Lauren Groff on the ‘Dark Soul’ of Florida

The Dark Soul of the Sunshine State

Why Florida is the way it is

By Lauren Groff

Florida! surreal state, plastic state, state of swamp and glitz, state as object of the lust and ridicule of the other 49, state dangling off the body of the continent like—well!—a hanging chad. Seek to encapsulate Florida in a single narrative, and you’ll find yourself thwarted. What is normal in the backwoods of the panhandle or on the prairies of north-central Florida is ludicrously alien in Miami Beach. Even the stories that have lured the majority of Floridians to this place are largely empty promises, gusts of devilishly hot and humid air. Because most of us have come from elsewhere, including me, and because the state is a mishmash of unintegrated and wildly different peoples and cities, we have no deep, shared mythologies. We find our motley self-portrait composed of stories that shift like sand underfoot, without a single solid base to keep us standing (unless we count the inane violence of college football, which, oh please, let’s not).

To try to understand this most incomprehensible state, we need varied and probing narratives, ones that change as Florida changes and are told by people who love the state too deeply to refrain from blistering criticism. Into this role steps the native South Floridian memoirist Kent Russell with his sharp, brilliant, mean, and exasperating hybrid book, In the Land of Good Living. By exasperating, I mean that I’ve never read an account of our gorgeous and messed-up state that is a more appropriate match of form and function. Russell’s book is a braid of diverse strands that shouldn’t work together and yet do. Read the full piece at The Atlantic.

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