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. Misery is a hobby of this self-regarding misanthrope, whose interest in others' sadness can verge on fetishism ("Show me a sad woman, and I will fall in love"). As if to oblige his brooding, fate afflicts him with a relentless barrage of personal tragedies. Zeke, who is already a borderline alcoholic widower caring for his two orphaned nieces, learns that his mother is dying of cancer and that she plans to deny him custody of the girls unless he gets married before she dies. His candidates are a barista, his assistant, his neighbor, and, naturally, Sofia Coppola—though, really, any female will do. Zeke, unfortunately, comes off as more odious than endearing, glib and pompous for all of his slapstick moping, and lacking the depth of character needed to reveal him as anything other than an unpleasant schmuck, which is especially unfortunate considering Bakopoulos's wit and breezy prose. (June)
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My American Unhappiness
"shimmers with mischief and offbeat charm. A dark entertainment infused by a bluesy yearning for a better America."
"Bakopoulos writes with great heart and a cold eye, and his limpid, ironic prose will appeal to those who like the early work of Martin Amis."
"My American Unhappiness
is a smart, funny, charming novel - an incisive critique of the way we live now, but aremed, unlike contemporary satire, with a big, generous heart. I got addicted to the misadventures of Zeke Pappas. I didn't want the book to end."
-Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
"In Zeke Pappas, Dean Bakopoulos has invented a man for all rainy seasons - a horny, heartbroken cousin of Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe, telling a long, tall tale of anomie in the heartland."
-Tom Piazza, author of City of Refuge
"If the nature of despair, as Kierkegaard wrote, is to be unaware of itself, then Zeke Pappas is its perfect spokesman: a blithely deluded nebbish whose epic longings—to document the emptiness at the center of American life and to win the heart of Sofia Coppola and/or his local Starbucks barista—propel him into ever more twisted predicaments. There's no such thing as unhappiness when you're holding a Dean Bakopoulos novel in your hands."
- Jonathan Miles, author of Dear American Airlines
"Vivid as a searchlight gliding across suburban picture windows , MY AMERICAN UNHAPPINESS displays its author's saddened comic wisdom, as apparently self-effacing as it is marvelously inventive and observant. Dean Bakopoulos is a writer to watch, a novelist to cherish."
- Peter Straub, author of A Dark Matter
"Zeke Pappas, the visionary behind the American Unhappiness project, is the perfect hero for our times - an age of J. Crew catalogs and Starbucks lattes, of political absurdities and almost-fractured families barely holding themselves together. In telling Zeke's story, Dean Bakopoulos brings together razor-sharp comic timing, brilliant social commentary, and big-hearted compassion that embraces the imperfection of American life. The result is a smart, funny and exceptionally entertaining book."
-Alix Ohlin, author of Babylon and Other Stories
"My American Unhappiness
is a major accomplishment from one of my generation's finest storytellers, a profoundly funny, moving, beautifully-detailed, and ultimately hopeful portrait of our country in a certain moment. Its self-deprecating hero, Zack Pappas, earnest, kind, and brooding, with wry intelligence and deep compassion, is indelible. I loved every page of this book. The torch has been passed -- Dean Bakopoulos is our next great Midwestern writer."
- Davy Rothbart, The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas: Stories
, founder and editor of Found Magazine
, contributor to public radio'sThis American Life
"Dean Bakopoulos in an American prophet -- who divines the end of optimism in this brilliant new novel that will choke you with tears and laughter. My American Unhappiness
deserves a hallowed place on the shelf somewhere among Studs Terkel's Working
and Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. "
Benjamin Percy, The Wilding
and Refresh, Refresh