Carl Hiaasen practices rage humor.
He’s so angry — over the environment, greed, political imbeciles, and general assholery.
Yet instead of standing on a mountaintop to spew screeds about injustice, he uses humor to craft magnificently twisted tales in which the bad guys get what they deserve. (Besides, there are no mountaintops in Florida.)
He makes us laugh as he eviscerates the unjust. I just finished his latest, Squeeze Me, and in the modern landscape, there is much that angers Hiaasen.
I’ll give nothing away, but a lot of the action takes place at the Florida estate of the President of the United States. He’s a rotund toupee-wearing blowhard referred to only by his Secret Service name, Mastodon.
It’s a wonderful book. A couple of times, I had to close the book and sit and laugh for a moment. I had a chuckle every other page or so.
But as I was reading — and laughing — all I could think about was the righteous anger underneath. I’ve read all of Carl’s novels and they are without exception excellent books. I marvel at his word choice and the music of his language.
What a great, distinctive voice.
His writing is masterful and his passion is there, the foundation underneath the humor. I’ve always been fond of Double Whammy and Native Tongue and Lucky You. But hell, I love all of his novels. I can’t think of one that wasn’t simultaneously funny and thought provoking. You rarely find someone who can succeed on both of those platforms.
He’s deft, this Hiaasen fellow.
Every now and then, I recall Native Tongue, which is about a corrupt South Florida theme park called the Amazing Kingdom of Thrills. Every afternoon at 3, the park watches a parade called the Pageant of Florida History, featuring tributes to wastewater and break-dancing migrant workers. I’ve broken out in random laughter on the subway when that crosses my mind. (Usually my fellow passengers scoot away from me when this happens.)
But this new book — Squeeze Me — may be his best work. It so well reflects our time, set as it is in the post-Covid-19 world. Carl has us laughing just to keep us from crying.
It’s funny. When someone is a social critic, those on the far right think they’re unpatriotic or anti-American. Seems to me the critics are the ones who love their country long after a weaker soul would have given up on the enterprise.
Carl’s so angry about the maggots destroying the environment and our system of democratic government. That anger inspires him to make us see, through laughter, the lurking tragedy. When I think of what’s behind the anger, I recall John Lee Hooker, who sang, “It’s in him and it’s got to come out.”
Lucky for us, he channels his Wagnerian rage into his novels. Rarely has fury been so funny.
I hope he’s OK, though. This book makes me wish I could buy him a bowl of soup.