Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Selected Columns of Carl Hiaasen

by Carl Hiaasen & edited by Diane Stevenson

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 2001
ISBN: 0-399-14791-8
Publisher: Putnam

A second helping of dry wit and gale-force malice from South Florida’s native Ambrose Bierce.

While Hiaasen remains known as a bestselling crime novelist (Sick Puppy, 1999, etc.), he’s also gained attention since 1985 with his twice-weekly column for the Miami Herald, first anthologized in Kick Ass (1999). This second collection dovetails equally well with his fiction, providing factual depictions of the many social controversies and fiascoes that inspire his novel-parodies. As the title implies, most of the material here centers on the malign yet absurd forces that have overwhelmed the Sunshine State. As Hiaasen realizes, many of these issues—overdevelopment, municipal corruption, gun proliferation, human naïveté in the face of nature—are occurring on a national level. Most of his columns either address their subjects via deadpan reportage laced with energetic mockery (“Florida’s new [1987] handgun law, also known as the Mortician’s Relief Act, officially makes us the most dangerous state in America”) or descend enthusiastically into the outright satire of his fiction. From a 1998 column entitled “A Few Minutes at City Hall”: “Old Business: Bi-Monthly Firing of City Manager. . . . Another recess is called while the Key to the City is presented to actor Sylvester Stallone.” While the persistence of crass corruption in South Florida draws many such zingers (as does the recent Florida-centered election fiasco), Hiaasen clearly understands and addresses the big picture: the way an intractable tangle of such problems has accelerated the degradation of Florida’s once-pristine natural resources and the disappearance of its genuine rural culture. Other favorite targets include the religious and cultural right, hack politicians who cynically exploit homophobia and racial tensions, and the banality and hypocrisy beneath Florida’s sunny civic facade of athletics and theme parks.

These sharp, amusing pieces confirm Hiaasen’s status as a bird so rare—the humorous popular novelist with an acutely critical social perspective—that he’s practically an endangered species.