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This narrative ploy arrives on Page , and not a moment too soon. With Mother on the wane and federal regulators closing in, Zeke sleeps with his sister-in-law, and then his barista, and then things really get out of hand. View all New York Times newsletters.

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But plot does not occupy a significant number of these pages. Crew models — and the musings of his study subjects.

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All of these things are funny, as is the surreal turn near the end: a government conspiracy, the Tasering of a houseplant, an unlikely phone call and an even unlikelier Friend Request. But its insistence on its own profundity is wearying. I fear, however, that Bakopoulos is asking too much of his readers: that we are supposed to keep one eyebrow arched for the duration, and exit winking. There is only so much we can read this way before we are overwhelmed by the desire to drop the pretense.

In the end, I find myself charmed by this writer, or at least by some plausible iteration of him. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser. See next articles. Newsletter Sign Up Continue reading the main story Please verify you're not a robot by clicking the box.

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Invalid email address. Please re-enter. You must select a newsletter to subscribe to. Sign Up. Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon. June 24, - Published on Amazon. Verified Purchase. This second novel didn't let me down. In fact, I think it offers an even more impressive display of his talents. He took a major risk here in creating an often unlikeable protagonist in Zeke Pappas.

But Zeke's as lovably unlikeable as Ignatius J. Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces. Zeke has major challenges to contend with on the personal and professional front. Personally, he's raising his nieces with his mother after his brother died in Iraq and the brother's wife died shortly thereafter.

But the mother has terminal cancer. Her will stipulates that if Zeke can't find a wife within days of her death, the girls' aunt will get custody of them. Determined to beat that deadline, Zeke has three potential candidates - a Starbucks barista he has a crush on, his assistant at work, and a neighbor who's in the midst of a divorce after her husband cheated on her. And oh, yes, he also has one long-shot candidate - Sofia Coppola.

Professionally, he's in trouble because an obscure branch of the Homeland Security Department is investigating possible misappropriations of the funds he's been using for the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative, a program design to foster interest in the humanities. Zeke hasn't done anything wrong himself, but his biggest patron, a closeted gay philanthropist has been using the program's credit card to cover his expensive trips with gay prostitutes and a closeted gay Congressman.

My American Unhappiness

As the federal investigators close in, it's fun to watch Zeke delude himself into believing that he can keep his program going and even expand it with his Inventory of American Unhappiness, a side project in which he asks people to answer the question, "Why are you so unhappy? His treatment of them borders on harassment, but each of the woman at some point gave him enough mixed signals that his pursuit of them doesn't register as stalking. For someone so humorously off-kilter, it's a little bit of a surprise at how successfully Zeke manages to get women into bed with him, but since his bottom-line intention is noble - trying to keep custody of his two nieces - he doesn't veer into the entirely creepy territory.

And you can't help but feel compassion for him because the great love of his life - a girl he married in college left him a young widower, although it's not clear if, when she disappeared, she really died. There's a lot of laugh out loud stuff here. And the various responses Zeke gets from random people about their unhappinesss - delivered through transcripts of his taped interviews or as e-mailed responses to the question on his Web site - are positively brilliant. The author let his imagination run wild and there are some very funny, poignant and marvelously specific responses.

Zeke is also very opinionated on the state of our materialistic, war-mongering culture during the Bush era, and those ruminations provides humorous and insightful commentary on our world in the 21st century.

Inventory of American Unhappiness #006

Zeke may be horribly self-deluded and shockingly misguided in his approach for finding a spouse, but tagging along as he makes one wrong choice after the next is a fun ride. July 8, - Published on Amazon. I truly loved this book.