Pittman guides us through 18 chapters of natural, economic, political, social and personal history, each painstakingly reported and researched. These he arranges into a compulsively readable, lifer’s-eye view of a state he so obviously loves to death ... Interspersed if not quite threaded throughout these wonderful tidbits are Pittman’s own Florida memories and pronouncements. These snippets can be acute. They can also lapse into the type of avuncular zinger that is as endearing as it is groan-inducing...but this is a minor gripe.
Oh Florida! isn't merely a collection of goofy stories or Florida-Man fodder, though Pittman deftly interweaves a startling number of can-you-believe-this tales. Like a good anthropologist, Pittman tries to make order, if not sense, from the madness ... Pittman draws us in with skillfully told miniature comic operas about crooks and creeps, then uses those stories to lead to parables about the state and its myriad virtues and wonders that make the natives proud ... Oh, Florida! brings readers in for laughs, but then gets them to stick around for the tale of a maddening, fascinating and wonderful place.
Pittman’s service journalism makes Oh, Florida! an invaluable addition to the Florida canon, which urgently needs serious voices to balance out the farcical, hyperbolic works produced by Carl Hiaasen and bloggers the world over. Likewise, Pittman does necessary work to highlight the forgotten or unheralded influence of Floridians who’ve shaped modern life ... to the extent that the book has any shortfalls, they are entirely matters of personal taste – of not going far enough. For instance, while Pittman’s gaze focuses on the state overall, I would’ve liked to see more attention paid to South Florida specifically.