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In literature, a new lurid genre: 'Florida glare'

Adam Gopnik
Published Jul. 3, 2013

For readers in the Gunshine State, fed a steady diet of "Florida man" buffoonery, the weird and wicked cartoon crime of a Carl Hiaasen plot can struggle to sound novel. New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik used the publication of Hiaasen's latest work (Bad Monkey, Alfred A. Knopf) to muse on the significance of a genre he calls "Florida glare," in contrast to the older tradition of "L.A. noir." The body of work Hiaasen and his fellow Florida mystery writers (MacDonald, Leonard, Dorsey et al) have produced is not just a commercial gold mine, but, Gopnik argues, a profound statement about how Floridians view the world they inhabit. It starts with the notion that unlike the "L.A. noir" works of Hammett and Chandler, there is no vast hidden conspiracy, just a "black comedy of coincidences."

"In the Florida-glare novel of the past thirty years, nothing connects, but everything coincides. Every little group turns out to overlap with another. Since sexual appetite is easily fulfilled and essentially without limits (women now publish their own lurid photographs), sex and shame are no longer motives. This is a society without basic repressions. There are no dirty secrets. The movement is not from the center of the country to the edge, from rural to urban, but from south to north: emigration from South America and Cuba, bringing with it clan manners and, of course, a steady run of cocaine. Corruption begins to have a Third World quality; people barely try to conceal it. Not movies but television — in particular, tabloid reality television — hangs over everything, as an aspiration and a model of life. The cop, or more frequently, the reporter isn't trying to restore chivalry to a world gone corrupt. It's too far gone already. He is merely trying to assert ordinary decency in a world gone crazy; women shouldn't be abused; nature shouldn't be endlessly exploited; cockroaches shouldn't be placed in yogurt cups to scam the justice system for payouts. Where in the noir tradition crimes took place, melodramatically, at night, here they take place, matter-of-factly, in the middle of the day."

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