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Florence King

Miss Florence Virginia King (b. January 5 1936, Washington, D.C.) 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 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 is a traditional conservative, but not a "movement conservative" and objects to much of the populist direction of the contemporary American Right .[1]. Miss King labels herself, with considerable justification, a "misanthrope".

Early life

Born in Washington, DC to a British father and an American mother, Herbert Frederick and Louise Ruding King, Florence King grew up living in the District with her parents, her maternal grandmother and her grandmother's maid, all of whose influence she acknowledges. She is an active Episcopalian (though she often refers to her atheism)[2], a member of Phi Alpha Theta, and a Royalist.

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 her girlfriend in a car crash.[3]


King had several occupations before she began writing as a career. In the mid-1950s, 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 newspaper, Miss King received the North Carolina Press Woman Award for reporting.[4]

The majority of King’s works under her own name have been non-fiction essays. She also wrote a 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 Misanthrope's Corner" in National Review, a conservative magazine of political and social commentary. In addition, she wrote numerous articles for the The American Enterprise magazine. At the time of her retirement in 2002, the National Review of Books published an anthology of her columns entitled STET, Damnit!

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, Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady (1985), is a semi-autobiographical work, focusing on, among other things, her grandmother's, mother's and father's construct of "a lady."

In Confessions, 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. This relationship was detailed in Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady. [5] She jokingly describes herself as a "conservative lesbian feminist" and has been referred to as the "World's Funniest Bi-Sexual-Republican." [6]

King has publicly acknowledged regret at revealing her bisexuality, as she does not want to be part of the "gay liberation movement." In 1995, King publicly accused the late writer Molly Ivins of plagiarizing her work.[7] Ivins publicly acknowledged and apologized for her error.[8]

King, who now lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has kept to herself since entering retirement in 2002. It is not known if she will write any new books. However, a selection of her book reviews and articles was released under the title Deja Reviews: Florence King All Over Again in October 2006.

King resumed writing for National Review in 2006 with a monthly column featuring her characteristic wry humor and insightful observations. In 2007 the column was entitled "The Bent Pin."[9]


  • 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 wrote: "No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street." (from Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady, 1985)

Books by Florence King

  • Southern Ladies and Gentlemen - 1975
  • Wasp, Where is Thy Sting? - 1977
  • Barbarian Princess (fiction - writing as Laura Buchanan) - 1978
  • He: An Irreverent Look at the American Male - 1978
  • When Sisterhood was in Flower (fiction) - 1982
  • Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady - 1985
  • Reflections in a Jaundiced Eye - 1989
  • Lump It or Leave It - 1990
  • With Charity Toward None: A Fond Look at Misanthropy - 1992
  • The Florence King Reader (anthology) - 1995
  • STET, Damnit! (National Review column anthology) - 2002
  • Deja Reviews: Florence King All Over Again (selected book reviews and essays) - 2006


  1. Florence King, (1998) "Misanthrope's Corner" Accessed February 21, 2007
  2. Celebrity Atheist List Accessed February 16, 2007
  3. Kelly Wittmann (2002), "Florence King hates eveyone, while readers love her" Accessed February 16, 2007
  4. Starkville High School, 2002, [1] Florence King: The Mississippi Writers and Musicians Project Accessed February 16, 2007
  5. Wittmann
  6. See Jack Nichols (1997), "Florence King: World's Funniest Bi-Sexual-Republican" Accessed February 16, 2007
  7. Florence King, (1995) "Molly Ivins, Plagiarist" Accessed February 16, 2007
  8. Florence King, (1995) "Author, Author!" Accessed February 16, 2007
  9. National Review (2006), "Florence King Is Back in Nr!" Accessed February 16, 2007

External links

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