Sunday, December 11, 2011

Busy Monsters by William Giraldi

I did my best to like this novel. I was impressed by an interview with Giraldi in Poets & Writers magazine and I thought Giraldi's short story, "Hold the Dark" in the Winter 2011-12 issue of Ploughshares was wonderful. I'm afraid I gave up on Busy Monsters around page 100, however.

It certainly starts with a bang: "Stunned by love and some would say stupid from too much sex, I decided I had to drive down South to kill a man." Who could not keep reading after an opening sentence like that?

I could. I found the narrator, Charles Homar, both unbelievable, unsympathetic, and ultimately I did not care what crazy pickle in which he next found himself. In Chapter One he feels he has no alternative to marital happiness with the adorable Gillian, "the only woman I've ever met who hasn't asked me to adjust my persona, enlarge my heart, tweak my ideas, or alter my language, and this from a lady with Opinions," except to murder her former lover who threatens the lovebirds. He's assisted in this plan by a high school buddy, Groot, a Navy SEAL and experienced killer. When Charles finally reaches the home of the former lover, timidly intent on mayhem, however, he finds the guy has offed himself, saving Charles' conscience. Gillian can now be his.

No. Gillian, who is obsessed by the giant squid, has abandoned Charles and her marriage plans to join a world-famous giant squid hunter without so much as a by-your-leave to poor Charles. Charles follows her to a port in southern Maine, armed with an untraceable automatic rifle (thank you Groot), that he eventually empties into the hull of the world-famous giant squid hunter's ship. Charles is locked away in a minimum security facility for three months and Gillian sails off with her squid hunter.

I gave up on the book when Groot suggests that Charles could win his lady love away from the squid hunter by bagging the (a?) Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest. Big Foot would be more impressive than a giant squid. And Charles apparently accepts this logic.

I had the feeling Giraldi was strained for originality. I thought much of the writing was great: "The whole way down to Virginia [to murder the ex-boyfriend], I listened to Nina Simone to comfort the shebang out of me. If I were a man given to the depth of philosophy, this would have been the time: more than eight hours in my cushioned car, a killer's knife tucked into my boot, on my way to commit a capital crime, all for the love of a woman and, sure, an uninterrupted existence. Of course I considered the law and my soul, but neither seemed very vital just then...."

Yet halfway through, I just didn't care enough to go on. This is, I have no doubt, my failure, not Giraldi's. I guess all I can say is that if this is the sort of think you like, you'll like this.

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