Florida LitLife | February
In the last few weeks, we’ve had important Florida book awards announced, and some big controversies unfolding on the national literary stage, and a lot of good stuff in between. Here’s a quick roundup.
The 2017 Florida Book Awards have been announced, honoring, among other works, Craig Pittman’s Oh! Florida, an exploration of the State’s unique character. Other Bay area winners include USF creative writing professors Jay Hopler and Ira Sukrungruang, and Sarasota author Ward Larsen. The Tampa Bay Times has a full list of winners.
Also, some catching up – in January, Orlando’s Florida Book Festival announced its awards. Though the festival doesn’t actually focus on Florida writers (more’s the pity), the winner in the History category was a chronicle of Florida’s railroads by West Palm Beach’s Stephanie Murphy-Lupo.
St. Petersburg’s 321 Books is making a uniquely 2010s transition – they started life as an online reseller of used books, and now they’re opening up a physical used bookstore. It might not wind up as the kind of tightly curated book-nerd paradise that’s most associated with the recent indie-seller resurgence, but with most titles priced between $1 and $3, it’s sure to be its own kind of wonderland.
Creative Loafing has a nice interview with T.L. Williams, the former CIA operative and now Florida-based author. Williams’ Zero Day: China’s Cyber Wars is fiction, despite the factual-sounding subtitle.
Keep St. Pete Lit’s annual Fantastic Ekphrastic, coming up on Friday the 24th, is one of the most ambitious and impactful literary events of the year. 16 writers are invited to compose poems or short pieces based on 16 paintings. Those compositions are then read by area performers. The proceeds from the event help fund KSPL programs including writing courses, visiting writers, and extracurricular activities for area schools. (Disclosure: I sit on KSPL’s board and help administer programs funded in part by proceeds from this event, though I’m not involved in organizing it.)
Florida natives often read it in school, but for transplants, A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith is a great entrypoint to the state’s history. Ranked the best book about Florida several times by Florida Monthly Magazine, it follows several generations of a Cracker family as they work the land, build wealth against long odds, then struggle with the complexities of success.
The actor Tom Hanks, who in recent years has become a vocal champion of typewriters as writing tools, is publishing his first book – a collection of typewriter-themed stories.
Lauded short story writer George Saunders, who visited Tampa in mid-February, is releasing his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo. Saunders is so widely revered it’s guaranteed to be one of the most talked-about literary novels of the year.
Dick Bruna, the creator of cartoon rabbit Miffy, has died at age 89.
Milo Yiannopoulos, the controversial far-right commentator/comedian associated with the anti-immigration movement, has lost a $250,000 book contract with Simon and Schuster after video surfaced in which Yiannopoulos appeared to defend pedophilia. Yiannopoulos’s book deal had been harshly criticized, particularly by feminist author Roxanne Gay, who withdrew from her own deal with Schuster in protest. Gay was not particularly pleased with the new development, arguing that Schuster was hypocritical to react so much more harshly to pedophilia than to Yiannopoulos’s rampant race-baiting and harassment campaigns.