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19 March 2011

Book Review: Carl Hiaasen

This is a review I sent in to awhile back, while a couple others got published on the site, I never did see this one come up so I thought I would share. If you're looking for more good reviews and info about the area, check this site out.

Paradise Screwed is a collection of articles by Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen exposing all of South Florida's dirty little secrets. Corrupt politicians, team owners and players, land developers- no one escapes his wrath. For some, the content of his articles will come as no surprise. For some like me, who were kids at the time most of these were written, it's an eye-opening look into the shady underworld of South Florida.

A conservationist and lover of the Florida Keys, his true venom is reserved for the officials and land developers who have slowly defiled the natural beauty of Florida's wetlands and mangroves. He speaks with passion of the joy he takes to this day in spending time in the area, while at the same time bemoaning what has happened to some of these areas over the past generation. He also recalls his first memories of the areas and even interviews a Seminole woman to gives his readers a glimpse into the long and rich history of the place he (and many of call home. The interview with Susie Jim Billie is one of the most moving and fascinating parts of the collection. You hear about her family's days trading in the everglades to her first experiences with television and automobiles. You also can see in the interview and his section on the Seminoles and other tribes a sadness at the loss of so much culture and beauty.

It's not all serious, though. Many of Hiaasen's columns deal with real problems with a witty and often dark humor that draws you in and keeps you wanting more. For example, while discussing the fact that many of Cuba's undesirables got sent here, he proposes matching them crook for crook and suggests that theirs are nothing compared to the kind of bad guys we can unleash. He also tackles some of the problems that have been faced at MIA over the years (rude people,smuggling, etc.) by suggesting the use of dogs in every plane and all over the airport in general. He asks wouldn't it be great if the next time a passenger acts up “a 150-pound rottweiler came along and dragged this bozo off by the earlobes”? I'm all for it. He also tackles the fact some politicians here have a hard time remembering their addresses while running for local office. He calls it Chronic Residential Disorientation and describes the condition as an election year disorder that often has people running in districts they are not eligible for. He suggests they write their address on paper like kindergarten students do. In one case, he tells a local politician to just buy a winnebago and just park it in her preferred district for 6 months to avoid any pesky questions later.

Bottom line is, if you want an honest, witty, yet affectionate look at the Sunshine State, Paradise Screwed is required reading. You just might learn something.

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