John Lincoln is a book editor miserably ensconced at Pistakee, a dinky Chicago publisher. His overwhelming ambition is to flee the bland, over polite Midwest and land in New York—where, he imagines, he’ll work with real writers; brandish success at his skeptical, patrician East Coast parents; and experience again the glories of a city where, with “every block, every step,” he will find something interesting and exciting.
What he needs is a hot bestseller, and he finds his vehicle in Amy O’Malley, a recent University of Chicago grad who’s worked on the school’s famous sex survey. With Lincoln’s prodding and guidance, Amy writes a sex-filled novel that draws on her experience. Her book indeed opens doors for Lincoln—but not in the way he imagined. Meanwhile, a professor of happiness studies at a local college blackmails him into publishing his fantastically mundane poetry.
Reminiscent of Richard Russo’s Straight Man, Are You Happy Now? is a comic novel about the hard work of understanding what it is you want.