Dave Barry and I moved to Miami, Florida, the same summer. I was there for an internship; he has stayed in Miami. Reading some of his first columns after the move was compelling for me, because I was having many of the same experiences and reactions he had.
Aside from that, Dave Barry and I don’t have much in common. He has made a successful career from his writing; my writing has been little more than a hobby. He makes millions of people laugh with his observations; I often fail to elicit even a single chuckle. Dave Barry is able to describe life in this world with great humor and wit. Even when I disagree with his opinions, I always find his writing entertaining.
At first Dave Barry wrote a regular newspaper column. Over time, it appeared in more and more newspapers. Then Dave Barry started writing books. His first few books were simple humorous observations about home repair, parenthood, and the like. Gradually he developed a richer style in his books. By the time Dave Barry was writing about computers (Dave Barry in Cyberspace), he was showing great writing talent. In that book, he even included a short story which is written entirely in the present tense, and—what is more amazing—entirely in the second person. Dave Barry did not become less amusing or entertaining, but his writing gained substance and actually provoked profound thoughts in his readers. My favorite of his books was written about this time: Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys.
I have one post card from Dave Barry. When he wrote about music (Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs), he observed that the city of Chicago does not have an east side. (He was critiquing the song “The Night Chicago Died,” which refers to the east side of Chicago.) Barry suggested that any police officer patrolling the east side of Chicago would be in Lake Michigan. I wrote Barry a letter pointing out that Lake Michigan, like Florida, has a rounded southern boundary. Chicago does indeed have an east side in its southeastern corner, located about where the Everglades are found in Florida. In reply, I received a handwritten, signed postcard which said, “J. Stop confusing me with facts. Dave Barry.” It is one of my most treasured possessions.
Dave Barry has written two novels: Big Trouble and Tricky Business. They are not as successful as his non-fiction humor. He has also turned to writing children’s literature. My personal library holds most of his published work, and some summer I hope to be able to read the entire collection cover to cover.