If we can't laugh at ourselves and all our Miami-centric absurdities, we've become the pretentious a-holes the rest of the country already thinks we are.
And it's with this philosophy that we should all embrace the satirical writings of local author and occasional Cultist contributor J.J. Colagrande. His second novel, Deco, is a parody of life in modern Miami, with all of its eccentricities, stereotypes and offensive proclivities. Let's not kid ourselves -- there are lots.
Ahead of tonight's book launch at Wynwood haunt Lester's, Cultist spoke to Colagrande on Miami phonies, spoiled Americans, and haters.
Cultist: What inspired you to write a Miami satire?
J.J. Colagrande: Writing about Miami as a journalist (mainly for the New Times) affords me insight and access into our city's cultural pulse, which is priceless, inspiring, and easy to tap into. But most of all, teaching at Miami-Dade at Wolfson (the best of that school's nine campuses) really allows me to get out of my ivory tower and listen to the soul of this city's streets.
Decò truly represents the 3-0-5 because of my six years at Dade.
Sounds like a prison sentence.
Is the character of Decò based on you at all?
Writers get that question a lot. Granted, there is a fine line between author, narrator, and central character, but in fiction (even in non-fiction) you work to separate the three.
I'd say, the characters stem out of people I've seen or had contact with, including myself. Then the composites of these people morph with my imagination and adapt to the context of the scenes of the story. By the end, they are characters completely independent of me.
What do you love most about Miami? Hate most?
I love how Miami is a one degree-of-separation city. How it's small enough to know and enjoy a variety of different lifestyles, scenes and locations, yet big enough to get lost in.
Our dualities bother me. For a city of transience, we are stuck in redundancy. For a town with so much to love, we're drenched in buckets of hate. Miami phonies bother me a little.
What do you hope readers draw from the novel?
Everybody will get what they get from it.
I think it's funny, easy-to-read and extremely, ridiculously, contemporary. I hope people meditate on the major theme of Decò -- and that is, as Americans, we are not entitled to anything. The days of children being spoiled by the Baby Boomers are over. America can still be exceptional, but we must work really hard for our successes, and not be lazy.
What would you tell haters who might take your satire seriously?
Haters should take this very, very seriously. Is the sarcasm coming though? It is now.
Did you do any research for the novel, or is it all about life experience?
I had this book in my head for like a year, and then when I finally had time to write, it came out quick, in like four months. Then, while trying to sell it to a corporate publisher (which didn't happen this time; hate away, haters) I tweaked it some more. I'm very proud of this book. I worked really hard on it. It's a modern adaptation of Voltaire's Candide and if people read it, regardless of whether they know Candide or not, I really think they will dig Decò.
What was your most ridiculous or satire-worthy Miami experience of all time?
Read the book. Grab it from the website. There's a few stories in there.
The Deco book launch party kicks off at Lester's at 7:30 p.m. There'll be readings from the novel, as well as a performance by local stand-up comedian Forrest Shaw. You can check out the event details on Facebook. Colagrande is also reading at the Miami Book Fair International on November 19.