A character more familiar from real life than literature, Calvin Moretti, the 24-year-old narrator of Kris D'Agostino's debut novel, "The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac," has just moved back in with his family after dropping out of graduate school. His life does not resemble what he'd imagined for it. He spends too much money on records, hangs out with his high school friends, smokes joints in the family's third-floor bathroom, organizes his porn collection by category, and works at a preschool for autistic kids, whom he refers to in the first line of the book as retards. You've met him before, just probably not in a book.
Also living at home is his teenage sister, who's pregnant, and their older brother, a finance guy who wants to commission an artist to paint a portrait of him dressed as a samurai. The father, a pilot grounded by a life-threatening illness, is building a geodesic shelter in the back yard. The mother is trying to keep the house from foreclosing. Amid all this, our hero Calvin embarks on a quest for adulthood. The only problem is that he has no idea what that means or how's he's supposed to do it.
With his vague, watered-down wants, he is highly resistant to narrative, a character in search of a plot. He applies for an entry-level position at a film company that he tells us is "at least in some way connected to a field I care about. Or pretend to care about." He has a mini-crush on a woman -- who has a literal hole in her head -- but he just sort of hopes she'll show up at parties. He wants to move out of his parents' house and into a place of his own, but then again he kind of likes it at home with its familiar floorboard creaks and "Law & Order" reruns.
In other words, Calvin is not the slacker hero at the end of a Judd Apatow movie, the screwup who puts on a charmingly ill-fitting tie and steps over the shards of a broken bong into the slender arms of an impossibly attractive blonde. D'Agostino is more interested in extending the stasis that begins an Apatow movie over the course of an entire novel.
Without any definitive actions, "The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac" elicits its pleasures in smaller ways: nice people being nice, a loving family cohering around ordeals. Late in the book, Calvin's mother tells him it's been such a relief to have everyone around. He's confused: We drive each other crazy, he tells her.
"'We laugh a lot, too,' she points out."
Matt Burgess teaches at Macalester College and is the author of "Dogfight: A Love Story."