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The Whole Paperback – January 4, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: MTV Books (January 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743485017
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743485012
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,621,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

John Reed was the kind of man who, one instant, might touch you to your very core -- send a symphony into the marrow of your bones. But he was also the type who, the next instant, might prove exasperatingly shallow. Such was his sad contradiction. There he'd be reciting something truly something -- but reciting it at the exclusive room of the trendiest possible of-the-second club to an audience of those beautiful and ambitious New Yorkers who, though not always successful at it, were the most willing, in the name of glory, to lead lives unexamined and vapid.
His tragic and untimely demise unfolded at a juncture when I was most disgusted with him -- for not a month earlier, his reprehensible behavior had ended our relationship. One that had seemed riddled...well, with potential.
He could be a boy sometimes, standing as he would have in 1977, a child of the Manhattan wasteland -- a body filthy and lean, and trying to discover for itself honor in the void. This aspect of his work had been of interest to me. And since, during the course of our romance, we discussed our writing with each other, I became quite familiar with his proposal for Duh Whole -- the tale of a girl gone awry, and a great big hole. Hence, it was not unexpectedly (the prospect of finishing the unfinished works of expired authors ever-tempting) that I was approached the very minute John first coughed (with luck, it'd be a foreshadowing of consumption and doom). His outline proved surprisingly complete, and having no book deal of my own, I was soon secured in the effort -- and with John's institutionalization and rapid decline, I was given the green light. If you like my work, you might look for other novels ostensibly by Reed, such as Snowball's Chance and A Still Small Voice, which, incidentally, I also wrote.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One

Like many artists, great and slight, Thing's sense of direction was not navigated so much by map as by intuition. Sometimes she'd have the whimsy to get out of a taxi four blocks too early, only to discover that she was standing in front of that shop where she had seen that dress she had thought of buying at the end of last month, when unhappily, her ten thousand dollars a month had run out. (And look, coincidence of coincidences, now she had the money!) Strictly speaking, Thing was so very sensitive that it did not take a thought at all, but the mere echo of a thought to inspire her to action. Her wants were virtually preverbal -- an infant's craving for that stuff out of reach. And as for her discovery by MTV, it was quite fitting -- as, ever since grade school, she had wanted to be a star. And not -- no, no -- just any star. Not just some Hepburn or Monroe. She had to be more. She had to be the most. That was all she wanted. The only little thing. And aside from that, she had no particular loyalty to anything -- not this ethic or that revolution.

To her, all these cultures and identities, which the world so treasured, they were no more than eggshells -- while we ourselves were more prone to scrambling. Indeed, it was by attempting to preserve the eggshell (culture, identity) that world suffering was brought about -- for the eggshell was a refuge inherently doomed. As a species, we were overly sentimental about language and religion, and all those other trappings of life that we found so extraordinary -- which were really just rote and mundane. Honestly, nobody cared one whit for any of these allegiances, except in the respect that if it was all they knew, why then, it had to be good. But Thing, she sensed the truth -- that assimilation was our friend, and that humankind had to embrace the leveling of tradition. And yes, it was nice that it so happened that it was precisely her own cultural milieu that was the most powerful -- and the one doing the leveling. But even if that circumstance was a relief (which had, possibly, saved her, on the way to stardom, a little time and effort here and there), she was nonetheless convinced that had she been an Ethiopian, or any other ilk of underprivileged person, she would have found a way to be leading exactly the same life she was leading now. It was simply inconceivable that her good fortune could have anything to do with luck -- as anyone would tell you that you made your own luck. Why, that was a medical fact! Her psychiatrist had told her. And her psychiatrist would know, as her psychiatrist was rather lucky, well, quite fortunate herself. By willpower alone -- the sheer force of positive thinking -- had Thing achieved the correct socialization and taste. No, no, no, not by chance, but by hard work was she in perfect sync with the global standard -- which might even be an intergalactic standard, as she had often heard it called "universal." And by that, this guiding principle of the universal (and yes, she was absolutely self-assured in this conviction), anything deemed weird or abnormal, or even just weak or secondary -- well, it would have to be forgotten. She knew (and she knew she was right too) that only if we were to aspire to utter homogeny might we expect peace and harmony -- and that conversely, to aspire to individualism, we might expect trouble.

Suffice it to say, Thing understood television.

Not to be misconstrued -- Thing didn't consciously understand it, and television was terrific, and none of that homogenization was to create any unity, or movement, or any such dark and foreboding thing, but rather, a crowd, an audience -- a happy-go-lucky assortment of good scrambled eggs. A world of swaying spectators. Of course, to avoid any variety of unfortunate melee, they'd have to be just different and isolated enough to, somewhat, resent each other's company. A certain level of autonomy (if not actual individualism, which was fine, in groups) had to be encouraged. Nothing too genuine, obviously (authentic emotions tended people towards outbursts of emotion), but just bits and pieces from so many sources that it could never add up to a whole -- just a confused kind of medley that might mask as a whole, and be insecure and envious enough to be threatened by other confused kind of medleys -- thereby preventing any ill-advised collusion. The ideal thing was to promote autonomy without identity, to make people just separate enough to have their own separate "interests" that kept them from assembling -- that kept them, for the most part, alone, suspended in a state of perpetual yearning in front of their own separate computers or televisions. And even then, when they did get together (and they would too, because, like so many of God's creatures, they had that irrepressible drive to flock, herd and swarm), it'd be over something delightfully peripheral -- like music, or sports. Nothing that could really matter, to any sane person, one way or the other....

There were high points.

Among the 162 minutes of Thing's sixty-two spots (thirty-seven aired), there were moments when she attained, if not true perfection in the sublime, true perfection in the burlesque --

These were the good things, and dubbed so, "the good things," by her editors and producers. Here were the five shiningest examples of Thing's accomplishments. These five things. Largely, with an accompaniment of maudlin Muzak, the quintet made up the best-of selects in Thing's year-end, farewell tribute.

1. Swiss Alps, X-Games -- April

Freezing with snowboarders, Thing and her crew attempted to improve their ratings.

As it broke down, over Thing's year on the air, she'd wear three thongs, one pair of pants (a mistake), and thirty-seven bikini tops....

And it was on this occasion in the Swiss Alps that Thing's fiddling with her top reached a peak. It was as if, to her, the slippage of a strap or cup represented her flagging on-air popularity. Of all the types of bikini tops there were...well, she tried everything. And throughout, she commented, asked the camera --


"No strap?"



"No pad?"

"Polka dots?"

"Push in?"

"Push up?"


"Or...lift and separate?"

The permutations were endless, and the team had not yet discovered the delicate balance -- though this was to be that world-rocking instant when that balance was first struck, and Thing and her producers discovered what it was all about. For though she was right -- the Thing was the cleavage -- it was not merely the cleavage, nor even primarily the cleavage. It was, rather...

Thing in her thong bikini in the cold, well...her anatomy had the expected reaction. That is -- her nipples hardened. And, in her silky white top (after this, all her tops were silky, and nearly all, white), the situation was apparent. It mattered little what up, over, in or out Thing applied to herself, or indeed what wretched rhyme the poor snowboarders were attempting to execute -- Thing's stiffness was mesmerizing. At last, the ratings would soar.

Upon their first viewing of this triumph, Thing's producers would forge a couplet of their own --

Herein, herein, herein's the tip --

Stiffen those, stiffen those, stiffen those nips!

As far as what lengths those producers would go to do just that -- well, they'd go to great lengths. Extreme lengths...Any lengths.

2. Cancún, Cinco de Mayo -- May

Sand, litter, blue ocean, and the roasted hides of mealy fraternity brothers. And Thing, on the beach -- doused in beer.

The emptied buckets clunked, tipped in the sand -- and suds ran down her body as she squeezed her breasts together with her forearms. And the wet, white bikini top, it stuck -- clung to her.

"Ewww -- it's chilly!" she shrieked.

Laughing their belly laughs, the beer boys nodded, delivered each other claps of congratulations, and thumped their meaty shoulders into other meaty shoulders.

And Thing was thrilled. Her wild, cold eyes apertures -- rapturous of those enraptured. The zoom lens delivered her goose bumps to all of America. Shivering, giggling, this young Thing found herself surprised -- elated by the dependability of her own physiology. She was just so fortunate, she thought (her eyes glowed with the blessing), so very fortunate that her plastic surgeon hadn't severed any of those nerves that had turned out to be so crucial!

So, smiley, Thing's glance fell to her own chest -- while, likewise, beside her, equally smiley, and awed, the beer boys who had immersed her, they too watched, and waited....

3. The Grammys -- May

Thing was setting the scene --

"Fame, wealth, beauty, extraordinary talent -- the atmosphere here is positively intoxic!"

This said, Thing's breathy phrases abruptly expired -- and the VJ took a moment to meditate not only on her own perplexity (for something, somewhere in what she'd said, she suspected, was amiss), but on her fascination with her own perplexity. Her own stupidity, well, at times, it was riveting -- shaded by deeper meanings, perhaps, or even genius. And though the specifics of that genius, in this incidence, as in most others, were just slippery enough to elude her, nevertheless, she decided -- it was impressive. Thus, she looked down to check that her nipples were still there. They were. Impressed with herself in that too, she resumed --

"Here we be! The red carpet. Oh look, it's Hugh!"

The aging publisher wore satin pajamas and dark glasses. A short hop behind him were six of his bunnies, and Thing primped and pursed her lips with rivalry. (The camera loved her collagen pout.) And behind the sextette of fleshy midwesterners (just moved to California!), there stumbled the target of Thing's interview. Lecherous and impaired, Tommy Lee bobbled a cocktail in the crook of his claw.

Thing thrust up her microphoned hand like he was the teacher and she had to pee, "Ew, ew." She panted --

"There h...

More About the Author

Don't be a stranger.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Laura Stokes on October 3, 2007
Format: Paperback
There's a great review of this book online -- there's a good one at PopMatters -- so I'm limiting my comments to the book's use of language. Reed makes use of double entendre and malapropism to great effect here, and he slowly ramps up the level of absurdity to a point where meaninglessness might actually turn into meaning. It kind of melts your brain, this book, but that isn't a bad thing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Thing was selected for certain symmetrical assets that caught the bulging lusty eyes of MTV executives at a beach party. Surprisingly she hits it off with the viewing public and becomes a correspondent though she has the intelligence of a burned out light bulb. She is promoted as blond bimbo candy based on her garb unable to contain her twin peaks. However, seemingly even faster than Thing becomes a superstar, she becomes yesterday's fad.

As Thing plays chutes and ladders with fame, a Midwestern boy Bobby Peterson digs a hole that expands until his and his family and their house fall through the chasm. Thing begins to research the phenomena which she feels will bring her salvation. However, clues take on a strange journey through a land of mysticism highlighted in remote sign posts like Vegas and Roswell.

This is a strange tale that satirizes media coverage (to include a parody of John Reed) as being filled with sound and fury but signifying nothing more than an MTV video. Readers will feel for Thing, who is treated with disdain for having a boob size bigger than her IQ and enjoy the irony of the weird, but fun story line. Obviously most readers will not give Mr. Reed's tale a SNOWBALL'S CHANCE, but fans who enjoy a trip into a modern day looking glass led by a Black Rabbit and a Thing, though lacking in the wits and puns of Alice's holey escapade, will want to escape into the WHOLE tale.

Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By reader on January 13, 2005
Format: Paperback
Is there an ethical paradigm in cataclysmic geologic disaster?John Reed's newscaster protagonist Thing(das Ding?) spins out the querie as she broadcasts television coverage of the Whole in a story that comes at you like a frizbee.Language dances in every direction spewing hilarious puns and deliberate misnomers to boost an uncanny satirical plot.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By raulism on November 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book can be read as a simple story, or you can delve into many layers of parody and meaning. It's a searing indictment of pop culture... published by MTV books.

Other people have written some nice reviews of it, so I'll be brief. I'm getting it as a gift for my teenage niece in Los Angeles. I think she'll understand it quite well.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By TL on October 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
John Reed (A STILL SMALL VOICE) makes fantastic, thought-provoking use of the English language in a way that few are able to. His irony and humor bring absurdity to everyday observations of pop culture (and the ultimate irony? It is published by MTV books!), to the point that one laughs out loud (LOL!), when similarities to one's self are noted. At first judgement-by-cover, it appears to be a fun, light read put out by MTV, but Reed's use of language, irony, and insight make it anything but.

And the ending?? Oy, ve! The image created will forever remain in my mind. What animal are YOU?
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