Florence King is the pinnacle southern writer with a sharp pen and an even sharper edge. She appeals to a diverse crowd and offends even more.
The reviewers quote from The New York Times Book Review across the top of The Florence King Reader states “Intolerant, insensitive – and very, very, funny.”
Thus we begin our discussion of Florence King. Miss King is a Southerner first and foremost. Her sense of place is more than mere residence or geographic location – it defines all she is or ever hoped to be. She is quite proud to be a Southerner and makes no apologies about it……and I like her all the better for it. (Please note Miss King rejects the usage of “Ms.” in reference to herself.)
She is a complicated woman and will not be easily put into categories. This lady is not the type of character you will find on the network morning shows participating in mindless chatter – that simply isn’t Florence’s (oooops…sorry, Miss King does not allow strangers to refer to her by her first name) bag. She once said the only thing she has in common with the people on the morning shows is a “sofa.”
For those of you in the know, Miss King is a writer. And, let me tell you, she can write. George Will said of her – “If Mencken were alive, he would be her.” Unfortunately, because of her dry humor, she is often compared to Dorothy Parker. Miss King does not like such comparisons, she believes Ms. Parker was nothing more than a hopeless romantic.
She has written such literary canons as Southern Ladies and Gentlemen; Wasp, Where is Thy Sting?; He: An Irreverent Look at the American Male; Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady (a classic); and A Fond Look at Misanthropy. She also had a bi-monthly column in the back of the National Review called The Misanthrope’s Corner.
How would you define Florence King? Her editor puts it simply: “She’s an unreconstructed Southerner, gun-toting right-wing feminist, high-church Episcopal atheist, post-menopausal misanthropic monarchist.”
After receiving a very favorable book review in the New York Times Review of books, (something other writers would gladly die for) Miss King wrote to the editor to explain “You do not know how to write a review. I do. Here are your faults….”
Miss King is a bi-sexual. She was once invited by the Virginia Lesbian community to be a part of a weekend retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The flyer sent to her laid out the weekend’s activities: Corn-worshipping festival, Logic-is-Dead Bonfire, Nude Dancing, Vegetarian Cafeteria, Non-Smokers and Writing Demonstrations.
She returned the flyer with a note across the top: “It’s time you knew I’m a Republican.”
Miss King, like tobacco, has deep roots in the great state of Virginia. Raised by her blue-blood grandmother (who spent her days trying to make Florence quit smoking and to be more “lady like”), she understands the rules of civility, but simply chooses to dispense justice and knowledge as she sees fits. She even removed the passenger seat from her car so no one would ask her for a ride.
She is a well-read, well bred, gun-toting, high-minded smoker, pushing freedom of expression to new heights. I like her because she is herself. I don’t have to agree with her on everything, but I agree with her in the aggregate. If we are going to live in a free country, we need to start acting like free people. How do you begin? Stop worrying about everyone else’s rules and perceptions and go be yourself. Most people do not know how to do that – Florence King does. And she does it so well.
She said her grandmother failed in making a lady out of her (Florence’s) mother. Therefore, Florence was her grandmother’s last hope. Her grandmother kept the anvil hot trying to mold Florence into something other than typical. Her collection of stories in, The Florence King Reader, is the sum total of her life and her grandmother’s efforts. She begins at the beginning with this missive:
“This is the story of my years on her anvil. Whether she succeeded in making a lady out of me is for you to decide, but I will say one thing in my own favor before we begin. No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street.”
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