July 8, 2011
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Dean Bakopoulos's second novel My American Unhappiness is a brilliant satirical dark comedy that brims with social commentary, humor, and compassion.
Kirkus Reviews wrote of the book:
"Novels about downward spirals and crack-ups are generally gloomy affairs, but here’s one that shimmers with mischief and offbeat charm."
My protagonist, Zeke Pappas, fancies himself a bit of a cultural maven, a member of the ultra-hip and the avant garde. But he's actually a man with deeply earnest bourgeois desires—he's drawn to the pre-packaged, the sanitized. Zeke's also an emotional wreck, self-centered enough to feel as if the world should be playing a soundtrack tailored to his whims, delusions, and incredibly debilitating crushes.
The novel ends with Zeke in a nondescript Detroit suburb, getting a beverage from a Starbucks barista. In my mind's eye, I like to think he's still driving around the Midwest somewhere, as damaged and delusional as ever, and this is what's on his car stereo:
"Calgary" by Bon Iver
Something about Justin Vernon's meandering falsetto, layered harmonies, and heart-on-sleeve lyrics sends earnest, melancholy Wisconsin boys into full out reveries. Zeke is prone to reveries, and you can imagine this song backing a daydream of heading into the Canadian Rockies with his favorite Starbucks barista at his side.
"I Guess I Just Wasn't Made for These Times" by the Beach Boys
The Pet Sounds album is magical, summer pop with one of the darkest subtexts a fellow has ever heard. Zeke believes that the whole nation is slipping into a permanent gloom, and one can imagine him blaring this tune's insistent chorus, "Sometimes I get very sad/Sometimes I get very sad/Sometimes I get very sad."
"Rolling in the Deep" by Adele
The easy, snappy drive of the season's best pop song is perfect for Zeke. The song is everywhere and sounds deceptively upbeat at first listen, but it's heavy with undertones of two of Zeke's favorite things: regret and lust. Guilt-free pop for smart boys.
"Pour Your Night Eyes" by Frontier Ruckus
Every tune by this Michigan-based band treads, delightfully, that fine line between the lyrical and the narrative, with imagery as fine as any poem. But this song, a short and simple tune featured on the Zeke Pappas YouTube channel, captures the desire Zeke has to connect with unhappy people, particularly those that happen to be strikingly beautiful women in their thirties.
"Badlands" by Bruce Springsteen
Zeke wants to forget his deeply blue collar roots, but there's nothing like a classic Boss anthem to remind him that he's spent his whole life trying to be something that, perhaps, he's not. Still, Zeke's favorite line would have to be the brilliant, "It ain't no sin to be glad you're alive," even though, in his mind, it is.
"Hollywood Nights" by Bob Seger
Seger? Seriously? Look, I'm going to defend Zeke on this one. Midwesterners like me, according to some critics, traffic in workaday emotions, but, seriously, what else is there? We're workaday people. And nobody approaches the wild streak that lingers in the bosom of every workaday man in the heartland with more dignity and poetry than Bob F-ing Seger. If you can't understand the magic of blaring "Hollywood Nights" while heading west on a highway in your nondescript American four door, well, then, man, you won't understand Zeke Pappas. Or me.
Dean Bakopoulos and My American Unhappiness links:
The Best Damn Creative Writing Blog review
Chicks Dig Books review
Creative Loafing Tampa review
Kirkus Reviews review
Letter from Here review
New York Times review
Northwest Book Lovers review
O Magazine review
Publishers Weekly review
A.V. Club interview with the author
Fiction Writer's Review essay by the author (author's notes o the book)
Hot Metal Bridge interview with the author
My Book, the Movie guest post by the author
Time Out Chicago interview with the author
Wisconsin Academy interview with the author
Wisconsin State Journal interview with the author
also at Largehearted Boy:
other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists
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