience and it’s all really heartwarming.
And that’s well and good to a point but sometimes you just want a self-aware asshole to suffer without trying to become a better man.