I don't think it's a coincidence that so many authors are drawn to South Florida (Carl Hiaasen, Peter Matthiessen, Joy Williams).
There is something absolutely haunting about the swamp.
It gets right to the heart of the problem; That's why I love that epigraph.
"I only wish that I had such eyes," the King remarked in a fretful tone. I love it because it so succinctly contains one of the central questions of the book - how can we find one another, how can we truly "see" one another, when so much of our lives are spent straining after phantoms?
To me, this bit of dialogue is hilarious and sad, and hope-filled, too, in its wry way; it acknowledges the extreme difficulty of seeing real people - seeing yourself, seeing anybody clearly.
I think these are still happening - a bunch of ten-year olds from "the mainland" of Miami stuff their ears with cotton balls and board an airboat; then, in my experience at least, you eat pinkish hamburgers with mayonnaise and watch a sweaty man in jeans perform a gator-wrestling demonstration.
I remember feeling confused about who to root for in this battle - the man was more or less sitting on the alligator.
I think I wanted to create strange but familiar snow-globe worlds almost as soon as I started reading these books I also think I'm drawn to imaginary places because it's an architecture that any reading consciousness can enter - as a kid I used to love talking to other readers who had visited the same nonexistent places as me - you know, Oz, Watership Down, Derry, Macondo.
This kind of travel, to an invisible place created by the author, felt both exquisitely personal and also communal; anybody who could make it through the book could get from Kansas to Oz.
It didn't start out that way, but it has stealthily crept up in the rankings.
Now I think that gator wrestling demonstration, which I sort of snoozed through at the time, must have made a more lasting and dramatic impression than I realized.
In two separate interviews Karen Russell talks about her first book of short stories, St.