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Five From Florida

Sunshine State literature makes for great gift-giving

Photo: Dawn Schreiner, License: N/A

Dawn Schreiner

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl

Kelle Groom Free Press/Simon & Schuster
238 pages

Reading this book can be a mind-altering experience, so strange and lyrical are the images and language; it’s like dreaming while awake, or eavesdropping on someone else’s dreams. Or like being high, which Kelle Groom was, a lot. This memoir chronicles her attempts to get clean and to come to terms with the double loss of her son: First she gave him away at birth to a family member, then he died of leukemia before she could get straight and get to know him. But I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is utterly unlike any other memoir I’ve read, a meandering assortment of episodes from a life foggy with indirection, occasionally pierced with a metaphor as brilliant, painful and targeted as a laser. Groom was both an associate artist and, later, an employee of New Smyrna Beach’s Atlantic Center for the Arts, a place she credits with transforming her life (readers may also recognize the bars and health-food stores, the AA meetings and rehabs, of downtown Orlando and Winter Park). Lovers of language will get pleasurably lost in this account of the mysterious and gradual coalescence of self-identity.

Crazy Little Thing: Why Love and Sex Drive

Us Mad Liz Langley Viva Editions/Cleis Press
256 pages

In this slim and snappy volume, sex blogger and former Orlando Weekly columnist Liz Langley examines the science of “how your hormones and neurotransmitters make you do really stupid things.” A compendium of interviews with scientists, therapists, authors, filmmakers and criminals, all nicely linked with personal anecdotes from Langley, Crazy Little Thing manages to reassure even the most unlucky in love that A) you’re not crazy – it’s all brain chemistry, and B) there’s someone out there way, way crazier than you could ever be. For instance, Burt Pugach and Linda Riss: They dated, she found out he was married, she got engaged to someone else, so he hired someone to throw lye in her face. She’s blind and scarred and he did 14 years in prison, but now they’re happily married! Langley’s trademark bawdy humor is perfectly matched with the subject matter, and her deft turns of phrase – like when she describes a murderer-for-love as “tan and slender as a wooden flute” – make the science stuff almost poetic. The book makes a brave attempt to explain why “when we’re handed love’s lemons, some of us make lemonade … and some of us throw the lemons through the mirror and make boiled bunny soup.”

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