Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fierce Protector of the Everglades; Hefty Bio of Marjory Stoneman Douglas May Have Too Much to Offer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fierce Protector of the Everglades; Hefty Bio of Marjory Stoneman Douglas May Have Too Much to Offer

Article excerpt

Byline: JEREMY COX

The chief problem with writing about the Everglades is there are no neck-straining mountains, deep canyons or majestic woodlands. Writers who wade into this vast South Florida marsh -- literally or metaphorically or both -- must make do with black muck, long-snouted reptiles and unending horizons of sawgrass.

No one was better than Marjory Stoneman Douglas at spinning this subtropical straw into literary gold.

In his biography of her and of the watery land she loved, "An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century," University of Florida associate professor Jack E. Davis places her work at the top of the ever-expanding canon of Everglades literature.

Davis is no stranger to the topic, having served as co-editor of an essay collection about Florida's environmental history. His latest work shows a historian who loves his subjects: the long-lived Douglas and the Everglades.

Which is good, until it isn't.

Davis is a tireless researcher. Long-forgotten details re-emerge about some of South Florida's most famous environmental fights, like the one over the Big Cypress Swamp jetport, a project that inspired Douglas to create her still-vital group Friends of the Everglades. And he even corrects some of the record from her autobiography.

The problem is the book is really two stories in one and often feels bloated. The first half trades chapters between Douglas' early life (mentally ill mom, Wellesley grad, young divorcee) and the deterioration of the Everglades (flood-sick farmers, shady bureaucrats, Manifest Destiny). …

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