State of the union from Carl Hiaasen’s perspective


Not fake news

Yes, Carl Hiaasen is that funny in person. A homegrown Colbert or Stewart, Hiaasen has been in journalism long enough to know exactly how to spin news on its axis and entertain thousands of readers doing it. It’s difficult to find a Floridian who doesn’t get Hiaasen’s humor. Basing his novels on the Sunshine State’s asylum-like residents and their “you can’t make this [email protected] up” antics has turned him into an international best-selling author. But Hiaasen’s day job with the Miami Herald tethers him to the rest of the world. Taking on national and state politics with scathing sarcasm, unfiltered criticism and a healthy dose of wisecracks, Hiaasen has become Florida’s answer for literary late-night humor. Basing his last best seller, “Razor Girl,” on a Florida Keys crime report, Hiaasen, who used to have a residence here, has a definite affection for the Keys. On Feb. 10, he will be at Books and Books at The Studios of Key West for one hour signing novels to a limited number of ticketed guests.

Do you read our crime reports looking for stories? The Keys are a fertile area for novelists and the material is plenty and abundant. Usually, I look around online and people send me stuff. There is a national appetite to read Florida stories. It’s like, now we have to outdo ourselves with the moronic and outrageous – it’s hard to keep up with. But this year was such an extraordinary year politically; I haven’t had time to look around at all the small stories.

Are you a culture junkie? I watched all those Alaska wilderness shows with my son and they are a bit of a scam, which at least I could deal with in my novels. But on the whole, pop culture is a huge part of the media industry. I have to stay plugged in to be responsible, but I can’t stay in tune with all of social media. The reality is you can’t be a productive writer spending all day on Twitter or Facebook.

Twitter is a hot button out there for communication and yours is pretty funny. I don’t put a lot on twitter because I want to keep the good stuff for my novels. Look, a minimum amount of energy goes into the head of the country’s tweets. Sending out a blizzard of tweets, who would give a rat’s ass? It just goes on and on.

Still a little bit old-fashioned? I get a lot of snail mail still. I write letters back to all my young fans; the adults are harder to keep up with, but I try. I am in the business of putting words down, and social media can drag that down. But I am compelled by food images on Instagram. Nothing makes me happier than waking up and looking at a picture of day-old pot roast. It’s all self-parody, isn’t it? You can only be immersed up to a point.

Do you feel like with the chaos of “fake news” you can take your gloves off when writing about politics? I’ve always had my gloves off. I went to work in journalism right before Nixon resigned, so it’s come full circle. It’s politically poetic to be back in the same situation where we were 40 years ago. Now, we have an orange Nixon and a country divided; it’s a sense of deja vu. But you can look at it like we have either slid back or we can look at the fact we survived that constitutional crisis of Watergate and we got through that. It’s easy to become numb or cauterized by this past year because it was so weird and unadulterated and filled with stupidity. Hard to imagine all these emotions without wincing.

But if your job is writing, you couldn’t be alive at a greater time. It’s clownville now. Humor got this country through Watergate. Carson’s late night TV was the first to become political and now we have Colbert, Kimmel, Bee, Oliver and their writing is clever, well-researched and cutting-edge. When you think you can’t watch the news any more, you turn on late night TV as the antidote.

Would you have rather been a humor writer for TV? As a kid I would have loved to have been a joke writer, but being a journalist was essential to having a good column. It’s like you have to hang around long enough and still be working to really get it, and be good at it.

You wrote specifically about the apologies celebrities are making for sexual harassment; why? It’s like I don’t even recognize my gender; the apologies are template. On what planet is this okay? That’s right, planet ego, power and celebrity. Being a reporter is incredibly different. Reporters are not management material, we never have authority or control because in our business, we are all in it together. In the end, I do hope some change comes out of it.

Wouldn’t it be perfect to set your next novel at Mar-a-Lago? A best of both worlds type of satire? I have thought about it. I went there once for a fundraiser, ironically for an environmental issue, the Everglades. Trump and his hair just hovered about and didn’t participate. The problem is all of it is so absurd, how do you improve upon it for fiction? Dave Barry and I like to take the absurd and crank it up a notch, but what if the story is so absurd to begin with? How do we make it more absurd?

So what’s your outlook on the future? When material gets this rich, the country gets strong. It’s like we have gone back to Mark Twain and Will Rogers; the folk tradition of satire will get this country back to where it should be.

Books and Books @ Studios of Key West

Carl Hiaasen book signing on Feb. 10, 4 to 5 p.m.

$20 tickets for Loyalty Members (limited number) to go on sale Jan. 31.

General tickets on sale Feb.1.

Buy at the store or by calling 305-320-0208

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