Busy Monsters by William Giraldi

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Busy Monsters by William Giraldi

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A funny look at a journalist on an adventure to capture his love, who is trying to catch a giant squid in her turn.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 282 Date: August 2011
Publisher: W W Norton and Co
ISBN: 978-0393079623

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Charles Homar loves his Gillian. He's proved it to us, if not to her, by going after her possessive, jealous state trooper of an ex with the intent to kill - if only ended up rescuing a cat instead. But lo and behold, she's declared she's off to discover the real love of her life - the giant squid. Failing to stop this, Charlie spends too long with a Nessie obsessive, then goes on a hunt of his own - for Bigfoot, all the while, chapter by chapter, sending his narrative of the same to a magazine as essays for one of those autobiographical, frivolous columns.

If there's one genre that consistently ends up being written like cheap, flippant journalism, it's chick-lit, and this actually reminded me of it. Charlie shooting sixty automatic rifle rounds through a boat and failing to sink it is akin to one of Bridget Jones's SNAFUs. It's just she didn't have an ex-Navy SEALS agent being the devil's advocate in her life, arming her and telling her what to do and with whom.

The fact that this book is designed to be read in the same light, brisk and chatty manner of a paper columnist isn't actually to its detriment - until perhaps too many characters put in their own criticisms of his style midway through. There is of course also a light, brisk and chatty manner of lad-lit on the market, and were it not for the stark typography and nothing else that adorns the cover of my copy, I would possibly classify this as such. Certainly the picaresque routine of one monster after another allows for a surprising (and surprisingly believable) life for Charlie.

Perhaps though when the third quarter starts having women in his circle as the titular beasts, followed by other human characters, then obviously Charlie himself, something is lost. You could suggest Giraldi didn't have the strength of his convictions - he could have thrown in a few more wacky adventures and monsters before hitting on black lesbian harridans.

But by the end, with a final brand of monster, we see the warm- and lighthearted core of the novel back to the fore. It might, as it admits, be sometimes at the exact point at which mumbo meets jumbo, but on the whole this new-styled look at old-fashioned obsessive love and the determination the heart gives one in facing up to one's monsters is witty, sprightly and spry enough for consideration.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

Gillian, in being intent on reading anything featuring a giant squid, would have had to pick up Kraken by China Mieville. For a look at a family split up instead by surreal ideas, we liked The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.

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Buy Busy Monsters by William Giraldi at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Busy Monsters by William Giraldi at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Busy Monsters by William Giraldi at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Busy Monsters by William Giraldi at Amazon.com.


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