Monday, April 25, 2011

Nature Girl

Nature Girl
by Carl Hiaasen
narrated by Lee Adams
11.50 hours

What is it about Florida that inspires writers to create kooky characters? Is it the heat? Is Florida the unofficial sanctuary of eccentric people, both fictional and real? Perhaps the natural landscape throws human absurdities into sharp contrast. Maybe it's Carl Hiaasen himself, who has created a world of quirkiness, that has given other authors implicit permission to set their respective eccentric characters in Florida. Hiaasen has been inculcating a world of idiosyncratic fictional personae for nearly a quarter of a century, set in the back waters of the peninsular state and, brings to mind other Floridian authors and humorists such as Elizabeth Stuckey-French (Mermaids on the Moon and The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady,) Paul Levine (the Solomon vs Lord series) and, Jeff Lindsay (the Dexter series.)

In Nature Girl, Hiaasen delivers, as expected, an offbeat cast of characters, including Honey Santana, a single mom who designs an elaborate payback for a telemarketer who not only calls her during her dinner hour, but who also calls her an offensive name. The vendetta serves as the main story line to which a number of farcical sub-plots become entangled - all threads coming to a denouement on the appropriately named Dismal Key in the Everglades.

But for all the experience Hiaasen has had in developing the funnily unconventional plots and casts of characters playing out their dramas in the Sunshine State, Nature Girl falls flat. The kookiness has become something of a Hiaasenian trope. Because comedy requires a straight man or at least a straight context with which to be most effective, the comic aspects of Nature Girl are all too familiar and, as a result Nature Girl just isn't funny enough. When everything is depicted as absurd, nothing is.

Lee Adams delivered the material in a clean, clear, even pace. Her delineation of characters was well done, especially the role of Louis Piejack, a walking, rotting corpse of a man (both physically and morally) who stalks Honey. However, the novel seemed a bit overlong, never a good thing if the title is supposed to be light and breezy, which indicates that a faster pace and a better sense of comic timing is called for than what was delivered.

Other Stuff: I borrowed a library CD edition of this title from a public lending library.

This book qualifies for the Where Are You Reading? Challenge hosted by Sheila at her blog, Book Journey. Nature Girl is set near Everglades City in Florida.
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1 comment:

  1. Sadly, I have to agree with you here. I was a huge Hiaassen fan, but his last two were just a bit disappointing. I don't know if you've read Star Island yet, but I had some of the same issues with that. Nowadays, I get most of my South Florida wackiness from Tim Dorsey.