Synopses & Reviews
“My American Unhappiness
is a smart, funny, charming novel — an incisive critique of the way we live now, but armed, unlike most contemporary satire, with a big, generous heart. I got addicted to the misadventures of Zeke Pappas. I didnt 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 Fords Frank Bascombe, telling a long, tall tale of anomie in the heartland.” —Tom Piazza, author of Why New Orleans Matters
“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. Theres no such thing as unhappiness when youre 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 authors 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
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
PRAISE FOR PLEASE DON'T COME BACK FROM THE MOON
"A beautifully smart, comic, and moving narrative about the fathers who disappear and the sons who take their place, Please Don't Come Back from the Moon is somehow both realistic and visionary . . . This is a wonderful book." -Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love
"Families, heartbreak, political and social comedy-there is little that Dean Bakopoulos doesn't grasp in an articulate, wittily perceptive, and soulful way, before he hands it back to the reader as literary art. Please Don't Come Back from the Moon is an original and brilliant first work of fiction."--Lorrie Moore
"[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
PRAISE FOR PLEASE DON'T COME BACK FROM THE MOON
"Gorgeous, painful, and exquisitely written, Please Don't Come Back From the Moon is about the impossible things we believe because the truth may simply be too hard."--The Boston Globe
"By deftly welding magic realism with social satire, Bakopoulos captures the dark side of the working-class dream."--The New York Times Book Review
"Bakapoulos' endearing first novel . . . is a tale that, despite the boys' empty longing, is full of hope."- People
A witty and emotionally raw novel from the award-winning Dean Bakopoulos that introduces Zeke, a scholar looking for love—and a second chance at life.
"Bakopoulos has invented a man for all rainy seasons--a horny, heartbroken cousin of Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe." --Tom Piazza
"A winning distraction, a smart entertainment." --New York Times Book Review
A clairvoyant when it comes to the Starbucks orders, a renegade when it comes to bureaucracy, Zeke asks almost everybody he meets, "Why are you so unhappy?" The answers he receives--a mix of true sadness and absurd complaint--become the core of an obsessive project, "The Inventory of American Unhappiness," a project that becomes all the more personally meaningful as he follows steps outlined in a women's magazine on finding the perfect mate. Incisively tapping the voice of one of the most charming--and deluded--narrators to come along in years, Dean Bakopolous captures our zeitgeist with lacerating wit and a big heart, confirming Jonathan Miles's (author of Dear American Airlines) claim that "there's no such thing as unhappiness when you're holding a Dean Bakopolous novel."
"Hilarious and heartfelt . . . This funny-sad novel seems to take elements of the author's own life . . . and twists them in a funhouse mirror--with delightful results." --NPR
“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.
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.
“Bakopoulos has invented a man for all rainy seasons—a horny, heartbroken cousin of Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe.” —Tom Piazza
“A winning distraction, a smart entertainment.” —New York Times Book Review
A clairvoyant when it comes to the Starbucks orders, a renegade when it comes to bureaucracy, Zeke asks almost everybody he meets, “Why are you so unhappy?” The answers he receives—a mix of true sadness and absurd complaint—become the core of an obsessive project, “The Inventory of American Unhappiness,” a project that becomes all the more personally meaningful as he follows steps outlined in a women’s magazine on finding the perfect mate. Incisively tapping the voice of one of the most charming—and deluded—narrators to come along in years, Dean Bakopolous captures our zeitgeist with lacerating wit and a big heart, confirming Jonathan Miles’s (author of Dear American Airlines) claim that “there’s no such thing as unhappiness when you’re holding a Dean Bakopolous novel.”
“Hilarious and heartfelt . . . This funny-sad novel seems to take elements of the author’s own life . . . and twists them in a funhouse mirror—with delightful results.” —NPR
The summer Michael Smolij turns sixteen, his father disappears. One by one other men also vanish from the blue-collar neighborhood outside Detroit where their fathers before them had lived, raised families, and, in a more promising era, worked. One man props open the door to his shoe store and leaves a note. "I'm going to the moon," it reads. "I took the cash."
The wives drink, brawl, and sleep around, gradually settling down to make new lives and shaking off the belief in an American dream that, like their husbands, has proven to be a thing of the past. Unable to leave the neighborhood their fathers abandoned, Michael and his friends stumble through their twenties until the restlessness of the fathers blooms in them, threatening to carry them away.
This is a haunting, unforgettable debut novel for anyone who has ever been left longing.
Sometimes the planes dont fly on time.
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 OHare 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. A man both sinned against and sinning, Bennie writes in a voice that is a marvel of lacerating wit, heart-on-sleeve emotion, and wide-ranging erudition, underlined by a consistent groundnote of regret 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, wicked humor, vulnerability, intelligence, and regret, Dear American Airlines gives new meaning to the term airport novel” and announces the emergence of major new talent in American fiction.
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.
Table of Contents
1 please don't come back from the moon................................1
2 some memories of my father..........................................27
3 summer, 1992........................................................33
4 the calming effect of jelly doughnuts...............................51
5 a newcomer's guide to ann arbor.....................................75
6 the boy with the backward chakra....................................79
7 capable of love.....................................................141
8 knights of labor....................................................145
9 the warning signs and symptoms of depression........................199
10 please don't come back from the moon (reprise).....................231