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Busy Monsters: A Novel Paperback – August 6, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Comedy, satire, farce, language. . . . [A] release from the familiar and banal . . . has the kind of agenda that gives heft to the picaresque novels from which it is derived. (New York Times Book Review, Editors’ Choice)

Wonderful. . . . Singular and arresting . . . filled with quirky turns of phrase, unexpected literary and cultural allusions, self-aware asides, and highfalutin word choices that would make Roget swell with pride. (Salon)

Starred Review. [A] riotous debut novel. (Publishers Weekly)

Starred Review. A brilliant first novel that may well be in the running for 2011 literary awards. (Library Journal)

About the Author

William Giraldi is the author of the critically hailed Busy Monsters and fiction editor for the journal AGNI at Boston University. He lives in Boston with his wife and sons.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (August 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039334293X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393342932
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,027,310 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tully on December 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
First, let me state that William Giraldi is a talented writer. He has great wit, he says funny things, writes loopy, often hilarious dialogue and, yes, you will probably laugh out loud more than once. There are clever, nicely done comic scenes here as well -- the scene in which the narrator's local priest encourages him to kill the narrator's rival because this will reduce the number of the world's atheists is very funny. As is Groot, the narrator's would-be mentor and sometime government assassin.

But there is no novel here. Most of BUSY MONSTERS is simply over-the-top, self-consciously zany nonsense. Hardly any of the characters are recognizable as actual human beings. Giraldi is simply not grounded here. There is no reality to this book. His tale goes from one ridiculous situation to another, filled with cardboard cutouts instead of people. This sort of thing can be quite funny in a 20-page story or a half-hour comedy skit,but it's not the stuff of which novels are made.

Also, the narrator's obsession with the physical charms of his missing lover is really juvenile. The last time I encountered anyone drooling to this degree over a female's body parts I was sixteen. Some of this is really hard to take.

The best comedy is grounded in reality. If I thought Giraldi was a talentless hack, I wouldn't be writing this review. But he's a talented man, an editor and writer of stories and essays, and he should know better. I hope he has gotten this low-grade comic stuff out of his system. I will check out his next book to see.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Steele on July 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This won't be a negative review, but I must confess that I started Busy Monsters last year and, one chapter into it, set it aside until this month. The writing tried so hard to be clever (for lack of a better word) that it made reading it an ordeal. Upon opening it again, I felt compelled to push through, and I'm thrilled that I did, because I found the story more engaging and the writing more entertaining than I had given it credit for the first time. I think what bothered me at first was my disconnect with the nature of the story; when I realized that I was actually reading Charles Homar's magazine pieces, the style made more sense. And, when I realized that Homar could easily be (and probably was) an unreliable narrator, the style fit even more. This definitely isn't a novel for everyone, and I agree with the reviewers here that noted it often felt like one episode after another with a shiny new quirky character, but I must say that Giraldi produces some of the most original figurative language I have read, frequently leading me to pause, think about the comparison or allusion, and then smile. Busy Monsters definitely has flaws, but the overall product is an entertaining and original work I am glad I gave a second chance.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Spicejar on November 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the oddest or weirdest book I have read in years. It was kinda boring and very long but at the same time I kept reading it and wondering why. Others have already discussed the illusion to Homer so I will not be redundant. This is not really funny. Each chapter is devoted to one exploit. There's a UFO con artist, a Bigfoot hunter, and many other oddities. The language is convoluted and the sentences unnecessarily complex with rarely used words or even a few made up by the author. He is not correct several times. He mentions being so faint it made him dizzy but it is the other way around, you are so dizzy, you feel faint. he mentions the cerebellum when he means the cerebral cortex, or cerebrum. The cerebellum has to do with gait and balance along with fine motor movements such as rapid finger and hand movements.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Richardson on December 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book. Most sentences were amazingly inventive and often funny. It is a matter of taste and if you don't love the language or find it amusing then there is not much else to keep you reading. The plot and the characters are okay but all seen through the crazy hero's point of view.
You'll like this book if you like the writing. Any quick sample will be enough to decide. I loved the style and the humor.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Lleu Christopher on February 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Busy Monsters would seem to be one of those "love it or hate it" type books, but I found myself ambivalent about it. It's surely an original enough book, but very self-consciously so. I'm torn between feeling that William Giraldi is a gifted writer with a deep understanding of the human condition and dismissing him as pretentious and someone being clever for the sake of being clever. In other words, the novel has a similar effect on me that many works of modern art do.

The plot of Busy Monsters appears to be an attempt to create a kind of postmodern Odyssey, though compared to Joyce's efforts in a similar vein, Giraldi is straightforward and readable! Charles Homar, the hero/antihero is a not always sympathetic writer trying desperately to win back his girlfriend. Along the way, he stumbles into one absurd situation after another. Here is where the novel, in trying to be original, ends up mimicking many contemporary writers. How many novels, mostly set in Florida, throw one grotesque character after another at the reader?

Almost the entire novel is written in a kind of dialect Giraldi has pieced together from various types of classical literature and modern lingo. I suppose it's clever enough, but when everyone talks this way, it seems silly and unnatural. Of course, Giraldi employs the typical postmodern tactic of self-reference to deflect criticism. In the book, someone criticizes Homar's own writing for this very reason -all of his characters sound alike. So, since the author knows he's doing it, and is obviously doing it on purpose, it must be justified and even brilliant, right? Well, if you say so.

Despite these criticisms, I mostly enjoyed Busy Monsters and laughed here and there. I can't deny that William Giraldi is a talented writer, and wouldn't at all be surprised if some of his future novels are more accomplished by virtue of being more subdued.
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