|Juniper Springs Florida. Photo by |
I read pretty much anything interesting that crosses my desk and I am not particularly discriminating as long as it is a serious piece of fiction or non-fiction. When my sister recommended that I read The Story of Edgar Edward Sawtelle, I didn’t do very much research on the book. I thought it would be a lovely story about a boy and his dog in rural Wisconsin. I love books about rural Wisconsin and my sister always recommends good books. Suffice it to say that Edward Sawtelle was not an uplifting book. In fact, it was a Shakespearean tragedy that was rather shocking. It was a good book, but not what I expected.
Something similar, but more positive occurred when I picked up Swamplandia, I thought it would be a lovely book about Florida’s small theme park past. I am a huge fan of the smaller theme parks in Florida that have fallen by the wayside. For example, I love Weeki Wachee Springs and its mermaid shows. And, everyone should stop by the old spiritualist town of Cassadega Florida to see a glimpse into the past of Florida’s unusual early to mid-twentieth century development.
So, it was with great interest that I picked up Swamplandia. I thought it would be a lovely story about a theme park in rural Florida and the spunky family that ran it.
|In Florida, people can be anything|
they want to be. Even a pirate for the
day. In Swamplandia, you'll find that
the characters create rather strange and
But, it turns out that Swamplandia is a much deeper book. It is a metaphor for the environment and developmental history in Florida and for much of the Gulf Coast. I urge anyone with a deep love of Florida to read the book and to think beyond the basic plot into the metaphors present in the story.
I don’t want to give too much away to my readers. I really want them to read the book. But suffice it to say that Swamplandia’s characters are symbolic and one should read the book not so much for the plot, but for the environmental issues represented. In many ways, it is one of the most significant environmental books to come out in recent years.
The New York Times reviewed the book and somehow focused on the weird plot without really getting at the deeper issues represented in the novel. The review seems so trivial. Perhaps one needs a strong understanding of Florida to fully appreciate it. Nevertheless, do not use the Time’s review to make a decision on the book. Trust me. Read Swamplandia if you know and love Florida.