ÊCarl Hiaasen, a columnist for the Miami Herald, has the type of job many of us wish we had: He gets paid to complain. What does he rail against? Injustice, greed, crime, pollution, guns, you name it. In that, he's like an opinionated neighbor, up on current events and unafraid to share his views.
Hiaasen, who has also written several best-selling novels, including Strip Tease, Tourist Season, and Lucky You, writes on issues dealing almost exclusively with Florida. It might seem that this type of writing would be too parochial, but after reading a few pieces it is sadly apparent that while the names of the cities and personalities may change, the outcome is frequently the same. Unfortunately, it seems most municipalities can boast of corrupt, lazy, or merely stupid politicians; and the situations the author describes, such as inadequate socialservices, could also apply. It's clear Hiaasen is a champion of the underdog, a knight in the battle against the dimwits, half-wits, and nitwits who manage to rise to undeserved levels of power within the halls of government. Going through these columns, it also appears that the cliche is proved: the more things change the more they stay the same. Hiaasen's writings span almost 20 years, and the same topics keep popping up (i.e. drugs, guns, crime, and the ubiquitous political problems). It would seem that some people don't get much smarter over time.
One of the problems with a collection such as this is the tendency for overkill. Choosing columns dealing with the same subjects again and again may be of interest to regional readers, but they might lose their appeal to a nationalaudience.
Whether mourning the death of a state treasure (in this case an eight-foot, half-blind alligator) or suggesting that people actually be paid to leave the state, thus easing its over-crowding woes, this thought provocateur blends the pundit's tools of insight, foresight, and hindsight to try to get readers to share their sense of outrage. Sometimes it works, as when Hiaasen tells the sad tale of murdered policemen, calling for the politicians to display some backbone in toughgun-control legislation; sometimes itdoesn't, when he writes of certainenvironmental injustices unique to the southeast.
Readers of Kick Ass will appreciate Hiaasen's sincerity and moral courage. He is unafraid to speak his mind, knowing full well that he may incur the wrath of those he writes about. ¦ Ron Kaplan is a writer from Montclair, New Jersey.