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Literary Friday: My American Unhappiness

Friday, June 24, 2011


This week I read My American Unhappiness by Dean Bakopoulos.  It is about Zeke Pappas, a thirty-three year old liberal scholar living in Madison, Wisconsin, perhaps the most liberal of all American college towns. Zeke heads the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative, a federally-funded program meant to "foster a greater sense of community, increase public literacy, and strengthen levels of civic engagements in the American heartland."  His pet project is An Inventory of American Unhappiness, an attempt to document, study, and analyze why Americans are unhappy.  He even strives to hold a Midwestern Unhappiness Festival with future grant money.  Poor Zeke! Someone should have told him that liberals do not care about the flyover states, regardless of how blue Madison is! Zeke's assistant, Lara, understands that the program's money has run out, and prospects for future grants and earmarks are nonexistent.

Funding for the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative is just one of many problems poor Zeke is facing:  he is a widower whose wife disappeared shortly after their college marriage; his mother is terminally ill; he is caring for his orphaned seven year old twin nieces; and he needs to get married if he wants to maintain custody of the twins after his mother's death. Zeke's mother gives him an article from Simply You magazine that will aid him in finding a wife.  So what if it was written for women: Zeke will use the article's step-by-step method and adapt it for a man.  The first step is to make a list of four prospects, one can be a long shot.  Zeke places these women on his list: his recently divorced neighbor, a barrista from Starbucks, his assistant Lara, and Sofia Coppola (the long shot).

Each chapter in My American Unhappiness begins with Zeke *this* or Zeke Pappas *that*....for example: "Zeke Pappas needs a triple shot of gusto" and "Zeke is coming to dinner."  So I thought I would give Zeke Pappas a bit of wisdom since the poor guy needs my help.  Desperately.

Zeke Papps is a clairvoyant.

Zeke can guess strangers' drink and snack orders at Starbucks with amazing accuracy. Zeke, honey, you need to harness that power for good rather than evil.  You could negotiate for your own reality TV show and become rich: then you would not need to depend on the government for your scholarly pursuits. The private sector always provides more with much less waste.

Zeke Pappas need to grab a clue.

Like many liberals, Zeke is intelligent, but he lacks wisdom.  His rationale for his An Inventory of American Unhappiness project is that Americans are "fundamentally unhappy because they suffer from institutional addiction." Zeke goes on to explain how we are educated with a targeted skill in order to get a job to buy a house and pay a mortgage.  So universities, big business, and financial institutions are to blame.  Zeke, honey, you left out the federal government who wants to take our money and waste it on administrative costs and bureaucracy while truly providing very few services for the money.

Zeke Pappas does not know how to get his flirt on.

Uh-uh, no way did you say/do/ask that to/of a lady.  I refuse to give spoilers here, but either Zeke is the most inept womanizer or he is a sociopath.  The jury is still out...I can't quite decide.  Zeke, you are truly charming until you open your mouth.  Don't.

Zeke Pappas gets some advice.

Zeke, let me quote an American to whom you can probably relate, one who was a liberal and a progressive:

Someone once asked me what I regarded as the three most important requirements for happiness. My answer was: "A feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others."
- Eleanor Roosevelt   

A conservative could not have said it better!  Now you know what to do.

Disclaimer:  I hope my liberal friends will still speak to me after reading this. You know that I love you! Also, Dean Bakopoulos can write.  My American Unhappiness is a fantastic book despite Zeke's liberal rants.  I would love to ask Zeke how hope and change is working out for him ;P....  But seriously,  I would love for my daughter (an aspiring writer) to have the opportunity to take one of Dean Bakopoulos's classes.  That is very high praise coming from a mother.

Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. So glad I dropped in for a visit. I just wrote a post inviting readers to share with me their top 3 reads for the summer....would this count I wonder? I love the fact that you get in so much reading! REally inspirational.

  2. So? Would you say you were happy that you read it? Sometimes I end up angry when I have to wade through all the liberal slush.... I made a note to link up for the 20th. I have a book club to ... I just love it! :)


    P.S. Don't forget to let me know about the Provence Cure to a Broken Heart... I'm dieing to know if it is good....

  3. My favorite part of these literary posts is your commentary!! That is precious!!
    AND, WE are the last 2 people in blogland to get cloches!! I just got mine!! I didn't even have a clue what to put in it!! But that is whats so good about cloches. It doesn't matter what you put in them, it always looks good!!
    Can't wait to see yours, and read your next literary post!!


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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