Florida LitLife June
Here’s our monthly roundup of the most important Florida-related or Florida-adjacent bits of news for the month. It has been, let’s just say, very Florida out there.
John Grisham’s latest novel, Camino Island, is a breezy beach read – so, of course, it’s set in Florida. In a happy coincidence for this column, it’s also a literary mystery – in the sense that it’s about a batch of missing rare books, that is, not that Grisham has suddenly become Graham Greene. Some book lovers might turn up their nose at Grisham, but the author made a convincing case in a recent podcast appearance that he is very self-aware and comfortable with his books being entertainments, not art – take them on their own terms.
On a related note, Florida’s most consistent contribution to modern letters may be a certain dark-funny sun-drenched noir, ala Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard. That vibe gets translated to TV in the well-reviewed new TNT series Claws, set in Manatee County. As showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois tells Variety, the show is all about all the madness that unfolds under the sun – and much of the show’s appeal is rooted in sharp writing.
Kit Reed is reaching for a different vision of Florida in the new gothic mystery Mormama. Set in Jacksonville, the story of hauntings and trauma has been compared to the work of Joyce Carol Oates.
Oxford American offers this deep dive into the creation of John McPhee’s Florida classic, Oranges. The book explored the vast industrial ecosystem of the orange groves circa the late 1960s – one that deserves a look back, now that those groves are threatened.
From the department of There’s a Lesson Here Somewhere, a 12 year old in Melbourne, Florida, is accused of starting a major brush fire while attempting to burn his school books. The kid’s plan was to post a video of the burning books to YouTube. Which proves that real life is just one big allegory these days.
Sarasota’s Something About a Book indie bookstore has closed down. That’s a shame, but there are two pieces of good news. First, the store is reportedly closing because the owners want to make time for family, not because of any business troubles per se. And second, in a gesture of amazing generosity, the store owners gave away all 30,000 books remaining in inventory to anyone who stopped by. They’d planned to stay open until June 24th, but it looks like Sarasota readers helped them clean the place out more than a week early.
Keep St. Pete Lit will be running a Creative Writing Summer Camp for kids starting in mid-July, in St. Petersburg. Kids can attend either of two week-long camp sessions, starting July 17th and July 24th, both guided by teachers from KSPL’s adult courses. There is an application, including a request for writing samples, with a deadline of July 5th.
And finally, I just ran across this great list of ‘weird’ Florida books, first published last year. There are some obvious picks, but also some gems previously unknown to me, particularly Harry Crews’ hard-to-find Karate is a Thing of the Spirit.