“Why are you so unhappy?” That’s the question that Zeke Pappas, a thirty-three-year-old scholar, asks almost everybody he meets as part of an obsessive project, “The Inventory of American Unhappiness.” The answers he receives—a mix of true sadness and absurd complaint—create a collage of woe. Zeke, meanwhile, remains delightfully oblivious to the increasingly harsh realities that threaten his daily routine, opting instead to focus his energy on finding the perfect mate so that he can gain custody of his orphaned nieces. Following steps outlined in a women’s magazine, the ever-optimistic Zeke identifies some “prospects”: a newly divorced neighbor, a coffeehouse barista, his administrative assistant, and Sofia Coppola (“Why not aim high?”).
A clairvoyant when it comes to the Starbucks orders of strangers, a quixotic renegade when it comes to the federal bureaucracy, and a devoted believer in the afternoon cocktail and the evening binge, Zeke has an irreverent voice that is a marvel of lacerating wit and heart-on-sleeve emotion, underscored by a creeping paranoia and made more urgent by the hope that if he can only find a wife, he might have a second chance at life.
About Dean BakopoulosSee more books from this Author
And Zeke’s pompous and overfamiliar declarations about the nature of American unhappiness serve only to foreground the book’s essential frivolity: “Everywhere I go, I can see it, such unhappiness, such an overwhelming need to be drugged and distracted, lest a moment of silent, melancholy self-ref...Jun 10 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
In Bakopoulos's wan second novel (after Please Don't Come Back from the Moon), Zeke Pappas, the director of a humanities institute in Wisconsin, is conducting an epic survey of American unhappiness, a project he considers his life's work.Feb 14 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
The main character and setting of "My American Unhappiness" manage to be imaginatively mundane: Zeke Pappas, a man raised by a now-deceased Greek immigrant father and a chain-smoking mother who works at the Old Country Buffet, is residing in the liberal hamlet of Madison, Wis., where he heads up ...Aug 07 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
Can you write a comic novel about unhappiness?Aug 12 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
As chair of the Madison-based Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative, Zeke can fund the research to find an answer, which primarily involves his asking people, through live interviews or email, why they're unhappy.Jun 04 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
After all, like Cornell, Zeke too wants to find the “magic in our collective dross.” To this end, Zee’s latest (and what he assumes will be his most enduring) work is documenting the unhappiness shared by his fellow Americans.Jun 16 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
In his recent essay for FWR, Bakopoulos borrows the form of the author’s note to meditate on the process of writing his second novel.Jun 07 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
Then the story takes an unexpected and horrifying twist: Zeke's old and very traditional mother is dying, and decides to leave custody of the children to Zeke's married, female, Republican cousin who they see twice a year, because Zeke is not married, because he is a democrat, because he has work...Aug 01 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
Lots of people were unhappy during the first eight years of this century, but Zeke Pappas seems to personify every single one of them.Jun 24 2011 | Read Full Review of My American Unhappiness
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