Synopses & Reviews
“Why are you so unhappy?” Thats 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 womens 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.
"This crisp yowl of a first novel from Miles, who covers books for Men's Journal and cocktails for the New York Times, finds despairing yet effusive litterateur Benjamin Ford midair in midlife crisis. Bennie is en route from New York, where he shares a cramped apartment with his stroke-disabled mother and her caretaker, to L.A., where he will attend his daughter Stella's wedding. He gets stranded at O'Hare when his connecting flight along with all others is unaccountably canceled. In the long, empty hours amid a marooned crowd, Bennie's demand for a refund quickly becomes a scathing yet oddly joyful reflection on his difficult life, and on the Polish novel he is translating. Bennie writes lightly of his 'dark years' of drinking, of his failed marriages, about his mother's descent into suicidal madness and about her marriage to Bennie's father, a survivor of a Nazi labor camp. Bennie's father recited Polish poetry for solace during Bennie's childhood, inadvertently setting Bennie's life course; Bennie's command of language as he describes his fellow strandees and his riotous embrace of his own feelings will have readers rooting for him. By the time flights resume, Miles has masterfully taken Bennie from grim resignation to the dazzling exhilaration of the possible. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"One of the many pleasures of Dear American Airlines is watching Benjamin's and Walenty's stories finally dovetail in a way that's not just philosophically but emotionally rewarding. Ah, but the digressions! Not every reader will love them as I did." Richard Russo, New York Times
"Mr. Miles is a superb writer and learned, too. Allusions, literary and otherwise, abound." Dallas Morning News
"This is writing that pulls no punches....It's also very funny." Los Angeles Times
"Miles has done a beautiful job of moderating Benny's riffs and rants, so that we get to know him gradually, circularly, as one might do a loquacious town crank who tells good stories." Boston Globe
"Turn to nearly any page and you'll find a funny, smart, touching, wonderfully caustic or well-turned sentence or paragraph." Chicago Tribune
"[Dear American Airlines] a heartfelt exploration of one man's psychic deterioration and the slim reed of hope to which, miraculously, he still clings...Miles has created a human being adrift, like all of us, in circumstances mostly not of his making and with no other choice but to try to muddle through."
-- David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
My American Unhappiness
"shimmers with mischief and offbeat charm. A dark entertainment infused by a bluesy yearning for a better America."
-Kirkus Reviews "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."
-Library Journal"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
Bennie Ford, a fifty-three-year-old failed poet turned translator, is traveling to his estranged daughters wedding when his flight is canceled. Stuck with thousands of fuming passengers in the purgatory of O'Hare International Airport, he watches the clock tick and realizes that he will miss the ceremony. Frustrated, irate, and helpless, Bennie does the only thing he can: he starts to write a letter. But what begins as a hilariously excoriating demand for a refund soon becomes a lament for a life gone awry, for years misspent, talent wasted, and happiness lost. Bennie's writing is infused with a sense of remorse for the actions of a lifetime — and made all the more urgent by the fading hope that if he can just make it to the wedding, he might have a chance to do something right.
A margarita blend of outrage, humor, vulnerability, intelligence, and regret, Dear American Airlines gives new meaning to the term "airport novel" and announces the emergence of a major new talent in American fiction.
From the cocktails columnist at the The New York Times comes the scathingly funny, deeply moving story of a stranded airline passenger, whose enraged letter of complaint transforms into a lament for a life gone awry.
From the author of Please Don't Come Back from the Moon, a charming, disturbing, and funny story of a more-than-slightly deluded young man's quest to find a bride.
About the Author
JONATHAN MILES's first novel, Dear American Airlines, was named a New York Times Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. A former columnist for the New York Times, he serves as a contributing editor to magazines as diverse as Field & Stream and Details, and writes regularly for the New York Times Book Review and The Literary Review (UK). A former longtime resident of Oxford, Mississippi, he currently lives with his family in rural New Jersey.