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Monsieur Mediocre--I wish.

Just read (most of) (I skipped a bunch) Monsieur Mediocre: One American Learns the High Art of Being Everyday French by John von Sothen.

Pretty disappointing. Mainly about his own self-absorbed life than anything else, and only sometimes about his self-absorbed life in France.

This book exemplifies the worst of ex-pat books--yeah, I went to France, live in France, married a French person, bought property in France, so now I'll just tell you what I did and experienced. And then I just throw in my own musings about any number of things, whether they have anything to do with France or not.

You know, just so I can meet the minimum word count demanded by my publisher. I'll tell you all about my life growing up in the US and about my parents and my predilections for certain substances. It'll be fun.

But, wait, there more--more tired writing and cliches and weak attempts at humor. (I think I laughed precisely once and groaned a lot.)

And I got this thing published because I'm a "journalist" and wrote a few things for publication.

Best bit is that he came to call Aix-en-Provence "Sex-en-Vacance" after his junior year abroad there.

Some insights into learning French and dealing with French people, but overall just not even mediocre.

Posted by
8293 posts

Well, I don’t know ...... in spite of your sour review, it sounds like a pretty good read to me.

Posted by
570 posts

Actually I’d never heard of John von Sothen, googled him and found a Vanity Fair piece he did about Gad Elmaleh the French comedian who broke into US stand up through Jerry Seinfeld. I like Gad’s humor and have caught his show in France, so I was primed to like the article.

Then I saw the JVS website. Uhh-oh! If the book is on my local library digital website, now I’m curious.

Barbra, you brought the forum the Comme Une Française website, so I’ll always be in your debt.

Posted by
242 posts

Expat books, especially expats-in-France books, are such a tricky genre!

Posted by
293 posts

But gosh those Peter Mayle books...I'm usually in stitches with those, in fact I have one right now that I'm going to get to soon.

Posted by
2762 posts

Barbra, I've read more ex-pat books involving France than I can remember. Some were very good, but many were just like you describe here. I've pretty much stopped reading them. I probably won't even look into this one.

Posted by
1122 posts

Yes, how many does one have to read? But hard to resist.

I'm just saying (HINT) that perhaps this book is best obtained from your library and not your bookseller.

But the author does mention having chronic bronchitis, which reminded me of the crud I caught in Avignon. And, he says, doctors there just pump folks full of antibiotics, which is what my doc there did--but it did not help at all.

In fact, I felt lousy for about another four months after returning home.

And then I saw an article in Le Figaro today about how in France an extremely high percentage of doctor's office visits end with a prescription: Meds are virtually free for anyone with a Carte Vitale, I understand.

And then scrolling down a bit I saw a piece on how dirty Paris is and a short video of Anne Hidalgo exhorting folks to clean it up.

I don't know, could all the dog waste and perhaps lax garbage practices contribute to things like bronchitis?

Just wondering.