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King, Florence (1936 - )
"Any hope that America would finally grow up vanished with the rise of fundamentalist Christianity. Fundamentalism, with its born-again regression, its pink-and-gold concept of heaven, its literal-mindedness, its rambunctious good cheer ... its anti-intellectualism ... its puerile hymns ... and its faith-healing ... are made to order for King Kid America."

-- Florence King


Florence Virginia King (born January 5, 1936 in Washington, D.C., USA) is an American novelist, essayist and columnist. While her early writings focused on the American South and those who live there, much of King's later work has been published in the magazine National Review. Her column in National Review, "The Misanthrope's Corner," was known for "serving up a smorgasbord of curmudgeonly critiques about rubes and all else bothersome to the Queen of Mean," as the magazine put it. She supports conservatism, but is not a "movement conservative." Though grateful for her fan base, Miss King (she objects to the concept of "Ms.") considers herself a misanthrope.

Born to an American mother and an English father, King was raised in the tidewater region of Virginia by her maternal grandmother. In 1957, King received her B.A. in history from American University in Washington D.C., where she was inducted into Phi Alpha Theta. She also attended the University of Mississippi as a graduate student, but did not complete her M.A. degree after the traumatic loss of a girlfriend. She is a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church, but admits to being an atheist in terms of faith (or lack thereof).

King had several occupations before she began writing as a career. In the mid 1950’s, she was a history teacher in Suitland, Maryland. Later in the decade, she was a file clerk at the National Association of Realtors. From 1964 to 1967, King was a feature writer for the Raleigh News and Observer. While at the Raleigh N&O, King received the North Carolina Press Woman Award for reporting.

The majority of King’s works under her own name have been non-fiction essays. She wrote the historical romance novel Barbarian Princess under the pseudonym of Laura Buchanan. King has also admitted to having written numerous pornographic stories and pulp paperback books and erotica under various pseudonyms. She gained national attention with her column "The Misantrhope's Corner" in National Review, a conservative magazine of political and social commentary.

In addition, she wrote numerous articles in The American Enterprise magazine. At the time of her 2002 retirement, National Review Books published an anthology of her columns entitled STET, Damnit! Sometimes called "Erma Bombeck with a bite," King's sometimes-obscure literary references, dry humor, and erudite writing limits her mass-appeal. She has also been compared to H. L. Mencken.

Miss King's first book (published under her own name) was 1975's Southern Ladies and Gentlemen. The work provides a humorous guide to the South for "Yankees;" while still funny, it has become somewhat dated over the years. Her most popular book, 1985's Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, is a semi-autobiographical work, focusing on her grandmother and the influence she had on King's life.

In the work, King says she had relationships with both men and women during college: one woman she fell in love with was killed in a car crash. She jokingly describes herself as a "conservative lesbian feminist" and has been referred to as the "World's Funniest Bi-Sexual-Republican." Miss King has publicly acknowledged regret at revealing her bisexuality, as she does not want to be part of the "gay liberation movement."

King, who now lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has kept to herself since entering retirement in 2002. It is not known if she will ever write another book.

Anecdotes
King on stress: "The American way of stress is comparable to Freud's 'beloved symptom,' his name for the cherished neurosis that a patient cultivates like the rarest of orchids and does not want to be cured of. Stress makes Americans feel busy, important, and in demand, and simultaneously deprived, ignored, and victimized. Stress makes them feel interesting and complex instead of boring and simple, and carries an assumption of sensitivity not unlike the Old World assumption that aristocrats were high-strung. In short, stress has become a status symbol." (from "The Misanthrope's Corner," May 2001)

King on the American attention span: "The American attention span always has gotten a lot of attention. The first to note our easy distractibility was Alexis de Tocqueville. His findings were echoed by Frederick Jackson Turner, but being an American, Turner used the more tactful and romantic 'restlessness.'

"...Our distractibility is also the inevitable residue of our undisciplined feelings. The American proclivity for leaving our emotional lights on has drained the battery of our attention span dry. The human spirit can take only so much of 24-hour coverage, memorial services, ribbons, teddy bears, crisis counseling, and moments of silence. We pay such obsessive attention to disasters and tragedies that we end up seeking respite in forgetfulness. (Quick, name one Teheran hostage.)

"Welcome to America the Flea Circus. We now have a new disease, Attention Deficit Disorder, and like all democratic diseases, it does not discriminate. The good news is that by the time we run the gauntlet of ADD resources, clinics, programs, workshops, seminars, CBS Specials, and Sally Struthers promos, no one will remember what it is." (from "The Misanthrope's Corner," June 1995)

King summed up her writing efforts in a May 2002 "Misanthrope's Corner": "Being a writer has made me a lifelong practitioner of no-holds-barred insight, driven by an irresistible impulse to shovel through mountains of received bull to get to the bottom of things."

As an example of the manners taught to her by her grandmother, she says: "No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street." (from Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, 1985)

 
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