Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland
By Dave Barry
Review by David Wineberg
Dave Barry needed to rant about Florida, his home for the past 30 years. Best. State. Ever. is a Florida travelogue. He visits a bunch of seedy, kitschy, tacky and otherwise uncomfortable places including a psychics town, a mermaid show, Spongeorama, Skunk Ape, Gatorland, and Key West, where all the beer is cold refreshing, without the comma.
The opening salvo is worth the SJ Perelman Prize, which does not exist, but which should be created for this one essay. It is a sharp, sardonic, sarcastic, aggressive and funny 30 pages comparing Florida to other states. The exaggerations are precious, the targets fat and juicy. It has been honed to perfection, reading like a Phyllis Diller set with a laugh at precisely every 12 seconds. You feel you are being bowled over, steamrollered and battered into submission: this man is the best. He can’t possibly keep this up for the whole book. He doesn’t.
All the following essays are trips he takes around the state, with his unremarkable experiences in them, and his bemused reactions to the flora and fauna. They are peppered with small, slightly unfocused black and white photos he took on the trips, (with a noted predilection for signs) and wonderful footnotes that add so much to the Dave Barry Experience (Ha! being my favorite).
From Barry’s standpoint, Florida is Disneyland for Baby Boomers. From the bars to the retirement cities, it’s a treat all day every day. You can blow your savings at shooting ranges, walk around naked in Key West, have your fortune told by liars or just enjoy the giant insects, snakes and alligators lying around, waiting. The book doesn’t exactly prove Florida is the Best. State. Ever., but it’s a delightful romp with Dave Barry hosting.
Editor's note: This review was has been reposted with permission of David Wineberg. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.