Florida Writers Discuss Works; Kennedy, Roberts Ridicule 2000 Vote

Article excerpt

Byline: Susan D. Brandenburg, Shorelines correspondent

ATLANTIC BEACH -- Bridging the generations, two Florida writers of like minds met at The Bookmark Friday night.

Authors Diane Roberts and Stetson Kennedy lit up the little Atlantic Beach bookstore with acerbic, insightful, often hilarious observations about their home state.

Kennedy, 88, a Jacksonville journalist, folklorist and civil rights activist, authored Palmetto Country in 1942; the book is widely acknowledged as the first authentic treatise on "real" Florida. The author of several books, including The Klan Unmasked, chronicling his infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1940s and '50s, Kennedy paid tribute to Roberts Friday, calling her book, Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Conquistadors, Confederate Daughters, Banana Republicans, and Other Florida Wildlife, "a new way of writing history."

Grinning broadly as Roberts signed copies and read portions of her book aloud, Kennedy observed, "If more history was written this way, there wouldn't be so many high school dropouts."

In the timely prologue of Dream State [Simon and Schuster], Roberts describes her hometown of Tallahassee as it was four years ago, 10 days following the "non-election" that focused global attention on Florida. "The votes -- chads dimpled, dangling, hinged, hanging or pregnant -- still sit in boxes," she wrote. " . . . Lawyers are holed up in their offices navigating stacks of statutes, Lexis printouts, briefs, and mostly empty Pizza Hut boxes. The judges have disappeared behind the silver doors of the Florida Supreme Court, pondering their next Delphic pronouncement. The whole world is watching."

An internationally acclaimed journalist, NPR and BBC commentator, Roberts holds degrees from Florida State University and the University of Oxford and is an English professor at the University of Alabama. She has authored two other books, Faulkner and Southern Womanhood and The Myth of Aunt Jemima.

With rapier wit and keen insight, Roberts, an eighth-generation Floridian, focused much of the discussion Friday night on politics in Florida. …