January 9, 2016


Rest in Peace, Florence (JACK FOWLER, January 6, 2016, National Review)

Florence King was one of the premier writers of the 20th century. In particular, as a book reviewer, she was unrivaled. And was there a better scourge of multiculturalism than the crotchety, gin-swilling, chain-smoking, off-colored prose perfectionist who fired off verbal mortars from a nicotine-and-tar patina-d apartment on Caroline Street? I don't think so. She is an important part of the history and fiber of this institution known for harboring great writers. Her thousands upon thousands of adoring fans -- many of whom she counted as pen pals (she loved getting letters from her readers) -- will agree. 

One private thing: Florence was spiritual -- at least that she felt the spirit of a few departed souls, especially her famous Granny. That led her to think, maybe . . .  A few months back she asked me to pray for her, and I did, and she was happy to know that rosaries on Bill Buckley's old beads were being said for her. It gave her comfort, and maybe there were other consequences. But tonight I will say another prayer for her, and I hope you will too, because if you were someone who derived great enjoyment from reading Florence King, know that, at the end, she sought peace, and if we can help her rest in it, we should.

Florence King (1936-2016) : Andrew Ferguson's memoir of a Southern Lady  (ANDREW FERGUSON, 1/18/16, Weekly Standard)

The best of Florence is in her books anyway, particularly Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, one of the most exquisitely controlled pieces of writing I know of, seamlessly hilarious, nostalgic, ironic, and wise. It tells of an only child growing up in an eccentric family in the 1940s and '50s, and it will last as long as Americans want to know the tactile reality of one part of their past, what it felt like to be someone many years before they were born. Maybe it won't last so very long, after all.

I intend this tribute to be about Florence and not about me, of course, but I will close with a note that complicates the sadness at her death. I loved Florence King. I loved her writing, I relied on her kindness, and I treasured her friendship. It didn't last, though. She was famously changeable. I can trace the arc through my sheaf of old faxes. Some time around 1999, she failed to answer one of my letters. In a week or so I sent another, sliding the pages into the maw of the fax machine and listening for the scratchy sound that meant the fax had gone through. I waited a day and nothing came back. I tried again. After a month I faxed a new letter, full of gossip and jokes, and when I didn't hear from her I phoned her and left a message on her machine. She didn't answer.

Several years later I published a book, and out of nowhere--I was told this long after the fact--she approached the editor of another magazine, an acquaintance of mine, and asked to review it. She wrote a rave, to use a term she liked. It was the kind of implausible praise a writer dreams someone will someday write about him, and I never heard from her again, and I never knew why.

Florence King, acerbic conservative writer, dies at 80 (Matt Schudel, January 7, 2015, Washington Post)

For many readers, regardless of political persuasion, her saving grace as a writer was a tart, well-tailored wit that made her one of the most provocative and uncompromising prose stylists of her generation.

"You can't pretend to be witty because wit is dry, subtle, lacerating, cynical, elitist, and risque -- all impossible to fake," she wrote in a 2004 essay. "Humor, on the other hand, is broad, soothing, positive, inclusive, and smutty -- to make sure everybody gets it. Pretending to be humorous is easy and a great many people are doing it."

Miss King's best-known book, "Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" (1985), was an embroidered memoir of her coming of age in Washington, where she was reared by a British father, a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking mother and a maternal grandmother with fond recollections, real or imagined, of an aristocratic heritage in Virginia.

Writer Carolyn See, reviewing the book in the Los Angeles Times, called it "so original, so odd, so wonderful, so bizarre and finally so heart-wrenching that it can't easily be summed up. . . . This is a stunning book, a masterpiece."

Florence King, 1936 - 2016: a great American conservative (The Spectator, 7 January 2016)

Let's not get sentimental -- she would not have liked that -- but Florence King, the American writer and splendid reactionary, has died. It is sad because Florence was brilliant, brave and most of all funny. Her best-known work, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, is a tremendous book -- essential reading, I'd say, for anyone who wants to understand spirited American conservatism, rather than the lobotomised crap churned out on TV or talk radio, or by Republican Party candidates. She deserves to be better known, though it is heartening today to see fans sharing her quotes on Twitter. (My favourite: 'while watching 'Psycho' a single question ran through my head: "Where can I get a shower head with that kind of capacity?"')

Posted by at January 9, 2016 11:18 AM