The quirky adventures of a Frenchman in America.
Poet, novelist and French-English translator Kent has a unique character in Albert Nostran. He was introduced in The Big Jiggety (2005), a coming-of-age yarn that followed the ill-prepared French-born American’s struggle through collegiate life in Montana and Maine in the 1970s. Here, Kent vibrantly continues Nostran’s chronicles as a pensive college senior double-majoring in English and art and pondering what’s sure to be “a field of question marks” upon graduation. He continues to live in the freshman Hollister Hall dormitory suite shared with plucky roommate Willy Lee. Only dabbling in photography, Nostran is anxious about postgraduation job prospects, and with little girlfriend experience beyond Sabine back in his native France, his mind becomes unnecessarily preoccupied with Willy’s sexuality. A parade of peripheral characters marches through Kent’s dialogue-driven narrative, most tapping into the uncertainty of postcollege life. Some, such as randy professor DeBaal, are eager to explore Nostran’s more carnal desires. Nostran’s breaks are spent hitchhiking to Stone Harbor, Massachusetts, where his paranoid, brutish American father once enjoyed a livelihood as a journalist for Thyme Magazine. His mother, having sold the family home in France to relocate to Stone Harbor, is unimpressed with the seaside town’s alcohol restrictions, but once settled in, the Nostran family accepts America as their new home while Albert continues his job-seeking exploits amid the clash of cultures. The text features a surfeit of introspective musings that add humor and creative energy to Kent’s oddly addictive narrative. Also helping is a hodgepodge of well-placed references to classic American literature and abstract art history. Setting the novel in motion early is a comical scene in which the reluctant protagonist is lightheartedly coerced into allowing Willy to become his roommate because “only weird guys are worth hanging out with.” This cast of eccentrics is worth spending time with as well.
fun, original novel about seeing culture through foreign eyes.