My American Unhappiness

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“But, do trust me on this, all men make an instant sexual judgment each time they see a woman—yes, she looks like someone I would want to sleep with, or no, not at this time.”

Never a true word, at least within the bounds of this book. Many authors try not to present women as constant sex objects anymore, but Bakopoulos is bucking the trend, let me tell you.

Actually this novel is a really strange paradox: on the one hand, it’s very much a male novel. Zeke, the protagonist, describes his masturbation habits in graphic detail, at one point categorizes the possible date-ibility of the women in his life (for a greater cause, admittedly), and thinks about women’s body parts a lot. This is all in the name of deepening the character’s loneliness, his isolation from romantic love. It’s still a bit over the top though.

The other side of this paradox is that, given the number of women characters compared to men, this should be a more feminine book. This is the story of a man whose life is ruled by women: his only co-worker is a woman, he lives with his mother and his twin nieces, and he spends most of the novel in the company of women, as opposed to men.

But all of these women are defined exclusively by their relationship to him. There’s a moment when the twins say goodbye to someone in which there’s a hint of depth to that relationship, but at no other point do the women in the novel have a relationship to each other. Sometimes they’re defined by their relationship to other men, but as a rule, it’s all about Zeke. Again, this is part of characterizing his isolation. On the other hand, it’s not the strongest authorial choice, because it means that most of the characters in the novel are boring and depth-less.

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