That peculiar place called South Beach graced the cover of the New York Times Book Review Sunday morning, with yet another exploration of our famously bent realities. The cover story reviewed Steven Gaines’ new book with the very explanatory title: Fool’s Paradise. Players, Poseurs, and the Culture Excess in South Beach.
I think that just about covers it.
But the cover photograph was a bit jarring to a South Floridian. The Times chose a vintage half-century old black and white photograph of tourists lounging by a hotel pool. The bikinis were, well, not so shocking. But in the background , a huge hotel curved into a graceful white crescent . It was the unmistakable, most iconic of Miami Beach hotels, the Fontainebleau .
The Fontainebleau certainly symbolizes certain eras, of excess, decay and twice-over renewal (with yet another dollop of excess heaped on last year). But one thing it isn’t. It isn’t in South Beach.
Of course, Carl Hiaasen’s review makes it clear that Gaines’ book is not bound by the geographic limitations of its title; that although the Morris Lapidus’ whimsical 1954 hotel might be located 30 blocks north of South Beach, it’s crazy history nonetheless fits his thesis nicely.
Hiaasen likes the book. And he is unbothered that Gaines has over populated Fool’s Paradise with fools, players and poseurs with unnatural proclivities toward excess. “It’s not the fault of Gaines that, from gorgeous airheads to slimy swindlers, Fool’s Paradise is overpopulated by characters straight out of central casting. That’s the story of Florida. As any journalist can attest, just because a place is shallow, corrupt and infested with phonies doesn’t mean it’s dull. “
Carl’s indicates that the book is worth the read. It was kind of him not to complain that the real characters in Fool's Paradise seem to have been cribbed from Carl’s novels. Real life, in Florida, turns out to be just another variation of some of America's most outlandish fiction. Read the review at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/books/review/Hiaasen-t.html