My own particular American unhappiness the other night was that I was a broadband addict deprived of my fix. The storms that moved through Tuesday night knocked out our DSL line, at least that's what I thought. But when I called AT&T Support, they thought it might be my router and scheduled a tech to come out this afternoon. But just before the tech was supposed to come today, the broadband light on my router turned from flashing red to steady green. (I called back and canceled the appointment. Turns out it was the line.)
Nearly a day and a half without home wifi. What to do? I used my iPhone to access the net, but soon tired of that. I was looking for something more immersive than a tiny screen. Tried to do some writing, but the charm of that tiny touchscreen keyboard with the autocorrect with a mind of its own soon faded (it's a lot more pleasant when you can think of it as an added option, not a necessity).
Thrown back on my own resources, I decided to try mitigating my American unhappiness with a book of the same title -- My American Unhappiness, by Dean Bakopoulos, which I had received for Father's Day. The story unfolds slowly, and I was starting to get bored. Not the sort of instant gratification I get bopping around the web. But the voice of the hapless, clueless and utterly unreliable narrator, Zeke Pappas, grew on me. I really enjoyed the book and was sorry when it ended.
Bakopoulos provides a wry, gently satirical view of modern American life and love, with a humorously untrustworthy though endearing narrator who flounders around and gets into all sorts of trouble (including with an obscure -- and hopefully fictitious -- branch of Homeland Security). Great satire about pseudo-academic research and the think tanks and foundations that support it -- thus, the "Inventory of American Unhappiness." Also a fun read for Madison residents. (An incredibly maladroit attempt at seduction takes place in the dark, right here in Wingra Park.) Zeke Pappas is a character I'll remember fondly.
And I'm glad my home internet was down. If it had been available, I might have been too impatient to stick around for the real enjoyment the book provides -- especially after reading J. Robert Lennon's review in the Sunday NYT Book Review recently, one of those Times reviews of a second novel (the author's first was Please Don't Come Back from the Moon) that damns it with faint praise:
But the author seems a bit lost, adrift in unfamiliar waters, and the book feels less like a second novel than it does another try at a first.It's as if Lennon and I read different novels. Maybe it's just that somebody who pens that sort of exercise in critical one-upsmanship and general snippiness just can't appreciate the wise, sunny good humor of a book like this.