Girardi, Robert 1962(?)-
GIRARDI, Robert 1962(?)-
Home—Washington, DC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Justin, Charles & Co., 20 Park Plaza, Suite 909, Boston, MA 02116. E-mail—[email protected]
James Michener fellowship, 1989.
Madeleine's Ghost, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1995.
The Pirate's Daughter: A Novel of Adventure, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Vaporetto 13: A Novel, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1997.
A Vaudeville of Devils: Seven Moral Tales, Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 1999.
The Wrong Doyle, Sceptre (London, England), 2002, Justin, Charles (Boston, MA), 2004.
Girardi's work has also appeared in New Republic, TriQuarterly Review, and Washington Post. Author of numerous screenplays.
Vaporetto 13 was optioned for a film by Warner/Di Novi.
Raised in Europe and educated at the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, American author Robert Girardi has published several well-received novels as well as a collection of stories, all of which "operate at the fringes of their genre," as a reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement observed. The same critic further noted that in Girardi's tales "actualized metaphor blurs into merely improbable realism; [Girardi] has a good eye for the details which make the supernatural or flamboyant plausible." Katherine Wolff, writing in the New York Times Book Review, similarly found that Girardi "writes sensuous prose that unapologetically invokes the supernatural."
Girardi labored for a decade before getting his first novel into print, working at numerous odd jobs and turning out several unproduced screenplays. Finally an editor for Delacorte Press found the manuscript for Madeleine's Ghost on a friend's coffee table and fell in love with the story. Speaking with Michael O'Sullivan of the Washington Post, Girardi explained that his first novel "is an intellectual mystery.…It straddles the line between genre and serious fiction." The book presents a first-person account, told through the narrative voice of graduate student Ned Conti, who is studiously avoiding work on his dissertation. Ned turns instead to research for a Catholic priest who wants to get a nun from the nineteenth century canonized. These researches also dovetail with the ghost who apparently is haunting Ned's apartment. With the suicide of a close friend, Ned leaves New York for New Orleans, where he visits his Creole ex-girlfriend, Antoinette. Now a strange trinity of ghost, nun, and Antoinette draws Ned further into the world of mystery and the supernatural in this "first novel of astonishing accomplishment," as a critic for Publishers Weekly summed up Madeleine's Ghost. Similarly, Booklist's Alice Joyce called Girardi's first novel a "compelling tale with a radiantly polished finish." More praise came from Daisey Harris, writing in the Boston Globe, who commented that "Girardi has written a ghost story as well as a story of love, faith and salvation. That might sound like a lot to tackle in a first novel, but Girardi … pulls it off." Harris went on to call Madeleine's Ghost a "smart, engrossing first effort." Joanna Scott, reviewing the novel in the Los Angeles Times Book Review, further commended the work, calling it "immensely engaging, lavish in its descriptive details, with a good, engrossing story to tell." Furthermore, Scott noted, despite its title, Girardi's book is "solidly realistic" in that "from the start it promises to connect all the disparate pieces of the plot."
Girardi's second novel, The Pirate's Daughter, "again straddles the line between the real and wildly improbable," as a contributor to Publishers Weekly noted. The same reviewer described the book as a "contemporary tale of piracy, slavery and other acts of skullduggery." Protagonist Wilson Lander lost both of his parents before age ten; thus he has grown up always expecting the worst in life. He trades in a boring affair with his boss at a brokerage firm for adventure on the high seas with a woman named Cricket, whom he meets in an occult bookshop. Cricket in fact convinces Lander to give it all up and sail with her on a millionaire's yacht. But soon Lander is thrown into the bizarre world of modern pirates who operate from an island off the coast of Africa. In the end Lander must make a choice between his fixation with Cricket and his own sense of humanity. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Paula Friedman felt that Girardi's "rendering of [the pirate island] is lush and commanding, despite the horror it reveals." And the contributor for Publishers Weekly concluded that the novel is "as horribly plausible as it is wonderfully entertaining."
With Vaporetto 13, Girardi once again focuses on a male protagonist eager to leave his humdrum life behind. Currency trader Jack Squires is sent on assignment to Venice. He feels that he has been dealt a serious setback in his career, and he develops a case of insomnia that leads to nighttime walks about the city. During one of these rambles he meets the mysterious Caterina, who refuses to divulge details of her own life. Intrigued, Jack falls in love, only to find that his life has completely changed. He loses his driving ambition and develops strange new powers as he begins to unravel the secret of Caterina. A reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement praised Girardi's first two novels as "ripping yarns," but found Vaporetto 13 "the least satisfactory of his books so far." However, this same critic was impressed by the ending, which has "an authentically eerie bristle about it." A further negative assessment came from Library Journal's Nancy Pearl, who felt that the author "wastes a wonderfully described setting on flat characters and an inane and predictable plot." Malachy Duffy, writing in the New York Times Book Review, found more to like in this "artful novel" in which Girardi "invites us to put aside our rational skepticism and enter a world where the past is still hauntingly present."
Girardi turns his hand to shorter fiction in the 1999 title A Vaudeville of Devils: Seven Moral Tales. Here the author features protagonists who have to make hard and fast decisions, often without a moral compass to guide them. From a Nazi officer tracking down a decadent artist to a semiconductor executive deciding whether to profit from a Japanese buyout, Girardi presents tales that are, according to Baret Magarian in the Times Literary Supplement, "richly descriptive, with a whiff of the grotesque and the macabre." Magarian also noted that Girardi's writing "has a Kafkaesque interest in atmosphere," and that the "inventiveness and brio [of the story 'The Defenestration of Aba Sid'] suggest Girardi will soon be receiving recognition as an important writer." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called A Vaudeville of Devils a "fine collection" with "vividly detailed tales [that] give voice to specters of the dark side." Wolff found this same book a "seductive new story collection" from a "skilled storyteller." Writing in the Washington Post Book World, Kay Douglas noted that Girardi's stories "unfold … in the unrushed manner of statelier times." Tom Deignan of World and I felt that the short story format "provides a provocative forum for Girardi's many gifts: his powerful intellect, historian's vision, and sympathy for human weakness in its many forms."
Girardi returned to long fiction with The Wrong Doyle, the story of Tim Doyle, who returns from Europe in the aftermath of his failed marriage. His return home is spurred by the death of the uncle who raised him and the subsequent inheritance of the family's crazy-golf course. At first sight, this golf course is a wreck and worthless, yet some odd people are on the scene trying to get Tim to sell the property. When gentle persuasion turns more insistent, Tim begins to wonder what the possible value might be, and he finally surmises that it has something to do with the treasure Tim's pirate ancestor is supposed to have buried on the property. Reviewing the novel in the Washington Post Book World, Michael Griffith called The Wrong Doyle a "furious pastiche of styles and subgenres." For Griffith the novel has "exuberance and energy," but it "ultimately exhausts the reader." Marco Notarianni, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, thought that Girardi "takes a risk by focusing on the decidedly banal subject of crazy golf." Notarianni further complained of a "lack of tension" as well as a "general lack of sophistication throughout the novel." He also commented, however, that the book "still manages to provide entertainment, [which] is testament to Girardi's ability as a storyteller." For a Publishers Weekly critic, The Wrong Doyle is a "raunchily erotic mishmash" and a "passably good read." More favorable was the assessment of Booklist's Bill Ott, who dubbed Girardi's book "all great good-hearted fun." A critic for Kirkus Reviews described the novel as a "tongue-in-cheek yarn about a feisty Virginian and the scurvy knaves ranged against him."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 1995, Alice Joyce, review of Madeleine's Ghost, p. 1727; March 15, 2004, Bill Ott, review of The Wrong Doyle, p. 1270.
Boston Globe, September 29, 1995, Daisey Harris, review of Madeleine's Ghost, p. 51.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2004, review of The Wrong Doyle, p. 52.
Library Journal, September 1, 1997, Nancy Pearl, review of Vaporetto 13, p. 217; June 1, 1999, Marc A. Kloszewski, review of A Vaudeville of Devils: Seven Moral Tales, p. 182.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 6, 1995, Joanna Scott, review of Madeleine's Ghost, p. 2.
New York Times Book Review, February 16, 1997, Paula Friedman, review of The Pirate's Daughter: A Novel of Adventure; November 30, 1997, Malachy Duffy, review of Vaporetto 13; June 27, 1999, Katherine Wolff, review of A Vaudeville of Devils, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, May 15, 1995, review of Madeleine's Ghost, p. 55; October 28, 1996, review of The Pirate's Daughter, p. 56; July 28, 1997, review of Vaporetto 13, p. 50; April 19, 1999, review of A Vaudeville of Devils, p. 61; February 23, 2004, review of The Wrong Doyle, p. 52.
Times Literary Supplement, March 6, 1998, review of Vaporetto 13; September 10, 1999, Baret Magarian, review of A Vaudeville of Devils; November 29, 2002, Marco Notarianni, review of The Wrong Doyle.
Washington Post, July 17, 1995, Michael O'Sullivan, "A Writer Gets a Life; Book Publication Ends a Decade of Poverty," section B, p. 7.
Washington Post Book World, June 20, 1999, Kay Douglas, review of A Vaudeville of Devils, p. 4; March 28, 2004, Michael Griffith, review of The Wrong Doyle, p. 7.
World and I, November, 1999, Tom Deignan, review of A Vaudeville of Devils, p. 286.
Italian-Mysteries.com,http://www.italian-mysteries.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Robert Girardi: Vaporetto 13.
" Justin, Charles & Co. Web site,http://www.justincharlesbooks.com/ (September 27, 2004), "Robert Girardi."*