Fabulous Fiction Firsts #292

Admittedly, William Giraldi's debut Busy Monsters * * appears at first a bit outside my comfort zone. But I have learned from experience that adventurous reading is often its own reward.

I was intrigued by the publisher's blurb... "Echoing a narrative tradition that includes Don Quixote and Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, William Giraldi's debut novel is a love story of linguistic bravado that explores American excess, the diaphanous line between fiction and fact, and what desperate men and women will do to one another."

Charles Homar, a "memoirist of mediocre fame" for a weekly magazine rescues Gillian Lee, superman-style, from a stalled Ferris wheel and is immediately smitten. Before he could march her down the aisle, she takes off to pursue her passion for a legendary giant squid. To win her back, Charlie crisscrosses the country seeking counsel, confronting creatures both mythic and real: Bigfoot on the Canadian border, space aliens in Seattle, a professional bodybuilder with Asiatic sex slaves in suburban New Jersey, all the while "battling his own equally dangerous internal monsters", and writing about it.

"Charlie's last name is no coincidence as here we have a seriocomic picaresque that references everything from the Odyssey to medieval romances to Don Quixote and Moby-Dick. A brilliant first novel that may well be in the running for 2011's literary awards." (Remember how Goon Squad came out of nowhere to snatch several major awards?)

Quirky, hilarious at times, and surprisingly engaging. Well worth the time and effort.

* * = starred reviews