THE BIG JIGGETY, a picaresque, romantic, humorous, philosophical, sociological, (mostly autobiographical) novel, relates the travels and travails of Albert Nostran. An 18-year old American born and raised in the country outside 25 miles east of Paris, his quest is to find America, a woman, and himself. Lugging his guitar, Don Pedro, fleeing his cantankerous father, well-meaning mother and a brother he wants to turn into a fellow musician, he braves disease, fatigue, cold and angst to land in Big Sky University in Missoula, Montana, to sink his teeth into the frozen American west. Many aspects of US/Montana life intrigue the protagonist, yet Nostran retains a European sense of history and critical mind; arguably a Tocqueville of the late 1970s, he never misses an opportunity to comment on the local societal oddities and contradictions. "Perhaps you were more French than you thought," Damian his childhood friend tells the homesick hero in chapter one. Before they launch off in an exploration of a bleak, wintery, nocturnal Paris, during which Nostran loses his innocence in the arms of a prostitute. After whom our hero believes he has contracted something nasty, yet another little inconvenience he must face when flying back to Chicago via London. And matters do not improve in the endless yet at times magical bus ride between Salt-Lake-City and Butte, and he comes close to freezing trying to hitch-hike along the wide open spaces between Butte and Missoula. A few pills later, the sex quest resumes. Undaunted, Nostran in his diaspora flirts with one woman and then another with precious little of the supposed Gallic related savoir faire. Life at the university does harbor the excitement of weekends and dormitory life, with its freshman friendships and na vet as well the tedium and occasional enlightenment of classes. And extra curricular activities, such as teaching dorm-mates how to strum a guitar. Against this background vivid characters are etched: Threats, the homophobic narcissistic football player; Rotch, another jock, who after having learned guitar from Albert begins to ridicule his former mentor. Up in Polson, Mt., we encounter Montcarlson and his wife, the curious couple who originally recommended the university. In Dubois, Wyoming, we meet Lancelot Wolf, owner of the Salamander Ranch, and Jim, the bisexual bartender, who reveals unexpected secrets about women the eager Nostran very quickly applies to Tweets, the stocky femme fatale in the blue car he more than befriends on yet another glacial return to Missoula. Bags repacked, the last U.S. trek takes him and two others back east to Chicago and New York--one American city whose intensity captivates him. If the USA experience at times mystified the adolescent, returning to France in the summer proves anticlimactic. At first. What the old country appears to lack in razzle-dazzle, it gradually makes up in terms of simplicity and deep-rooted friendships. Besides, after a stint with translations Nostran cannot sit still for long. Driving from his boyhood home in Seine-et-Marne (a little east of Paris), first up to Amsterdam with three rambunctious of old high school mates, then down to the Spanish border, via the Loire valley, with the equally lust-ridden Lecoq-Hasien, Nostran once again rediscovers the virtues of Europe and home. At the very last minute when all sexual hope has been abandoned, a young lady on the Saint-Jean-de-Luz boardwalk asks him for a light. She is not a prostitute and agrees to meet him the next day... *
The Big Jiggety
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