King Author

Guns ‘n’ roses ‘n’ Florence King

Late author Florence King (1936-2016) was Fredericksburg’s most famous resident and the neighbor I most wanted to meet. I’ve been a fan since 1975 when I found her book Southern Ladies and Gentlemen as tangy as a bowl of perfectly seasoned Hoppin’ John. Her adroitness at simultaneously celebrating and vivisecting herds of sacred cattle left me reeling, and, as a fellow Southerner sharing Virginia roots, she also had me laughing my ass off. That book was followed by Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady which convinced me that this shamelessly rowdy misanthrope was Dixie’s answer to Dorothy Parker. Defining herself as “slightly to the right of Vlad the Impaler,” Miss King (as she preferred to be called) spent over four decades skewering anything and everything that struck her jaded fancy. In addition to books, she wrote a column for the National Review and reviewed books for the New York Times and Newsday. Often finding their way into her acerbic cross-hairs were feminism, political correctness, bad manners, poor breeding, democracy, the U.S. Constitution and the human condition. “Feminists will not be satisfied,” she wrote, “until every abortion is performed by a gay black doctor under an endangered tree on a reservation for handicapped Indians.”

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Miss King charmed and outraged both liberals and conservatives, and, despite not always agreeing with her, I revered her ferocity in speaking her mind. Unlike pathetic wannabe Ann Coulter who markets calculated cruelty as cleverness, Miss King polished her hilarious vitriol like diamonds and dispatched it with astonishing stealth. Only she would categorize her loathing for children thusly: “In order to molest a child, you must first be in the same room with one, and I don’t know how perverts stand it.” Disrespectful, yes, and appalling to be sure, but also damned funny. Herewith a few choice gems from Southern Ladies and Gentlemen:

“I have known several Southerners who were kin to themselves. Whatever else was wrong with them, they were remarkably free from the tortures of identity crises- which may help explain why judges so readily released them in their own recognizance.”

“Living in the South would make anyone sexy. The long-hot summer tensions of Southern life create an aura of waiting, a perpetual alertness, and a sensation that something is about to happen. Such a mood turns people’s minds to sex because it is the only form of release available.”

“Novelists prefer complex women for their protagonists, which is why the Southern woman has been the heroine of so many more novels than her Northern sister. The cult of Southern womanhood endowed her with at least five totally different images and asked her to be good enough to adopt all of them. She is required to be frigid, passionate, sweet, bitchy, and scatterbrained- all at the same time. Her problems spring from the fact that she succeeds.”

Arguably, Miss King’s most oft-quoted quip is from her semi-autobiographical Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady: “No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street.” It is, I believe, the perfect parting shot.

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3 Comments

  1. Liz
    Jan 22, 2016

    Yup, Miss King was one of a kind. Glad you shared some of her pithier piths!

  2. Magpie
    Jan 22, 2016

    I have a wish list of books to read and her books are on it. Enough of wishing and time to start reading. Thank you for sharing and bringing her back to life.

  3. Scott
    Jan 24, 2016

    Sounds like my kind of curmudgeonly satire. Ripping good stuff that pokes fun at everyone and everything while still having a profound fondness for people. Makes me wonder if she ever got a tattoo in a private spot, that read, “If you can read this, you ain’t my brother!”

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