The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


December 22, 2013

Patty Crane: Cultural extremes crash in Dave Barry fiction

JOPLIN, Mo. — Dave Barry, columnist and humor writer, has published more than 30 books, but only a handful of them are novels. I read his first, "Big Trouble," more than 10 years ago and still chuckle over parts of it. So it was with great anticipation that I picked up his latest, "Insane City."

Seth Weinstein is getting married in three days to a gorgeous, successful woman. Tina is a lawyer, activist and daughter of a very wealthy man, and wants to marry Seth. Given the first three parts of that statement, Seth has trouble believing the fourth part.

He is not the successful, high-achieving mate one would expect Tina to choose. He tweets about products for a living, has to secretly Google the issues Tina and her friends discuss and doesn't get very excited about all of her causes. But he makes her laugh, and when he proposed she said yes.

The simple, intimate wedding he hoped for has blossomed into a grand affair with the whole wedding party flying to Key Biscayne, Fla., for the ceremony. Tina has every detail under control. Seth's job is to survive his bachelor party and show up with the ring -- the one-of-a-kind ring that was specially made for Tina. Simple, right?

Seth's part of the bridal party consists of the two groomsmen, Big Steve and Kevin, and the best man, Marty. The juvenile antics start even before they board the plane for Miami. Seth knows the maturity level of his friends, especially Marty, and has fears about the bachelor party that Marty planned.

After landing then mediating a minor crisis with Tina, Seth and his friends grab a taxi for the ride to the hotel in Key Biscayne. However, their driver can't seem to find Key Biscayne, and after two attempts he dumps them in South Beach. Distracted by a Miss Hot Amateur Bod contest, they abandon their quest to reach the hotel and start the party.

While Seth and his friends are partying in South Beach, a Haitian immigrant and her two children are struggling to survive in the ocean off the coast of Florida. Laurette and her children are forced into a dinghy by the men she paid to bring her to her sister in Miami.

Twenty-five miles from land they are set adrift, where the current is supposed to take them to shore. The boat is no match for the waves, and she is left fighting for their lives.

By the early hours of the morning, Seth has been separated from his friends, his money and his suitcase with Tina's one-of-kind wedding ring. He has found his hotel with the help of Cindy, one of the Hot Bod contestants, and her friend, Duane, who doesn't go anywhere without his 11-foot python. He also finds the stripper Marty arranged for in his suite, the suite which is being paid for by his future father-in-law.

He doesn't have the money to pay her, and the longer he takes to pay, the higher the price. A walk on the beach to clear his head puts Seth in place to pull Laurette and her children from the water as they wash up to shore. They survived, but her struggles in the water destroyed the note containing her sister's address. With nowhere else to go, Laurette, her son and baby join the stripper in his hotel suite.

With a little more than 24 hours until his wedding, Seth now has to find his friends, Laurette's sister, his suitcase with that precious ring and a thousand dollars to pay the stripper, and he has to keep Tina from finding out. Of course, being a Dave Barry novel, there is an SUV with pornographic movies, pot-laced brownies, an orangutan looking for a mate, a pair of thugs and a pirate ship.

The contrast between Laurette's plight and the extravagant wedding and antics of the idle rich adds some unsubtle social commentary to the outrageous humor. This is an entertaining read, but if you find crude humor, marijuana use and bad language offensive, I'd skip this title.


Patty Crane is reference librarian for the Joplin Public Library.


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In an effort to curb prostitution, St. Louis police are targeting, and perhaps humiliating, the "johns" who use the services. Postcards mailed to the homes of those charged with trying to pick up prostitutes will offer a reminder about spreading sexually transmitted diseases, along with listing the court date. Do you think this is a good approach?

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