Insane City: A Novel by Dave Barry (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2013. 314 pp)

Dave Barry is a humorist who is best known for a newspaper column he wrote that appeared in more than 500 newspapers and generated thousands of letters from readers who thought he should be fired. Despite his unpopular streak amongst concerned readers, he won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Barry has also written more than thirty books, including the novels Big Trouble, Lunatics, and Tricky Business. Barry lives in Miami with his family.

The Poor Groom

I first found Dave Barry’s work when I read a novel of his while on vacation, it was the novel Big Trouble, and I laughed so hard I legitimately fell off of the chair I was in. Since then, I’ve read a few of his other novels, all of which are based in the city of Miami. While some critique Barry for sticking to a well-rehearsed schtick, I frankly can’t blame him. He’s found a formula that works and keeps reaping the benefits—cold hard cash.

Insane City documents the heartfelt and complicated tale of a groom, Seth Weinstein, and his group of friends on the eve of his over-the-top wedding. Seth, in a tale much akin to that of The Hangover, has the worst night of his life and becomes involved in a melange of terrible tales. Seth becomes involved with a family of Haitian refugees, an orangutan named Trevor, a fake pirate ship, a snake, billionaires, strippers, Cuban women, medicinal marijuana, and Russian gangsters, all in a mere three hundred-odd pages.

Don’t Drop The Ring

Seth is employed as a “tweet whore”, a man who sends out seemingly honest outpourings of his own thoughts on products like energy bars, and douches. His wife, Tina, however, is well-connected, a lawyer in a prestigious law firm in Washington D.C. Tina, unlike Seth, doesn’t live in her parent’s basement either. As the story begins, Seth and his groomsmen are trying to find one of the nicest hotels in Miami’s Key Biscayne area. The taxi cab drops them off, after some considerable duress, and Seth, to his chagrin, finds out his luggage is missing. The luggage with his over-controlling bride-to-be’s wedding ring in it. No normal bride would be thrilled with this news, but Seth has a feeling that Tina will be absolutely furious.

“‘Tina found out that there was this supposedly master cake topper maker in Florence, so she flew there with her mom to personally supervise the making of our cake topper…The little bride doll is wearing a dress made from a piece of Tina’s mom’s actual wedding dress. The groom’s is made from her dad’s wedding tuxedo. The bride doll is wearing a little diamond tiara, and they are not fake diamods. You want to know how much that cost? Including flying over there? And the hotel?…I have no fucking idea. A LOT, though. Thousands and thousands of dollars. For the cake topper. So imagine what she did for the ring…This is a very special, one-of-a-kind Tina-designed ring that there will never be another one of. It’s like the Lord of the Rings ring, except it probably cost more” (65-66).

 Compounded Problems

The singular problem of losing a wedding ring is then compounded with a slew of other problems. There is a stripper named LaDawne, who appears in Seth’s hotel room, despite Seth’s loud proclamations that he didn’t ever want a stripper. LaDawne wants $2000 worth of cash in addition to a tip for services rendered. LaDawne’s pimp, Wesley, is an incredibly large man, who furthers the importance in Seth’s mind of getting the girl paid.

Same Old

Like most stories Barry writes, it gets out of control from there. Anacondas around a guy’s neck (who so happens to have Seth’s suitcase). An incredibly attractive Cuban woman who chooses to help Seth find his suitcase. A mother and her children pulled from the ocean, by Seth. And so on.

All in all, it’s what I’ve come to expect from Dave Barry. Insane City, while similar to Barry’s other novels (all thirty of them), is still a funny read. The novel isn’t intellectual by any means. The same formula is there: one exaggerated circumstance compounded upon another, all in the confines of the city of Miami. If you want another stereotypical Barry, go for this. It’s good.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

Affiliate Links: Powell’s Books Shop Indie Bookstores



Leave a Comment