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Next Exit Magic Kingdom: Florida Accidentally (Tauris Parke Paperbacks) Paperback – 20 May 2008
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As much-lauded travel writer Rory (Stalin's Nose, The Oatmeal Ark) MacLean cheerily admits on the first page of his latest book, the conception of Next Exit Magic Kingdom was an accident. He had been intending to write a dark, deeply researched thesis on Germany but then glanced in some tabloid travel pages and realised no-one took holidays in Germany, and that lots of people took holidays in Florida. So, in search of sun, sea, sex--and better sales for his book--off he went to the land of Goofy and conch fritters. The result, for all its shambolic construction and its air of affable laziness, is a minor triumph of the travel writer's art; this is probably because, as MacLean discovers, Florida is itself the camp, self-regarding epicentre of pleasure-seeking recreation. Whether he's drinking "Celestial Seasoning Red Zinger tea" in a new age cafe, visiting the "Fern Capital of America", swimming in the swampy seas in his "Like Naked Fig-Leaf Swimwear", or just hanging out with the rollorblading "bohunks" of Miami Beach, MacLean finds a US state that is a state of mind, or rather, a state of laid-back, languid, post-ironic, sun-baked mindlessness. There are serpents in this airhead Eden, of course. As MacLean points out, the hot mosquito-riiden Florida panhandle might be relatively crime-free, but that's got something to do with the 1.8m American citizens in prison. And the suburbs of Miami might be a vivid palette of cultures and skin tones, but they are also sitting on the faultline of some potentially violent ethnic sensitivities. This is not a flawless book. The ending is weak, the writing sometimes self-indulgent. But it is a sharp, funny, engaging and rather brave attempt to pin down the essence of a very strange, yet strangely magnetic place. --Sean Thomas --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'Rory Maclean's book embodies all the virtues of the place it describes - it is zippy and fun; it has heart and energy and a restless haphazard charm. He has wrestled the Sunshine State like an alligator and stuffed and mounted it for our readerly pleasure.' --Louis Theroux
'Entertaining and insightful. Probably quite unlike any Florida you or I have seen.' --Anthony Sattin, Sunday Times
Some travel books make you want to go there with the writer. This one makes you pleased he s done it for you. --Neil Mullarkey, Observer
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I've never read a travel book that has been as enlightening, or one so reassuring of the goodness of human nature. Rory Maclean set out to find a soul in a soul-less place, and has achieved just that.