"Time Passes": The Extinction of Joy Williams' Guidebook to the Keys, Noa Greenspan, UG '23, (3964581)
In 2003, short story writer and novelist Joy Williams published the tenth and final version of her guidebook to the Florida Keys. Snarky, acerbic, and obsessed with environmental disaster, The Florida Keys: A History & Guide often seems an odd match for its consumer-pleasing genre. “I’m unsure as to what exactly [my] aims were,” she admits in her afterword. “Maybe, as a breed, guidebook writers are a little simpleminded. They wake to find themselves unwitting boosters, pimps for purveyors, commerce’s collaborators." At last, Williams throws in the towel and explains her decision to stop publishing the book altogether: “Guidebook writers … cannot forever continue to absorb unsettling rapid reckless change in a place that once held their fascinated and devoted interest. So it is that this particular guide, 16 years old and revised ten times, stops." So why did Williams choose the guidebook genre for her love letter to the Keys? How did the genre become untenable for her over the years? And was her decision to end her guidebook an act of resistance to the tourist?