Book Talk - Dave Barry takes on strippers, drugs, Miami society wedding

NEW YORK Thu Jan 24, 2013 4:08pm IST

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A groom and his closest college friends descend on Miami for a high-society wedding but get waylaid by Haitian refugees, Russian gangsters, an angry stripper and a beautiful Cuban woman in author Dave Barry's latest book, "Insane City."

Fortified with medical marijuana brownies and alcohol, the groom and his expanding tribe of societal misfits attempt to do the right thing by all concerned and still make the wedding.

Barry, a 65-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist who lives in Miami with his wife and daughter, talked to Reuters about his writing, his audience, drugs, and animal rights.

Q: Do you worry you are aiming for the lowest common denominator audience?

A: "No, I don't. That's my audience. Don't be calling them that. I do sometimes go for broad humor, and sometimes scatological humor, but I think that there is a lot of humor that you have to be sort of smart to get. There is no sex really in this book. There is a little violence, mostly it's about a guy trying to wrestle with a dilemma and solve a lot of comical problems that arise."

Q: Do you ever want to write anything regarded as literature?

A: "No, not really, I don't know that I could, to be honest. But that is not my goal in life. I have been a humor writer for pretty much my whole career, so I try to entertain people. I don't think of my job as being to enlighten them but just to keep them entertained."

Q: Who do you write for? Who do you see as your audience?

A: "This is sort of a cliche answer but mostly for me. I mean I write the kind of story that I like to read where a lot of things happen and there are sort of unexpected things and humor, and some sort of satisfactory ending. I just hope there are enough people who like the same kind of writing, which so far there have been. That is the way it has worked out.

Q: Is your humor universal, only for English speakers or very American-centric?

A: "I think probably more American-centric, but I know that my books do get published in other countries, English speaking and otherwise. I am not sure how well it translates, to be honest. Every now and then I will get a letter from somebody, in, like, Germany, who says, 'Oh, I love your book that was translated into German'. But I guess I am writing mainly for Americans. It's tough, I think, with humor to cross cultural boundaries a lot of the time, and the culture I know is this one. That is where I tend to go."

Q: Do you do a lot of illegal drugs and drink a lot?

A: "I did in my youth. I don't do any kind of marijuana at all anymore but I certainly recall those days when I was writing those scenes, the way you think you are being incredibly insightful and you are not."

Q: What's your poison now?

A: "Strictly beer for the most part, beer and wine. I'm very fond of beer, but I know for a fact that I have never had any insights on beer. Except for 'whoa, I think I'll have another beer'."

Q: You don't buy brownies anywhere?

A: "No, but I am told they are more potent than ever. The last time I tried any kind of (marijuana) was probably more than 20 years ago and I remember thinking it was certainly a lot, lot stronger than it was when I was in college, which was my real pot era. It was kind of more like acid or something. I was done."

Q: Is that on the record?

A: "I think anybody who is my age and claims not to have tried marijuana in college could be telling the truth, but it's not that likely."

Q: Trevor the orangutan was the most interesting character in the book. Where do you stand on animal rights?

A: "He does have a certain depth to him and weight. He has a real arc. He starts out wanting to get out and mate with all these women and then he discovers that he was really happier back there in the cage.

"I suppose I stand squarely with the vast majority of people. That is to say, I think I am basically nice to animals and I certainly don't like to see them suffer. On the other hand, I do eat hamburgers."

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Matthew Lewis)

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