Busy Monsters by William Giraldi

“For example, I myself do not care for the nitwit twangy platitudes and silly hats of country-western– and this despite the Garth Brooks always on rotation in Groot’s vehicle– but I’d suffer welts and lesions without certain R&B singers and, say, David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust. Who does not require Bruce Springsteen– they don’t call him the Boss for nothing– snarling about a road called Thunder and how to get where it goes? Or Dylan gargling, bring’ it all back home? Neil Young and his thrasher? But my cellmate: the mutant nearly had a conniption when I’d tune our radio to the folk station to sing along with love-torn acoustic guitars. You tell me: what kind of person doesn’t appreciate a salty piano ballad with lyrics sung through smoke? Precisely my point: a mutated one.”

If ever a book deserved the term ‘whirlwind’, this book is it. Charles Homar, a memoir columnist, writes about his life as he experiences it week by week. Lately, his life has been a little more hectic than average. His bride-to-be Gillian Lee has ditched their life together and run away with a seaman to fulfill her lifelong dream; to capture a living Giant Squid. Homar comes home to an empty closet and a broken heart. In a quest to win back Gillian and prove his mettle, Homar flings himself headfirst into various strange and mythical expeditions. He hunts Bigfoot, helps a friend discover whether Aliens exist, meets a professional bodybuilder (and sex slaves, whom it is pointed out, engage in such things for fun as they both have college degrees) and then ends up in Boston with ghost hunters.

This novel explores a lot of ideas. Whether or not memoirs are truth, American excess, our belief in the unknown and even modern struggles in love. Gillian leaves Charles to hunt the squid because she doesn’t want to spend her life wishing she had pursued her own dreams. Charles’ weekly memoirs of his odyssey to win her back are off the wall fun from a ridiculously skewed point of view. There were times when I severely disliked Charles and other times when I loved him. The characters in the book question what he wrote about them in his memoirs, which helps to balance out our complete immersion in his world.

“I knew this vulgarian was a colossus of a gent whose voice and testicular presence could hush the human flotsam in any riled-up room.”

I admit when I started reading, the language caught me off guard. The narrator speaks as if a thousand synonyms are whirling around in his head just to shoot out in every sentence, taking the listener unawares. Once I got used to how he spoke, Busy Monsters was hard to put down. Maybe I’m just a sucker for so many interesting phrases but I really enjoyed how Charles describes everything with inventiveness and imagery.

“And so I let Gililan stroll away that night, a dark cavern beneath my breastplate, all the bats slapping their wings wildly.”

I’m not sure if this comes naturally to Mr. Giraldi, or if he spent many a night curled up with a thesaurus and a flashlight, but I was highly entertained either way.

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