According to St. Petersburg Times writer Klinkenberg, there are no cartoon mice, art deco dance clubs or exclusive golf courses in "Real Florida." For him the Sunshine State's essence lies in its hidden swamps, forests, rivers and caves and in the forgotten characters and creatures that inhabit them. In this collection of his Times columns, Klinkenberg seeks out these people and places to document their stories before they are overrun by high-rise hotels and sunburnt tourists. Organizing the columns (which were reworked) by the four seasons, Klinkenberg lets readers into the secrets of Florida's fall (stone crabs, flamingos), winter (orange blossoms, manatees), spring (alligators, hurricanes) and summer (heat, mosquitoes). Whether he is visiting a Florida institution (the Yearling Restaurant) or telling the story of Florida's artists (photographer Clyde Butcher, painter Christopher Still), writers (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Hemingway) and local personalities (LoinclothMan, Shell Woman), Klinkenberg has the enviable task of telling stories about storybook places and gifted storytellers. A skilled writer, he knows when to listen and when to nudge each short story along. While the vignette structure allows for quick and easy reading, Klinkenberg doesn't always succeed in making readers feel as if they are traveling with him on his Florida journey, from beginning to end. Still, this collection of close to 50 examples of real life from the Keys to the panhandle gives readers a jumping-off point to find their own path. Photos. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A feature writer for the St. Petersburg Times, Klinkenberg has published two earlier collections of his columns (Real Florida and Dispatches from the Land of Flowers). Arranged by season, starting in the fall, these insightful and sharply focused portraits of people and places represent the range of the many cultures that make up the Sunshine State. Here, we encounter a Florida that most tourists never see-that of an 85-year-old "shell lady" from Cayo Costa Key, of painter Christopher Still, or of Buster Agliano, a fishmonger in Ybor City. What all these pieces of local color share is the author's love of his home state, and they will help to preserve a part of Florida history that is rapidly vanishing. Recommended for specialized collections and especially Florida public libraries.-Herbert E. Shapiro, Empire State Coll., SUNY at Rochester Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.