For the last ten years in the library, I have heard people mention Carl Hiaasen’s books as funny and environmental. His young adult book-to-movie, Hoot, was inspiring. Nature Girl did not come with ready book-discussion questions, and although the book covers a plethora of issues we could discuss — mental illness, sexuality, telephone sales, marriage, religion, and parenting — I found myself researching satire, parody, and humor. I was repulsed by the crudity and disturbed by the light-hearted treatment of a serious mental illness. A co-worker tried to encourage me to lighten up! Surely I had to admit that sewing a man’s chewed-off fingers onto the wrong parts of his hand is funny! And I suppose it is as absurd as suggesting we eat children to solve the Irish potato famine.
Book Bistro to the rescue! Everyone seemed to agree that the book was so absurd that I shouldn’t take anything in it too seriously. One member liked that Hiaasen’s female characters have substance. Another new member suggested that society is so used to absurdity that we require even more outrageous behavior and images to be shocked enough to respond. She was so enthusiastic and reminded us of parts that made us laugh out loud. I felt as if we were discussing a different book, and yet I recognized the story. It was cathartic, which is perhaps the point. In an interview with 60 Minutes, the author states that he likes writing fiction because he can make the bad guys have the ending they deserve, “and then light a cigarette.”
Carl Hiaasen is a journalist who writes a column for the Miami Herald. His work has also appeared in many well-known magazines. One member liked the bits of political and topical issues that pop into the story throughout and another had researched the story on the internet and drew our attention to the author’s name choices. Another member grew up in Miami and thus we discussed the area, the climate and the environment. After we watched the ten minute interview with 60 Minutes, drawing our attention to the reality in Carl Hiaasen’s absurdity, one member wondered if anyone else had noticed the similarity of Las Vegas to the maligned Miami!
Although we had mixed reactions to the book, we had a great discussion.
- Other works discussed:
- There’s Something About Mary (1998) (DVD) Cameron Diaz, Ben Stiller, Matt Dillon
- Beauty Queens (2012) by Libba Bray (satire)
- Edge of Eternity and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
- A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
- Potato Factory by Bryce Courtenay
- Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- Jack Reacher books by Lee Child