The Way of Florida by Russell Persson

WOF website cover.jpg
WOF website cover.jpg

The Way of Florida by Russell Persson


"An absolute triumph" – SAM LIPSYTE

Relentless, urgent and above all musical, this expertly crafted début novel recasts the tragic story of the failed Narváez expedition – a calamitous attempt to establish Spanish colonies along the Gulf Coast – in bracing, beautiful language. A timely narrative of botched colonialism, The Way of Florida radically reimagines the parameters and responsibilities of the historical novel.

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Russell Persson revisits the ill-fated Narváez expedition of the sixteenth century, which saw a group of some 600 Spanish, Greek, and Portuguese explorers arrive on the coast of Florida intent on establishing preliminary colonial settlements and garrisons. Of the 300 sent inland to explore, only four survived an eight-year ordeal: three minor members of the Spanish nobility and an enslaved Moor. Their story comes down to us via La Relación, the official report compiled by one of the nobles, published in 1542, as well as many other subsequent retellings. Persson’s The Way of Florida is arguably the most linguistically complex, rich, sinuous, and maybe even heroic.


"The Way of Florida is, for the figures in the narrative, a doomed and reckless course. But for Russell Persson it is the manner by which he achieves absolute triumph. Here is a strange, bracing, wholly original novel, just when we need it."  – Sam Lipsyte (Home Land, Venus Drive, Hark)

"Russell Persson does with Cabeza de Vaca's narrative what Nick Cave did with traditional murder ballads: hones it, gives it a sharp edge, and makes it seem almost uncomfortably close. An incantatory and compelling read, one that will stick with you long after the book is closed." – Brian Evenson (Fugue State, Last Days)

“I am old, and am, therefore, in accordance with nature's regime, not the fertilest field for new fruit to find a furrow in and flourish therefrom skyward, spreading its yield over all below, capturing in shadow the occult origin it sprang from. Dark, dark, dark, this incessantly numinous account of the funding of the planetary genius which, at any cost, the terrible genies of appropriation disport themselves on native soil, makes for an unprecedented work of language gorgeously twisted by the torsions of narrative necessity. It also makes for a great book. Entrancing in its choral pursuit of the realities of man’s irresistible consumption of man, The Way of Florida rushes Russell Persson to the fore of notable American novelists, men and women who refuse the conventions handed them and confound the vicious lures of the marketplace. Ah, good conscience tells me I might instead have simply – and thus more truly – said, 'I’m floored'.” – Gordon Lish

"The Way of Florida is a brilliant take on the historical novel. The Narváez expedition continues to be a failed one, of course, but getting lost in Russell Persson’s strange language feels like a beautiful and hallucinatory triumph." – Michael Kimball

"Persson, God, where does one begin? There is a seriousness to the pages of Russell Persson that is rarely seen in this age of the instantaneous. Read Persson closely and you will see that he is extremely defiant. He is also extremely subtle in his defiance. Persson will further subvert a beautiful acoustical event if he sees that the event can be anticipated before its conclusion." – David McLendon, Unsaid


Russell Persson lives in Reno, Nevada. His fiction has appeared in The Quarterly and Unsaid Magazine. He is the 2014 recipient of Unsaid’s Ivory-Billed Woodpecker Award for Fiction in the Face of Adversity. His first novel, The Way of Florida, will be published in 2017 by Little Island Press.

Read Unsaid's interview with Russell Persson about the writing of The Way of Florida.

Read The Learned Pig's interview with Russell Persson.