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Dance of the Reptiles: Rampaging Tourists, Marauding Pythons, Larcenous Legislators, Crazed Celebrities, and Tar-Balled Beaches: Selected Columns Paperback – January 28, 2014

3.4 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This is the third collection of Hiaasen’s op-ed pieces from the Miami Herald, following Kick Ass (2002). Known primarily for his mystery novels, Hiaasen also produces a weekly newspaper column, which often delivers blistering indictments of the people and policies that he believes ruin Florida. The “reptiles” of the title sometimes refer to actual reptiles, as in pythons and alligators. More often, the term refers to lobbyists, politicians, tourists, and environmental evildoers. The two- to three-page essays take direct aim at their targets (“Go Away” addresses the tourists and new residents who are spoiling Florida; “Drill, Spill and Kill” very effectively goes after BP) and span the years 2001–12, making many of them, like the ones focusing on former President George W. Bush, literally seem like old news. Still, even after the fact, they are entertaining for Hiaasen’s ability to awaken outrage and for his eye for oddity (the latter, of course, is a defining characteristic of his fiction). While this may seem like an unnecessary collection in this era of finding articles online, it is still, by turns, both hilarious and unnerving. --Connie Fletcher

Review

"Although some say the satire practically writes itself in this state, Hiaasen raises it to a higher level. One caveat, though: Unless you have an intravenous drip of blood pressure meds, you might want to read just a few of these columns at a time."
    --Tampa Bay Times

“Hiaasen doesn’t really need to keep his day job as a columnist for the Miami Herald, but fortunately for the residents of Florida and for his vast readership, he has. . . . The state of Florida does not come off too well in Hiaasen’s columns, but one welcome positive of the Sunshine State is obvious—Carl Hiaasen.”
     —The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, VA)

"Hiaasen makes this parade of idiocy and avarice palatable with a kind of gallows humor. The more appalling the situation, the greater the potential for hilarity. . . . He is not so much stridently liberal as steadfastly sensible, his wit girded by palpable anger."
     --The Post and Courier (Charleston)

"Hiaasen employs a seasoned bullshit detector that is among the most acute in American journalism. . . . If Florida is the poster child for a nation’s fiscal and political disintegration, Hiaasen is the state’s galloping knight (in)errant, slaying the dragons of ineptitude, arrogance and idiocy."
    --Kirkus Reviews

"Entertaining. . . . Hilarious and unnerving. . . for Hiaasen’s ability to awaken outrage and for his eye for oddity."
     --Booklist

Praise for Carl Hiaasen's previous column collections, Paradise Screwed and Kick Ass

“Shows you that Hiaasen’s seemingly implausible fictional premises aren’t really far-fetched at all. He just knows Florida.”
     —Playboy
 
“Reminiscent of the snarky, opinionated newspaper articles of the great Mark Twain, Hiaasen’s columns are finely crafted little gems.”
     —Booklist
 
“Lively and well-reported . . . Illuminated by all the wit and keen descriptive powers of his fiction.”
     —Salon
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345807022
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345807021
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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The very first line in the first reprinted newspaper column made me laugh. THAT was a first for me. There are plenty of funny, acerbic, sarcastic lines peppered throughout this collection of columns. However, the constant barrage of examples showing politicians, unsavory businesspeople, and Floridians in a negative light eventually overwhelmed me. The former Jim Crow state may now be a huge tourist destination and Disney Mecca, but the place is still marinating in a swamp's worth of conservative politics and unethical shenanigans.

Mr. Hiaasen's pieces have the feel of the late, great Chicago columnist Mike Royko (1932-1997.) Also like Mr. Royko, Mr. Hiaasen was born, raised and has lived his entire life in the state he very much loves. The dude is seriously pissed at witnessing the out-of-control growth, the rampant pollution, the horrific crimes and plethora of low-wage service jobs to support tourism as well as residential development. There are a healthy dose of pieces which focus on Florida, but national issues are also given attention. Some of the topics covered are the Terri Schiavo fiasco, Guantanamo, the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, Haitian refugees, Catholic sex abuse, Presidents Bush and Obama as well as Vice-President Cheney, illegal farm workers, George Zimmerman & Trayvon Martin, the NRA, the Iraq War, Florida's stand-your-ground law and the superficial media.

After reading a few columns, it doesn't take an Albert Einstein to realize Mr. Hiaasen is a unabashed liberal with major axes to grind. Most of his material is sarcastic in tone but supported by valid facts. I found only a few of the columns to be mediocre. Overall, the book is an educational and entertaining collection of pieces which were originally published from 2001 through 2012.
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Format: Paperback
The author is a widely read columnist for the notoriously liberal Miami Herald. Fittingly, liberals will love this book ... conservatives not so much. The huge political divide in America is the real tragedy. If we could only put politics aside and read more books like this for the wit, humor and parody of modern America that it represents, the nation might be in a better place. Put your ideology aside and try reading this book ... you may well be in store for an enjoyable expedition in tweaking the foibles of living in our contemporary world.
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I have been a Hiaasen fan since I bought the first edition of his first novel, "Tourist Season." I have all of his essay collections (Miami "Herald" columns, actually) plus "Team Rodent" (about the Disney empire). Why am I not more enthusiastic about a collection of what is, effectively, more of the same? Because, after all these years, his subject matter has become profoundly depressing. We have come to the point where he writes about a government (especially in his home state) that doesn't even pretend to care. So you will read about inconceivable atrocities that would be funny if they weren't true, or if you had any sense anything would actually happen to the people who perpetrate them. As a Floridian long past middle age, I think I figured it out. My generation knows what has been lost, but the succeeding ones never knew much better than what they have now. So I'm left to wonder, like poor old Bob Dole, "Where's the outrage?"
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If you ever wondered where Carl Hiaasen thinks up the wonderfully weird people and events in his novels, the answer is here. He doesn't have to think them up; he can read about them in the paper. And then write about them in his weekly opinion column in the Miami Herald. This book is a selections of his columns written between 2001 and 2012. Some of them are dated, a couple of them are mean spirited, many will make you angry, and most will make you hurt with laughter.

It may not be true that these things could happen only in Florida as Hiaasen claims, but .... where else would tourists be offered (and pay good money for) scuba expeditions to hand feed sharks? He also describes the Florida Legislature's response to the case of a man who allegedly kidnapped a neighbor's pet goat and then accidentally strangled it during a carnal act. Then there is the "Nude Face-Eating Cannibal" who, he says, could only exist in Miami.

However, most of the articles are not about tabloid-style events. Hiaasen has principles. He is angry about threats to Florida's environment. He is angry about government corruption. He is angry about the NRA (although not about gun owners in general), about immigration policy, about greed, and hypocrisy, and ignorance, and the Bush administration. He is also in love, in love with his native state of Florida, and is an effective advocate for it. You can be chuckling one moment and wanting to tear out your hair the next.

Certainly, this collection will appeal most to people with similar viewpoints. Those who just want to laugh should be warned that a majority of the pieces have political content.
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I am not a regular reader of the Miami Herald, so I don’t read Carl Hiaasen’s weekly column in that paper. When a collection of those columns like the latest titled, Dance of the Reptiles, comes out, I binge read all the selected columns. I gave myself no reprieve: I read all the columns in one sitting. Hiaasen writes sharply with a point of view that leaves nothing to the imagination about where he stands. Readers who like well-written commentary, whether in agreement or disagreement with Hiaasen’s views, will find a lot to enjoy in this collection.

Rating: Four-star (I like it)
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