Dance Of The Reptiles by Carl Hiaasen (4 out of 5)

Well, I tried to upload an image of the cover. For over a hour. To no avail. For those who wonder, it’s out in trade paperback, with a blue cover with two reptiles (lizards? geckos? Republicans?) dancing on the cover. And you should pick it up, whether it’s morbid curiousity over the Sunshine State, or just to learn some lessons in the oddities that shape the state that brought us iguanas, Miami Vice, Tim Dorsey, and Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine (she can go find Jaws in the Gulf of Mexico; that’s an essay I may yet write).

This is a collection of Carl Hiaasen’s best Miami Herald columns. They range in subject matter from reptiles to crazy celebrities to the election process to Bernie Madoff’s trial. Hiaasen has written these collections before; this is his third. I haven’t read his prior two, so I may have to investigate that further. This one is hilarious. I’m sorry I haven’t read his essays earlier. I am not a fan of his fictional books, preferring the far more insane Tim Dorsey novels. (Sorry, Carl, your Florida fiction is too normal, compared to the boozy, sex-drenched, drug-happy addled Serge A. Storm series that Dorsey has captured my attention with for over 12 years).  However, this book has made me a fan of his non-fiction.

Hiaasen does not hide his thoughts behind characters or colorful metaphors. He straight up says when something pisses him off (BP, newfound Floridians who are destroying the state by littering and killing the environment, and the government who just don’t seem to give a shit while things fall apart all around them. Illinois, take notice!). He ponders aloud, he poses theoretical questions that the reader is also posing at the same time, and he finds some humor in things. But overall, not only is there still wit behind these essays, but there’s also a lot of thought, a lot of questions, and a lot of heart. You can tell that Hiaasen gives a shit and beyond regarding his beloved state, andt hat’s refreshing. I’ve read essays and anthologies before where you can tell the author is culling thoughts from old newspaper articles and online sources, and the heartlight doesn’t quite shine through. That is definitely not the case with Carl Hiaasen. You can tell how passionately he feels about so many issues driving him bonkers, and it makes you give a shit, even if you’re living in the Land of Lincoln (Broke as a Joke). Florida is already on my future radar, and now I have some more things that I am aware of, that previously were just jokes put out there by comedians during standup, because they have been presented here, by someone who lives in the state and has intimate knowledge of the insanity unfolding there. You have to admire him for getting his point across on so many fronts.

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~ by generationgbooks on May 2, 2014.

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