Love, obsession, and cephalopods: Busy Monsters by William Giraldi

I've just closed the back cover on Busy Monsters, the debut novel from William Giraldi, a breakneck plunge through a world of love, obsession and giant squid.


Join the imaginative world of Charles Homar, a diarist of some mediocre fame who is thrown into disarray when the love of his life abandons him to hunt the frigid Antarctic waters for the creature of her dreams, the giant squid. Heartbroken and lost, Charles wanders across America, trying to make sense of his loss, becoming embroiled in endless adventures involving Sasquatch, manipulative UFO-seeking midgets, tantric Ivy League sex goddesses, ghost hunters, boxing lesbians, and a host of characters who may or may not exist as Charles reports them. Our hero is by turns intrepid, cowardly, astute, stupid, vulnerable, excessive, but forever earnest and eloquent.

Giraldi's writing is fragmented, chaotic, poetic and funny, prompting much comparison to Vonnegut and Heller, and the anarchic adventures of his protagonist bring Palahniuk to mind. That alone is enough to let me love this book, but it's also a sharp satire on modern life and the slippery boundaries between male rationalism and fever dreams of love.

I can't tell you one of my favourite parts of the book, it being a major plot point tucked into the final chapter, but here's Charles' wonderful putdown to a motel clerk who makes the mistake of confiding in him that she'd like to write:

     "No, no, chose something else. I hear basket weaving is a hoot, also badminton."

     "But you chose writing, why can't I?"

     Those eyes like lozenges looked ready to water; freckles began disappearing beneath a blush.

     "You think I chose this? To sit alone in a room, pounding keys for a pittance? You think I like to write? Darling, I didn't choose this. If it hadn't chosen me when I wasn't paying attention I would have preferred a life in the rodeo or else a race car. Anything but this time-consuming and head-scratching nuisance full of rejection and debt."

     "But it's art, Mr Homar."

     "It's what?" I asked.


     "What is that?"

     Her expression just then hollered animus and letdown.

     "Mr. Homar," she said, "you're influenza."

     And me, the moron, I replied with thank you, because I thought she might have said influential.

I sense not just Charles Homar in these words, but William Giraldi, and anyone who's ever written to put food on their table.

Busy Monsters is a wonderful book for everyone who has had their world bent and curled by the gravity of love, and had the bravery to scale those mountains of obsession.

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My problem with the whole book was the feeling that Homar was Giraldi. Well, that was one of my problems. The fact that most of the characters talked in the same voice was another...

Aren't all protagonists in a book thinly veiled avatars of the author? :)

To your second point: I think the joke is that we're seeing things through Homar's eyes; he's narrating his experiences and so people in them take on his voice. The Mocha episode shows that he's not a very faithful reporter, implying his adventures are half-fact, half-fantasy.