The Great American Road Trip: Florida
Book: Nature Girl, 2006, by Carl Hiaasen
I have a lot of serious, thoughtful books in my travel library. Carl Hiassen didn’t write any of them.
Hiassen’s books, like [amazon_link id="B003156BDG" target="_blank" ]Nature Girl[/amazon_link], are fun, quick reads with delightfully over-the-top characters. Oh, they do have themes satirizing contemporary political foibles. One gets the feeling that Hiassen, a reporter and article writer, can let his opinions flow more easily in fiction about news items he might have covered as a journalist.
Quoting his web site biography:
Tourist Season, published in 1986, was Hiaasen’s first solo novel. GQ magazine called it “one of the 10 best destination reads of all time,” although it failed to frighten a single tourist away from Florida, as Hiaasen had hoped it might.
Sounds like I should be talking about that one, but frankly, I ran out of time to read another of Hiassen’s gems, so am reporting on a book that Ken and I chose to listen to in the car on a long trip a couple of years ago. (I checked Nature Girl out of the library to check details, because, frankly, Hiaasen’s novels don’t stick with you any longer than cotton candy.)
However, I do know that the book kept us giggling, and I’m not even going to try to tell you about the plot and multitude of subplots. Well, all right, since you insist, the “girl” of the title plots to get even with telephone solicitors by taking one of them out into the wilds of Florida. She heads for Dismal Key with a couple of bizarre characters following her. There her little party (the phone solicitor guy and his girlfriend) run into a Seminole Indian who is trying to live in nature. That’s most of the entanglements, but you’re own your own to try to untangle them.
The book takes place in the 10,000 Islands area lying just outside the Everglades National Park, which is swampy and jungly and scary to most people. We visited the Everglades and found the area endlessly fascinating, except that the mosquitos came in such huge swarms that we had to run from car to motel room and then crank the AC down at night so the little menaces would fall asleep before we did.
Another recommended Florida mystery writer, Randy Wayne White wrote Sanibel Island, which I read while in Florida on my first visit several years ago.We had visited the delightful west coast of Florida, and loved Sanibel Island, so I grabbed his book. He focuses on the problems of over-development, and his characters are not quite as wacky as Hiassen’s. Between White and Hiassen you can travel all over Florida without actually setting foot in the state, although I’m not recommending that.
The Music Road Trip has a couple of suggestions for music from the non-touristy parts of Florida today, Jeanie Fitchen and Del Suggs for your listening pleasure on the road trip.
A previous post about Florida talked about the grand hotel built by a railroad magnate in Tampa.Two other Florida writers I like: Ernest Hemingway (he had a house in Key West which you still can visit) or Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote her autobiography, Dust Tracks on the Road about growing up in Florida and collected folk tales from people in her small town. You can read both in the American Library edition that I talked about earlier.
Photo from Flickr with Creative Commons License. Please click on the photo to see more about the photographer. I have included a link to Nature Girl so you can buy it at Amazon. Every purchase helps keep A Traveler’s Library going. Would you believe 109 clicks went to Amazon from my site this month and nobody bought anything?Hmmmm…..
What have you read about Florida? And I’m looking for recommendations for Arkansas and Illinois, if you’d like to play along.