Fritz Agency
Published by
Alfred A. Knopf (July 2020)
Current material
Biography & non-fiction prose


A Journey to the Heart of Florida

by Russell, Kent

A wickedly smart, funny, and irresistibly off-kilter account of an improbable thousand-mile journey on foot into the heart of modern Florida, the state that Russell calls "America Concentrate."

In the summer of 2016, Kent Russell--broke, at loose ends, hungry for adventure--set off to walk across Florida. Mythic, superficial, soaked in contradictions, maligned by cultural elites, segregated from the South, and literally vanishing into the sea, Florida (or, as he calls it: "America Concentrate") seemed to Russell to embody America's divided soul. The journey, with two friends intent on filming the ensuing mayhem, quickly reduces the trio to filthy drifters pushing a shopping cart of camera equipment. They get waylaid by a concerned citizen bearing a rifle; buy cocaine from an ex-wrestler; visit a spiritual medium; attend a cuckold party. The narrative overflows with historical detail about how modern Florida came into being after World War II, and how it came to be a petri dish for life in a suddenly, increasingly diverse new land of minority-majority cities and of unrivaled ethnic and religious variety. Russell has taken it all in with his incomparably focused lens and delivered a book that is both an inspired travelogue and a profound rumination on the nation's soul--and his own. It is a book that is wildly vivid, encyclopedic, erudite, and ferociously irreverent--a deeply ambivalent love letter to his sprawling, brazenly varied home state.

Kent Russell's essays have appeared in The New Republic, Harper's Magazine, GQ, n+1, The Believer, and Grantland. He is the author of I Am Sorry to Have Raised A Timid Son.

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“Epic... A humorous, heartfelt tribute to the underbelly of Florida and its people. Recommended for fans of travel literature or the unusual survival story.” (starred review)

Review: Library Journal

“To try to understand this most incomprehensible state, we need varied and probing narratives, ones that change as Florida changes and are told by people who love the state too deeply to refrain from blistering criticism. Into this role steps the native South Floridian memoirist Kent Russell with his sharp, brilliant, mean, and exasperating hybrid book, In the Land of Good Living. By exasperating, I mean that I've never read an account of our gorgeous and messed-up state that is a more appropriate match of form and function. Russell's book is a braid of diverse strands that shouldn't work together and yet do The spirit of Don Quixote presides over this buddy-trip plotline [a] hilarious gut punch of a book.” (Lauren Groff)

Review: The Atlantic

"In this enjoyable travel memoir, a long-departed son of the Sunshine State returns with two buddies to explore the nation's weirdest state. Self-described “incautious Kerouac wannabe” and back-tax-dodging Russell (I Am Sorry to Have Raised a Timid Son) hauled his friends Glenn, “an affable Ottawan,” and Iraq War vet Noah (“We fit together and dangerously so”) along on a poorly thought-out odyssey into the sweaty, swampy heart of Florida in the summer of 2016. /.../ Throughout, Russell mixes historical insight with heavily ironic state mottos (“Florida: No judge but one's own”) and a dash of empathy. As the trio amble south toward Miami and the author's childhood home, he reflects on the state's blithely corrupt history: “There are no innocents here. Only individuals who wanted waterfront property for pennies on the dollar.” At once insightful and entertaining, Russell's observations reinforce Florida's mystique."

Review: Publishers Weekly

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