Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Rampaging Tourists, Marauding Pythons, Larcenous Legislators, Crazed Celebrities, and Tar-Balled Beaches: Selected Columns

by Carl Hiaasen edited by Diane Stevenson

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-345-80702-1
Publisher: Vintage

Miami Herald columnist and best-selling novelist Hiaasen (Bad Monkey, 2013, etc.) wages a relentless war of words against those who would despoil his home state and cheapen a nation: the greedy, the corrupt and the stupid.

The author knows better than most Edward Abbey’s dictum: Growth for its own sake, unrestrained, is the philosophy of the cancer cell. As Florida’s population grows, taxpayers usually foot the bill not only for sprawl and environmental degradation, but also for every crackpot scheme heralding an economic boon. In this collection of his muckraking columns, Hiaasen employs a seasoned bullshit detector that is among the most acute in American journalism. He pillories everything from coastal development run amok to the folly of offshore oil drilling, from efforts at gutting the Environmental Protection Agency and Endangered Species Act to bungling by the Army Corps of Engineers. While dissections of decay dominate, also in his cross hairs are capital punishment, corporate welfare, “intelligent design,” Medicare fraud, corporate lobbyists, manipulated elections, mortgage scams, legislative complicity in the exploitation of migrant workers, Vatican stonewalling on child sexual abuse, the National Rifle Association’s disproportionate influence, feckless televangelists, a hyperventilating news media and, of course, the Iraq/Afghanistan debacle. Though he occasionally goes to the well once too often, Hiaasen, also a writer of satirical fiction, wields the facts, finely tuned outrage and an eviscerating sarcasm to potent effect. Were his broadsides not armed with solid reportage, these columns might begin to sound overheated—a scathingly anti-business, anti-Republican rant—save that he invariably dispenses scorn (or credit) where it’s due, to whomever deserves it. Hiaasen is not so much unabashedly liberal as steadfastly sensible, his humor fueled by righteous dismay.

If Florida is the poster child for a nation’s fiscal and political disintegration, Hiaasen is the state’s galloping knight (in)errant, slaying the dragons of ineptitude, arrogance and idiocy.