"So This Is Florida"

"So This Is Florida" sums up life on the peninsula in many different ways. To start with, the exhibition of decorative book bindings and book jackets is state-themed. More significantly, it reminds us that in this part of the subtropics, even when it comes to something deep like literature, appearances are still everything. You're supposed to judge these books by their covers, which celebrate, document, and satirize the Sunshine State. The display includes such notable authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Stephen Foster. It offers a look at the evolution of book design and publishing over more than a century. Stowe's Palmetto Leaves, published in 1873 and the oldest of the collection, represents an unspoiled, romantic notion of old Florida. Printed in the days before dust jackets, the book's title, along with decorative palm fronds and ornamental borders, is stamped in gold on the dark-red, ribbed cloth of the book's binding. Representing the other extreme, Tim Dorsey's crime novel Florida Roadkill is all about the coverup. Beneath a garish dust jacket that uses post-card aesthetics to portray the deadly pastimes of fast living in the modern tropics lurks a plain, gray, paper binding. Between Stowe and Dorsey, a visual history of the evolving aesthetics of bookbinding makes for an exhibit with spine — 70 in all. (Through October 6 at the Broward County Main Library, Bienes Museum of the Modern Book, 100 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-357-8692.)

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