A chronicle of the eccentric, enigmatic nature of the state of Florida.
The history, culture, and citizenry of the Sunshine State have a less-than-savory reputation. Referred to by W. Somerset Maugham as “a sunny place for shady people,” Florida is a land of contradiction, a home to every variety of hustler, player, and exploitation artist, as well as Disney World. As Tampa Bay Times reporter, author, and native Floridian Pittman (The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid, 2012) points out in his unique and charming book that is part history, part travelogue, and part memoir, Florida is truly a one-of-a-kind state whose eccentricities can at times seem like parody. (There are innumerable anecdotes and factoids provided by the author to quote from, but perhaps it’s easier to mention the popular Twitter handle “Florida Man,” which shares bizarre news stories that capture a slice of the state’s oddball flavor.) However, Florida’s rakish reputation belies the state’s cultural and political clout. For every story like the naked man high on “bath salts” who brutally attacked a homeless person on a Miami highway in 2012, there are others like the case of Florida resident Terri Schiavo, whose medical condition sparked a national debate on end-of-life care—not to mention Florida’s infamous role tipping the 2000 presidential election. Pittman is smart to trace these extremes through Floridian history without making claims to a cause or common character trait that could explain away the strangeness that binds them. Like any good journalist, the author allows his deeply researched collection of Floridiana, which covers real estate, guns, politics, tourism, the elderly, and much more, to speak for itself. Though Pittman’s argument of Florida’s singular importance is disputable, he provides ample evidence to prove that the history of Florida’s endearingly cavalier spirit continues to live on.
An inviting tour through Florida’s personality and the colorful characters that make it up.