Busy Monsters by William Giraldi
It is a rare form of madness I suffer which makes me read the first thirty pages of a book and go, “this book is awful,” then read the next one hundred and fifty pages and go, “this book verges on unreadable and it is making me mad,” then read the final one hundred pages and think, “that was terrible. Why did I read the entire thing? This has been a bad week. I’m sad-hungry.” I easily could have stopped reading Busy Monsters way earlier than the last page, but I can’t quit a bad book because I wasn’t born a quitter.
It fell into my hand a few months ago during a reading at Franklin Park. I don’t want to brag, but it was the prize for answering a pretty tough trivia question about Mary Shelley. I was excited to have it, if only because it was shiny and contemporary and I follow W. W. Norton on Tumblr, and they were promoting it like crazy at the time. When the time came and Giraldi read, I was entertained. The story had an irreverent quality and he told with the gestural camp of Vincent Price or Ernie Kovacs. So I set upon it immediately.
The problem with Busy Monsters is this: it’s narrated by a writer of poor prose. So the book is written poorly. And it never shifts. And there are little hints about why the prose is so poor, like when people complain to the narrator about how overwrought his writing is, which he summarily dismisses each time. It’s a cute idea, but it was painful to read. He alliterates almost all of his modifiers with their attached nouns. Can you imagine 300 pages of that? You don’t have to— you can order it on Amazon.