Miami Book Fair International 2014 Liveblog
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EDITOR'S NOTE: This blog is posted with newest items at the top of the left column.
Sunday, Nov. 23
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 5:45 PM
Questlove, when asked what favorite album he would take to the grave: "I always say asking someone what their favorite song is, is like asking what your favorite breath taken in life is."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 5:42 PM
The panel with Siri Hustvedt, Susan Minot and Francine Prose is very inspiring. The three are a powerhouse of eloquence and insight. I’ve been a fan of Francine Prose ever since her book Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. Now she discusses her newest novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932.
Prose’s novel is based on the historical figure Violette Morris, a celebrated French athlete who ended up working for the Gestapo during World War II. The author’s first impulse was to write the book as nonfiction, but decided that a novel would be more fun and interesting. She describes the book as a strange archive, completely invented. She adds, “I never really understood my character, but then I didn’t expect to.” This leads to an interesting discussion by the panel about motivation and likeability of characters in fiction.
Minot’s novel Thirty Girls, inspired by a real life event, is a must read for me. Minot was at a dinner party in 1988, where some people from Human Rights Watch began talking about how rebels in Uganda had kidnapped girls from a Catholic boarding school. One of the nuns set out to find the girls, and met with the commander. He told her that, out of the 139 girls taken, she could take 109 and he would keep 30. Minot chokes up during the panel, when she shares that one of the women at the party was a mother to one of the kidnapped girls. Minot’s voice is stirring and haunting as she reads an excerpt in the voice of her character Esther, a teenage Ugandan who escapes capture. This is certainly a relevant topic in today’s world.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 5:38 PM
"She took the joint, stuck it up her ass, I swear to god, and three smoke rings came out." —George Clinton describing the time a fan walked on in Oklahoma City during one of Parliament's performances.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 5:19 PM
How often does someone have the chance to witness the intersection of great music? Questlove from the roots representing the best of contemporary Hip Hop. And George Clinton from Parliament representing old school funk.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 5:13 PM
George Clinton from the funk group Parliament describing the first time he heard rapper Lil' Kim: "The first time I heard Lil' Kim, I threw something at the radio."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 5:10 PM
With their book Back Channel to Cuba, Peter Kornbluh and William M. Leogrande tell a story that details a hidden complex reality. The U.S.-Cuba relationship has been characterized by bellicose rhetoric on both sides during the last 55 years. But according to Kornbluh, as early as April 1963, just two years after the Bay of Pigs and a year after the Missile Crisis, the Cuban and American governments were engaging in diplomacy via “intermediaries who could be denied.”
In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger used an intermediary to send hand-written notes to Fidel Castro, and subsequently Bernardo Benes, a prominent Cuban banker who lived in Miami, served as an American intermediary when he negotiated the release of 3,600 political prisoners in Cuba in a process known as el diálogo, or the dialogue.
But, according to Leogrande, in the 70s, the Cuban government also rejected American offers for better relations in exchange for Cuba relinquishing a big part of its foreign policy: support for revolutionary governments in Africa. Unstated during the panel discussion was that the U.S., its image weakened by the humiliating fall of Saigon, was trying to reinvigorate its role vis-a-vis the Soviet Union in the developing world. Cuba, at the time generously bankrolled by its Soviet patron, had the luxury of rebuffing American demands.
In the 1990s, its Soviet patron gone, Cuba was more interested in better relations with the U.S. According to Kornbluh, the U.S. used as intermediaries former American president Jimmy Carter and the late Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, a good friend of Castro’s. But by then, Leogrande said, the American government had to reckon with “a domestic cost,” or in other words, the ire of Cuban-American constituencies, which may explain in part why by then the U.S. was demanding a multi-party political system and market reforms in Cuba, which Leogrande said Cuban government leaders saw as disdainful and insulting, not treating the Cuban government as an equal and respecting Cuban sovereignty.
As a son of Cuban exiles, I know I bring my biases to the table here, but I suspect that Kornbluh and Leogrande, despite their academic rigor and expertise, at times gave too much credence to Cuban government protests of sovereignty, which reminded me of when repressive governments conveniently claim the right to conduct their internal affairs (in other words, to repress citizens) undisturbed, without having to endure foreign interference or criticism.
Kornbluh described flights over Cuba by the Cuban exile group Hermanos al Rescate (Brothers to the Rescue) in the 1990s. Kornbluh called the group’s actions “provocative” because they were sure to anger the Cuban government, especially given its experience with sabotage by anti-Castro Cuban exile groups. It’s true that on several occasions the group went beyond rescuing balseros (rafters) at sea and violated Cuban air space. At least once it dropped political leaflets over the island. But Kornbluh’s description omitted the long running war, hot and cold, between the Cuban government and Cuban exile groups. In 1996, tensions between the Cuban government and the Hermanos group climaxed when a Cuban Air Force MiG shot down two unarmed Cessnas belonging to the Hermanos, killing four men. No matter how “provocative” or arguably reckless these flyovers were, I think the Cuban government response was heartless and criminal.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 5:00 PM
After the Fairy Tales Told and Re-Told panel, I decided to walk around to find some bargain books. Along the way, I bought a copy of Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games--the only one I didn't have of the trilogy, Rick Riordan's The Mark of Athena, Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, and Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon. It was a fantasy frenzy.
I walked by one booth that had a huge peach-pink book that attracted my attention. It was a collection of Mary Poppins stories. I looked at the booth's name and saw it was not a Books & Books, the one seller at the Fair, I've found, that sells at retail price. So I looked around and inside the book for a sticker or handwritten reduced price, but I found nothing.
I then spotted a collection of Hobbit merchandise at one table, including some books, and immediately concluded that just like a booth I found yesterday, they must be giving the stuff away with a purchase.
When I asked a man working there what was the price for the Mary Poppins collection, he said they weren't selling books. Was this guy being snarky with me? You're at a book fair with a booth with books. I walked away shortly afterward, figuring they were selling at retail price and a bit PO'ed with the man's failed attempt at a funny remark.
I came back about half an hour later because it was nearing closing time and I figured they would have to slash prices to get rid of the remaining books. The Mary Poppins collection was still there, but I also found two mystery anthologies edited by Otto Penzler, whom I saw yesterday at a panel, among the books.
When I overheard another man tell another woman that they were not selling books, I was floored. That other guy had been serious?! Oops.
I presented my case to them: I wanted the books on the table, including The Hobbit merchandise. I was willing to pay. But the two men in charge of the booth refused because they were not sellers; they were there representing the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The books were more of a display.
I don't know if I became a bother or they felt sorry for me or they didn't care or they didn't want to carry those books back to Orlando but not only did they give me Brian Sibley's The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Official Movie Guide for free, I was also allowed to take (for free) The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century and The Best American Mystery Stories 2014.
I felt so guilty taking the books for free that I didn't grab the other Hobbit book they had nor the Mary Poppins collection that had first attracted me to the booth. After walking away with my goody bag, I did sprint back to the booth to take a business card so I could mention them here.
So, thank you, Andy Snyder and your brother, for giving me awesome free things. It was a great way to end my 2014 Miami Book Fair experience.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:55 PM
Book Fair sessions like this deserve a larger audience than they can attract in a late Sunday time slot. But at this point some Fairgoers are burned out, and many are outside on the prowl for end-of-Fair discounts on books.
I Believe in ZERO: Learning from the World's Children relates Caryl Stern's experience working over eight years in 30 countries for UNICEF. The organization's mission is "to do whatever it takes to save a child." The ZERO in the title refers to eliminating hunger, poverty, disease and preventable death. The book grew out of letters to her children on what she was experiencing and learning. She said you really join UNICEF when you travel to someplace far from regular medical services and hold and immunize a child: "Immunization is the ultimate pay-forward."
In a Rocket Made of Ice: Among the Children of Wat Opot is Gail Gutradt's account of her work as a volunteer in a rural Cambodian community of children, many of them orphans, and young adults with HIV. The goal is not only to provide medical care so the kids can lead normal kid—and eventually adult—lives, but also to be a model for the larger society on how people live with HIV. She read a section from her second trip to Wat Opot about connecting with a very shy and distant child and in the process overcoming some of her own misgivings about her contribution.
Both books are about the tenacity of the human spirit. Gutradt's title is drawn from a child's theory on how you can fly all the way to the sun.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:52 PM
A number of used bookseller tents seem to have been replaced this year by new books and large publishing house tents such as Penguin Random House. That means I'm not able to score the $1 hardcovers like I have at previous Book Fairs. At one of the comic tents, however, I got The Walking Dead #1&2 for 50% off because they were supposedly water damaged. The #1 is visibly water logged, but #2 is mint. I wish I had known the table was half off when I came by this tent earlier and they had #22. It appears they've sold out of the newest edition now.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:50 PM
In Mexico, political observers call it “pantalla,” or a smokescreen, to describe how powerful actors behind the scenes camouflage the truth about who’s pulling the strings behind certain events.
I thought about “pantalla” when I attended a panel including authors who wrote books about an American spy who worked in the Middle East and secret contacts between the American and Cuban governments. Their books appealed to me because I’m intrigued by the gap between what governments say and what they do using “back channels.”
The heart of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, by Kai Bird, is the secret relationship that took place throughout the 1970s between CIA agent Ames and Ali Hassan Salameh, the head of intelligence for the Palestine Liberation Organization. At a time when the U.S. government publicly said it didn’t talk with the PLO, Ames did “what the CIA should do,” Bird said: Ames got close to a “bad guy,” a professional revolutionary/freedom fighter/terrorist. They were so close that Ames even warned Salameh of attempts on his life by the Mossad (the Israeli intelligence service).
I was fascinated by the strong friendship between the two men, who on the surface were so different. Ames, who taught himself Arabic, was a family man, devoted to his wife and six children, whereas Salameh, also married and with kids, was a jet-setting playboy who favored wearing black leather jackets and whose nickname was the “Red Prince.”
Both men died violently in civil-war-era Beirut. Salameh was killed by the Mossad in a car bombing in 1979. Ames was one 63 Americans, eight of them from the CIA, who died when a terrorist drove a van loaded with explosives into the American embassy four years later.
Listening to Bird, I was reminded of the importance of persistence when writing a book. Although the CIA didn’t cooperate with his project, 40 retired CIA officers agreed to talk with him. And although all of them initially demanded anonymity for their cooperation, in time 15 agreed to allow Bird to use their real names. “They wanted this story told,” Bird said. “This book was fun to write because I got to talk with all these spooks.”
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:46 PM
I had a terrific time at the Sunday panel with Joe Clifford, Peter Mehlman and Larry Bud Meyer. Mehlman, a writer on Seinfeld, discussed the origins of the show’s “yada, yada” catchphrase, writing the voice of Elaine and his path to quick riches. Meyer discussed the ins and outs of fracking and how you can make un-funny subjects funny. Clifford read from his newest book Lamentation, and talked about his attraction to crime writing, and how he dreams of seeing his characters on the silver screen. (Lamentation has received interest from a few movie studios, too, apparently!) Humor and crime writing are both tricky to pull off; it was great to see experienced writers in these genres sound off.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:36 PM
I stopped in the comics section of the Book Fair when I saw the top of a “Sonic the Hedgehog” cover poking over the top of a cardboard box. I immediately began digging through the box, looking for the four part series I prized most. I read these four Sonic comics so many times as a child that my copies fell apart. So I was excited that I might be able to own them again.
I found two of the four, and read both cover to cover within ten minutes after I bought them (I remember the reading taking longer when I was seven…). The stories don’t hold up. I noticed a gaping plot hole. Sonic is accused of murder and goes on the run to escape his prison sentence. Halfway through the fourth comic, I learned that in Sonic’s world, the friendly dragon Dulcy is more reliable than polygraph tests when it comes to detecting lies. Why didn’t the court that sentenced Sonic call on this dragon in the first place to determine his innocence? In any case, nostalgia is a powerful, powerful mistress, and I don’t regret my purchases. Even if the story doesn’t hold up, the art does!
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:18 PM
Every year at the Book Fair I decide to venture into a session where I know that, as a lifelong card-carrying male, I'll be seriously outnumbered. Last year it was a fashion writing panel. This year it was three essayists: Annabelle Gurwitch on Survival Stories from the Edge of 50, Daphne Merkin on The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags, and (gulp) Laura Kipnis on Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation.
Gurwitch is an actress, TV personality (Dinner and a Movie on TBS), columnist and author. Her book took shape when a series of unrelated essays turned out to have common themes of the "growing invisibility" and "comedy of humiliation" associated with middle age. The piece she read was about being conned, by both the salespeople and herself, into overbuying at the cosmetics counter. Her previous book of essays, Fired!, was instigated by the experience of being canned with prejudice by Woody Allen.
Merkin is a former staff writer for The New Yorker and a regular contributor to ELLE. She read from "The Fame Lunches," the title essay about her encounters with Allen, "the vulnerable, pre-scandal Woody Allen."
In her early twenties, she wrote to Allen: “You are my funny man. . . . You know you can be sad with me." Over the course of several years, his responses included advice (interpreted as "Dare to take up space"), eventually getting together for lunch, and having his secretary offer the name of a good psychiatrist. The essay is about vulnerabilities all around.
Essays in the collection explore other "wounded icons" including Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Richard Burton and Virginia Woolf.
Laura Kipnis is a cultural critic and professor of film-making at Northwestern. Her book is about "wounded male icons." "Men fascinate me. . . They force you to think about them." She's been writing about men for a long time, not rebuking or looking down on them, but "putting myself in the story and finding points of identification."
Her book is in four sections: Operators, Neurotics, Sex Fiends, and Haters. She read from her essay on Sex Fiends, subcategory "Cheaters," featuring Tiger Woods. Why are celebrity serial philanderers attracted to women who are likely to tell all? When they already live their private lives largely in the public view? And what kinds of women are driven to hook up with married celebrities when eventual (or immediate) disappointment is inevitable? From one angle, the essay offers "advice to at-risk male celebrities."
This was one of those neatly conceived Book Fair panels of individually brilliant authors who read well and work together well to weave their connective themes on the fly.
Needless to say, I got off easy. A woman a couple of rows up was probably disappointed because she'd expected "a lot of laughing at men." But we were already laughing at Tiger.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:17 PM
If there was any event this weekend that ran over, I'm glad it was the "Fairy Tales Told and Re-Told" panel this afternoon. The discussion among Heidi Schulz (Hook's Revenge), Ted Naifeh (Princess Ugg) and Van Jensen (Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer) ranged in topic from the benefits of writing a silly premise seriously to the unintended consequences of copyright law. The range of questions and questioners illustrated that all, young and old, are passionate about fairy tales.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:10 PM
Listening to forensic pathologist, Dr. Judy Melinek, here to discuss her memoir, co-written with her husband, T.J. Mitchell, I was reminded of the importance of keeping a journal. Not only may it come in handy for a book, it may even contain information about your role in a historical event.
The title of their book--Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies and the Making of a Medical Examiner—refers to Melinek’s two years of training as a forensic pathologist in the New York medical examiner’s office in the early aughts.
Melinek kept a journal during her training, which coincided with the 9/11 attacks. According to an August 25th New York Times article by Abigail Zuger, M.D., “the World Trade Center towers fell not long after Dr. Melinek began her stint in New York, but she wisely saves the story of that particular day and the months that followed for the book’s end. The first 200 pages concentrate on her routine duties.”
As for those duties, Melinek, now based in San Francisco, said there are a few crucial differences between her job’s daily reality and the T.V. series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation:
◇ She doesn’t perform autopsies in the dark: “Science is done in bright light.”
◇ Toxicology reports, and that’s if they’re negative, generally take about two weeks to complete, while “positive” reports can take longer. Reports don’t arrive merely hours after they’re requested like on the T.V. show: “I wish I knew where those labs were, because they don’t exist in real life."
◇ Usually the most fascinating deaths—the ones doctors were unable to figure out—are the result of natural causes or therapeutic complications following a patient’s hospitalization—not homicides.
◇ Hers is a mostly nine-to-five job, so she doesn’t need to show up at the office to do an autopsy at 2 AM. She said that while she trained in New York, a common mantra was: “They’ll still be dead tomorrow.”
However, Melinek said that like with CSI, her job is fun, icky (in a good way), scientific and dramatic because she provides grief counseling for her patients' relatives.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 4:00 PM
After a few hours of enjoying the readings of authors like the master of gritty crime, Joe Clifford (Lamentation), the witty humor of Peter Mehlman (It Wouldn’t Always be This Great: A Novel) and some amazing harmonica playing by the husband of the late Kathi Karmen (Her Wild Oats), I ventured down to “The Swamp” to catch the Afro-Cuban Orisha Arts with National Heritage Fellow and Master drummer, Ezequiel. The energy was palpable. But why wouldn’t be? We’re talking Orisha here—Goddesses with the added bonus of drums. What’s not to like? As the bright yellow figure of Oshun, the Goddess of the River, made her way through the crowd to the stage becoming one with the rhythm of the drums, I was reminded of Audre Lorde’s poem “The Winds of Orisha.”
When the winds of Orisha blow
—Carolyn Pledge Amaral
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:59 PM
Something I learned from the Fairy Tales Told and Re-Told panel was that an author's works enters the public domain 70 years after the author's death. (I probably should've known that.)
I immediately wanted J.K. Rowling to never die. I've read some of the Harry Potter fan-fiction out there. I don't want any of that to be canon one day when they can take Harry Potter as their own. Please, Rowling, become a vampire, but watch out for Pinocchio.
But when one of the panelists said The Chronicles of Narnia would be entering public domain soon, I became a little excited. Hope someone does that series and C.S. Lewis justice and adds a few more books.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:58 PM
I must admit that, although I'm not much of a comic book or YA reader, the Fairy Tales Told and Re-Told panel was my favorite of the weekend.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:57 PM
I told myself I would only by one book at the Fair this year, but my final count as I trudge through the exit is five. The Friends of the Library tent was dependable as ever with their $1 paperbacks, and I snagged Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House and Jeff VanderMeer’s Authority: A Novel during yesterday’s romp through the street fair. I got cocky. Today, things started poorly, and I succumbed to the temptation of Books & Books, picking up a cool edition of Rimbaud’s Season in Hell with an introduction by Patti Smith. Next was the Penguin truck, where I picked up Morrissey’s Autobiography, finally out in that Penguin Classics paperback edition he’s been bragging about for two years. The last find was the most exciting, since it was one I’d never heard of before stumbling upon it at the Greywolf Press table: Dorthe Nors’s short story collection Karate Chop. The Danish stories, translated by Martin Aitken, promise to “expose the ominous lurking under the ordinary” and I can’t wait to find out what Nors has unearthed.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:56 PM
The young girl who kept getting passed over finally gets her shot and stumps the panel with an awesome question, "What elements of your stories intrigue the reader?" "Pinocchio is a rags-to-riches story," says Jensen. "But the single most important thing is having a character that readers will relate to, a character that is striving for some external thing that relates to who they are inside."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:53 PM
The panel was asked for what age groups their books are written. Schulz says that her publisher has designated Hook's Revenge as 8-12 year-old reading, although she says she received an email from a mother who read the book to her three- and six-year-olds who "immediately discarded their princess dresses in favor of pirate garb." Arrrrgh!
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:50 PM
This is a great panel, but I am getting annoyed by the continued passing over of a young girl—in favor of adults—in the front row who keeps raising her hand to ask a question. Who is this panel's intended audience, after all?
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:45 PM
"Kids can handle a lot," Schulz said in reference to the sanitizing of otherwise dark material. "They don't want to be pandered to. Hook's Revenge is written from the point of view of a retired pirate who hates children and spends the book insulting them." Schulz went on to add that she believes the sanitizing of dark stories is done more for the benefit of parents than the children.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:44 PM
Mother-daughter Dept.: Daphne Merkin writes in The Fame Lunches that, upon receiving a letter-in-reply from Woody Allen, "I rushed in to show the letter to my mother. I shared everything with her, even my plans to kill her."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:36 PM
Environmentalists and those with an interest in books with fracking good titles will be interested in Larry Bud Meyer’s book Mother Fracker: A Novel. A work of “environmental” fiction, Larry’s book will entertain you while putting you in the know of why this method of extracting natural gas is so controversial.
—Carolyn Pledge Amaral
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:33 PM
Schulz said she was very concerned with how she portrayed Tiger Lily in her book, citing the racist portrayal of the Native American characters in Disney's Peter Pan. She reached out to the Crow nation and other tribes in search of authenticity. "You want to have a character that is fleshed-out and real," Schulz said. "Not just a caricature."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:25 PM
Both Naifeh and Van Jensen (Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer) talked about humor in writing and how having a "silly" or "idiotic" premise told seriously makes the story funnier.
Spoofs are like that—the good ones.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:23 PM
I'm sitting just two seats away from my literary hero Francine Prose. Suddenly I'm feeling very shy.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:20 PM
Naifeh said, in response to Schulz's commentary on the tradition of having female characters who need rescuing and are passive, that Shakespeare wrote strong female characters. An audience member to my left said only if one ignored The Taming of the Shrew.
I couldn't agree more.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:19 PM
After reading Larry Rohter’s Oct. 1st New York Times article about Marlon James’ novel A Brief History of Seven Killings, I knew I had to attend James’ panel. Rohter wrote that “Publishers Weekly declared that ‘no book this fall is more impressive.’” Rohter also wrote that the Times’ Michiko Kakutani “described Mr. James as a ‘prodigious talent’ who has produced a novel that is ‘epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over the top, colossal and dizzyingly complex.’”
I was captivated by James’ interest in what historians may consider merely history’s footnotes or backstory. James said that he “wasn’t trying to answer any questions,” but that he weighed the possible and the plausible as he reckoned with what happened to the men who tried to murder Bob Marley in 1976.
According to Rohter, the novel’s plot revolves around the assassination attempt on Marley, “called simply the Singer in the novel… a few days before he was to give a free concert in Kingston in December 1976, and required the novelist to dig deep into his creative toolbox.”
“Part of being a novelist is being fascinated by people who historians are not necessarily fascinated with,” James said.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:18 PM
Schulz, admitting that she isn't particularly fond of the role of women in classic Disney fillms, in which the only strong women are bad characters—she cited Maleficent and Cinderella's wicked stepmother as examples—while the heroines are victims waiting around for Prince Charming or a fairy godmother's magic to rescue them, said that she decided to emphasize the differences between her heroine, Jocelyn Hook, and Cinderella. Hook needs no one's help, and even dismisses Peter Pan when he attempts to save her from peril.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:16 PM
Schulz explained that at one point in Hook's Revenge, Peter Pan sees Jocelyn Hook in the ship. When he tries to rescue her, she explains "she's captain, not captive." Loved that line.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:15 PM
"Old stories and fairy tales have so much of interest that we can pick up those threads and carry on." Heidi Schulz on the use of fairy tales and old folklore as inspiration for her and her panel-mates' work. "Fairy tales thrive on reinvention," added Ted Naifeh, author of Princess Ugg.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:13 PM
"Snap! Stab!" Van Jensen on the premise of his graphic novel Pinnochio: The Vampire Slayer, which features the wooden hero snapping off his lie-engorged wooden nose and killing vampires with it.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:11 PM
Ted Naifeh is promoting his graphic novel, Princess Ugg, which is about a barbaric princess who goes to princess finishing school.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:10 PM
Although it became a book--The Interior Circuit: A Mexico City Chronicle—Francisco Goldman said his original idea was to write an essay about learning to drive in Mexico City. According to Tony Wood’s review of the book in The Guardian, from Sept. 17, 2014, the book gets its title from the “30-mile-long ribbon of motorway that encloses the heart of Mexico City… but it also refers to the agonizing loop of grief in which Goldman has been caught since the death of his wife, the writer Aura Estrada, in an accident in 2007.”
Goldman said his relationship with the city grew deeper when his wife, who was only 30 years old, died in an accident in the waves on a Mexican beach.
“Then the city became mine,” said Goldman, who has lived on and off in the Mexican capital for nearly two decades.
Goldman said that “when you bury the love of your life” in a city, you’re faced with the choice to either flee or go in deeper and embrace it.
Goldman embraced it, an action symbolized by a simple decision: “I’ll just start driving.” It was a way, he said, to cope with “the laziness of grief,” a sense of having nowhere to go. He said he missed the days when he used to rent a car and travel with his wife.
I was drawn to see Goldman because I remembered how I felt after I read Goldman’s article “The Wave,” about his relationship with his wife and her death, in a New Yorker issue from 2011. I felt stunned, moved, devastated.
In his book, Goldman writes about taking driving lessons and unique aspects of the city itself, such as the city government’s traditional resistance to federal authority. Wood describes the book as a “crónica, a journalistic genre in the Spanish-speaking world that embraces reportage, commentary and analysis.”
In the book’s second half, Wood writes that the focus becomes the “After Heavens” case: “The kidnapping in broad daylight, in May 2013, of 12 people outside of a club in the Zona Rosa, an area in the city centre known for its nightlife. Goldman followed the case closely over the following few months, speaking repeatedly to relatives of the disappeared… In August 2013, the bodies of the seven men and five women were found, most of them decapitated in narco-style executions, though the victims had no known connection to the drug trade.”
In recent months, Goldman has written for The New Yorker about 43 students from a rural teachers college who disappeared on Sept. 26 in Iguala, Mexico, and about the political aftershocks. A drug gang murdered the students and then burned their bodies.
Goldman said he had been working on a novel 12 hours a day—and then the 43 students disappeared and mass protests convulsed the country. “I’ve never been a witness to anything like this in my life,” Goldman said. “I’m really seeing that country come alive. I feel the country moving, waking up, moving somewhere, but I don’t know where.”
Goldman’s experience—compelled to interrupt his novel so he could report on the missing 43 and the aftermath—would likely have resonated with author and journalist Elena Poniatowska. On Sunday, Nov. 16, Poniatowska said she could not isolate herself from Mexico’s reality because it had a way of sneaking into her house and pulling her outside. Goldman surely would’ve understood what she meant.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:09 PM
In the Fairy Tales Told and Re-Told panel, Heidi Schulz, author of Hook's Revenge, on why she wrote the book: "What if Captain Hook had a daughter? What would it be like to be the daughter of a famous villain? I wrote this book because I wanted to know the answers to these questions."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:08 PM
Heidi Schulz's debut novel, Hook's Revenge, is about Captain Hook's daughter, Jocelyn. The idea of what Hook's daughter would look like came to Schulz from her six-year-old daughter, who was obsessed with Peter Pan at the time.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 3:05 PM
Near 3:00 PM, the room hostess and the presenter, along with three of the panelists from Fairy Tales Told and Re-Told panel, were getting a little worried because the fourth member, Russ Kick, wasn't there yet.
Just as the presenter was underway introducing the panel, one of our Florida Book Review reporters, Ed Irvin, entered the room with his press pass. The pass and his aura of writerliness caused the woman speaking to momentarily think Russ Kick had finally arrived.
I don't think Ed noticed the disappointment in the woman's face when he took a seat in the audience.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:49 PM
Essayist David Giffels has it right when he says people from the Midwest “do things the hard way on purpose.” At his reading, I learned he lives in Akron, Ohio, and his collection examines life in the Rust Belt. Although I live in South Florida now, I am originally from Central Ohio and my parents devoted much of their working lives to the factories currently rusting there.
As for my own tendency to “do things the hard way,” it took me months of living in South Florida before I consistently used the dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand (as my parents do). I resisted GPS in the worst way, relying instead on my sense of direction, which resulted in me going to Downtown Miami when I actually meant to go to Coral Gables. I try to embrace the easy road now, but I still occasionally find myself complicating simple tasks so that my sense of accomplishment feels all the greater when I’m done.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:40 PM
The mission I imposed on myself yesterday to find churros, having a vague recollection of seeing a sign for it, ended today at the food court, or food horde, as I call it, since "court" makes it sound too orderly.
When I found the elusive churros, I walked up to the stand happy, until I read the menu and saw four churros were $6!
I walked away dejected.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:26 PM
Blanco, reading an excerpt from The Prince of Los Cocuyos in which he is trying to convince his grandmother to shop at Winn Dixie, which she avoided because it was full of ”Americanos": ”Few things intimidated abuela: black magic, Santeria, and Americanos were among them.”
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:21 PM
"I like to say that I was born in Cuba, assembled in Spain, and imported to the United States.” —Richard Blanco
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:20 PM
Walking through the center of the main avenue, where buildings 1, 2, and 8 meet, I encountered a living statue.
I hope she's keeping hydrated because the temperature is rising.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:17 PM
On my last day at the Book Fair, I was fighting a cold. Once again, it took the name of a writer I like to coax me down I-95 to the conference room on the third floor of Building 8. I picked up Phil Klay’s Redeployment at Books & Books last year on a whim. For most of the Iraq War, I was a teenager who didn’t read the newspaper or watch CNN, so reading Klay’s book seemed like it might be an entertaining way to educate myself. My favorite story in the collection details the experience of a chaplain who confronts the war’s effect on the spirituality and mental health of the young men and women he serves with. When I learned Klay won the National Book Award for 2014, I wasn’t surprised (and to tell the truth, I was a bit proud of my ability to choose a good book from a full shelf).
During the panel, Klay read the title story, which features a first person narrator. Sometimes, when writers are too performative at readings, they push me away from the story. Klay, however, embodied the voice of the narrator without going too far and distracting the audience. Even though I already knew the story, I enjoyed hearing it in his own voice.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:16 PM
The ”Two Lives” panel featuring inaugural poet Richard Blanco is the second I've attended today at which the presenter has gone on far too long.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:15 PM
Had Anjanette Delgado sign my copy of The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho. She was touched that my sister and I bought separate copies instead of sharing one. We laughed.
As an alum of FIU's MFA program, she loved it when I gave her a postcard with a question for her to answer, a feature in FIU's Gulf Stream Literary Magazine's "The Streamline."
She said she would "definitely" send it back.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:05 PM
The first and last tent I visit today is Tate’s Comics and Collectibles. I have been to their main store in Fort Lauderdale, a large open room filled with row after row of new and old comics and graphic novels. Their tent is mostly filled with mainstream comics such as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy or DC’s Batman. Kids crowd the the small spaces. Some peruse the books, others just shout the names of their favorite heroes. I’m disappointed. I was hoping for more indie comics like they had last year. My favorite moment from the Fair last year was meeting George O’Connor, the author of the Olympians series of graphic novels. They are graphic biographies of the ancient Greek gods. I have Poseidon and Athena, and I was hoping to expand my collection. They had nothing by him or his publisher.
I find two contenders for the last of my money and bag space. Black Science is a comics series which seems like the kind of SciFi pulp I enjoy reading in my non-literary moments, and it is only $10, opening up more money for more books. The other was Haunted Horror: Comics Your Mother Warned You About, a collection of old 1950’s horror comics reprinted in all their pre-comics-code glory.
Backstory: in the old days of comic books, there were no ratings or control over the violent or sexual content of stories. EC comics and others were producing horror comics with death and mayhem targeted at kids. After congressional hearings, the comics industry did what Hollywood had decades previously: they established their own comics code that guaranteed parents their kids were reading stuff that rotted their brains slightly less than before.
This collection wins out for me. I love Ray Bradbury Theater, The Twilight Zone, and Tales From the Crypt, so an anthology book is perfect for me. I purchase it for $27 with tax. I now have $2.50 and a bag filled with books. I spend the rest on an energy drink from a machine and go home happy.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 2:00 PM
Reading from her book The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho, Anjanette Delgado proves she's just as funny in person as she is on the page. Even Dave Barry thinks so and he should know because he was here!
Looks like a great read. Picked myself up a copy. You should too.
—Carolyn Pledge Amaral
(Editor's note: Check out Pamela Akins' review of The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho on our Fiction page.)
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:55 PM
John Warley's A Southern Girl: A Novel was inspired by the adoption of his Korean daughter in the late '70s. He was originally against the idea because he knew how his Southern family was going to react to the news: extremely negatively. He didn't want to raise a child he "couldn't fully embrace."
90% of the novel is fictional, but one point he tried to make as accurate as he could remember was when the orphans landed in New York.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:50 PM
I'd hoped to catch Scott Eyman on Marion Morrison, a.k.a., John Wayne: The Life and Legend. Joined the session in progress and was pleased to see that he was going last. Then realized that this was one of those sessions that's scheduled for too long (90 minutes), thus encouraging the authors to read too much. And when they don't read well, we head for the exits. Eyman had to sit and wait and watch his audience dwindle.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:46 PM
Anjanette Delgado jumped right into reading from The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho. I heard her read at the FIU MFA Alumni Reading at Books & Books in September and have wanted to get the book since then. I was glad the part she read today was a different section of the book from the one she read in September.
In this part, Mariela, the protagonist, is helping women with their divorces. Delgado read in voices and used Spanglish, which was hilarious, but perhaps excluded the non-Spanish speakers from joining in the humor.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:45 PM
Charles U. Phillips and N. D. B. Connolly have both written books about Miami’s complex racial past, and during their panel they each highlight the ways that even those targeted by racist practices can end up propagating them when it feels like the only way to survive and maintain economic stability. Phillips’s book Fighting More than Fires: Race and Politics in Miami-Dade County chronicles his time in the Miami-Dade fire department, where he eventually served as Miami-Dade’s first African-American Director/Fire Chief. He read an excerpt from the book in which, as a young recruit during training, he questions his fellow African American recruits’ willingness to ignore the blatant racism of their instructor. Another recruit scolds Phillips, just 20 at the time, for being so naïve, explaining that some of them had families and responsibilities and couldn’t risk a good-paying, respectable job by making waves.
Connolly’s talk focused on the ways those in development and real estate, black and white, have benefitted from structural racism in Miami-Dade. He explained that the restrictions placed upon African Americans during segregation allowed property owners to take advantage of their confinement and charge outrageous rents. An African American would pay $18/week to share property with 7-8 other people in Miami in 1949, often in buildings with no electricity and major plumbing issues. At that same time, a white person could pay $17.50/week to live alone in a hotel room on Miami Beach, with electricity and sometimes even a phone right in the room. The African Americans who worked at some of those same beach hotels had to be off the island every night by a specified hour. Connolly’s book, A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida, explores these intricately interwoven policies and the ways they still influence the landscape of Miami-Dade county.
Both writers had the rapt attention of their audience throughout the panel, and when Phillips asked if he could go a little past his allotted time to finish sharing a particular excerpt from Fighting More Than Fires, an audience member called out and asked him to please, do so.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2104, 1:40 PM
I always enjoy a good sports panel. Tim Elfrink, managing editor of Miami New Times, won the George Polk Award in sports reporting for his series on the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Coral Gables. The full too-strange-to-be-fiction story is told in Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era.
The exposure of Biogenesis as a steroid distribution depot led to the suspension of 15 Major League Baseball players, most notably hometown hero Alex Rodriguez, who was banned for more than a year. Elfrink described his book as "more a true crime story than a baseball story," with overzealous cops, evasive players and the shady characters they dealt with.
The Balco/Barry Bonds case led MLB to form a Department of Investigation. The Biogenesis case put the unit to work, more or less successfully. Elfrink said that MLB has got to be good at investigation because drug test technology alone can't keep up with the cheaters, and the financial incentive to cheat is enormous. The good news is that the MLB executive who headed its drug task force has just been elected Commissioner of Baseball.
Ran Henry read from Spurrier: How The Ball Coach Taught the South to Play Football, his new biography of the Heisman Trophy winner (at the University of Florida), pro quarterback, and prominent college coach (Duke, Florida, now South Carolina). Spurrier is known not only as one of the all-time innovators on offense, but also for his gamesmanship and quotability.
Henry read an early chapter on Spurrier's preacher-father and family and how it came to be that Stephen Orr Spurrier was born in Miami Beach. That provided local interest but probably not the dose of "Ball Coach" fans were expecting. Like me, they'll have to read the book.
History professor (University of Central Florida) Richard Crepeau started with a synopsis of NFL Football: A History of America's New National Pastime. It tracks the league from the first season in 1920 with 14 teams clustered in and around Ohio to today's 32 teams, ownership cartel, imperial commissioners, and TV-driven wealth and influence. He talked about how the Super Bowl has become a mid-winter ritual of excess and about the recent and overdue attention to the long-term effects of concussions on players' mental health.
Diminishing violence in the game is a tricky proposition. I'd like to see Crepeau on a panel with Steve Almond and his new book, Against Football.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:38 PM
Sam Barry is here representing his late wife, Kathi Kamen Goldmark, who wrote the book Barry is promoting, Her Wild Oats. She founded the band The Rock Bottom Remainders, consisting of other published writers. Barry said, "she made family" wherever she went.
Her Wild Oats is about a woman who goes on the road after she finds out her husband owns a gun, is having an affair, and is donating a lot of their money to Jews for Jesus. The story is also about Oats, a harmonica-playing 13-year-old.
To demonstrate one part of the novel where Oats is playing the harmonica, Barry played a tune on his. After everyone clapped, he plugged his book, How to Play the Harmonica: and Other Life Lessons, and said we'd be playing like that in no time. Because he laughed right afterward, I highly doubt him.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:20 PM
I run into some friends of mine and chat about my book buying goal. I meet up with my partner, Mary, and I show her the Bookleggers tent. This is more for my sake than hers; she has already purchased her limit in books and even got quite a few signed. While taking my second pass at Bookleggers, I discover The Metamorphosis of Ovid with a new verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum. I haven’t read The Metamorphosis before even though I love myths and tales. I go to the cashier for a second time and purchase it gladly for $7.50. Four books in the bag, $29.50 left.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:15 PM
Mary Simses, promoting The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café, began the panel by telling the audience she's on her third career, the first two having been in journalism and law, two professions I've noticed are common among many authors at the Fair.
She came up with the idea for her novel after hearing on NPR about a grandmother who wanted her granddaughter to erase her hard-drive. It caused Simses to wonder, what could that grandmother be hiding in her computer that she doesn't want others to find out? A great premise already.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:11 PM
There's an AstroTurf bocce court outside The Swamp. To South Florida kids, every ball is a fútbol/soccer ball. With six kids and eight balls, the action is furious.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:04 PM
I caught up with my former teacher, poet Barbara Hamby, who was with her friend, poet Susan Wood. I interviewed Mrs. Hamby, recording the interview on a phone whose battery was in the red (you'll be able to hear the low battery beep near the 0:07 marker when the Gulf Stream Literary Magazine publishes the interview after the New Year), and learned that she loves writing Abecederians because they force her to use a muscular "twenty-six percent" of her brain in the composition.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:56 PM
Before entering the one o'clock panel I wanted to attend in Building 7, I decided to buy a copy of Anjanette Delgado's The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho the moment I entered the lobby, thereby avoiding the later crowds buying books after the panels let out.
As I was getting my change, my sister pointed out a box full of small pins on sale. With the same bills the saleswoman gave me, I bought two pins: "Never JUDGE A BOOK by its movie" and "so many BOOKS so little TIME."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:55 PM
I come upon my first SciFi purchase of the day. Just a few tents away from Friends of the Library is Dan Foster, Bookseller. I’m tempted to tell the gentleman inside that the name of his tent sounds like an interesting book in itself, but I choose to quietly search his shelves instead. The books are roughly organized by author, but not alphabetically. It’s like the authors’ books are gathered to each other by gravity. A grouping of Elmore Leonard mysteries, then two shelves over a grouping of Les Standiford’s John Deal novels, and a few Kurt Vonnegut books.
In a section that seems to have a little SciFi and fantasy scattered about, I see a Robert Heinlein novel. Heinlein is one of my favorite authors, but one whose work I have barely scratched the surface of. The novel is titled Space Cadet. I check the publication date: 1948. This is one of his young adult novels he wrote before getting into more “serious” books with the publication of Starship Troopers ten years later. I gladly pay $10 for it. Three books in the bag, $37 left.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:54 PM
After a quick bite at Tuyo, the campus's gourmet cafe, I ran back to where Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin had their conversation/panel in Building 2 so I could take a picture with Martin. I've met several published authors before—at the Book Fair, Books & Books, and FIU, and some are my former or current professors—but I never take a picture with any of them because of my aversion to being photographed.
However, Martin's The Baby-Sitters Club series made me like reading in the 6th grade when I still hated reading. Even though I continued to dislike it until the 9th grade, I enjoyed reading about Kristy, Claudia, Mary Ann, Stacey, and the rest of the baby-sitters, their adventures, and their struggles.
So for Martin, I made an exception.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:51 PM
Another audience member asked about where the NFL was looking to continue its growth. Crepeau replied that "The NFL is and has been obsessed about expanding globally."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:50 PM
Not even an hour into my book buying challenge, I run into my biggest obstacle: I am too picky. I originally thought this would take no more than ten minutes in one tent till I and my sixty dollars were spent. Instead, I find myself going “pshaw” and “meh” to Faulkner’s short stories or an Asimov book from a series I’m reading. I trek over to the Friends of the Library tent, an organization raising funds for libraries by selling used books. I see some SciFi, one of my preferred genres, but most of it I’ve read or don’t like (some bad Star Wars novels or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series). I finally find on one of the shelves the novel The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. It is about a person telling tales to another person, so that’s up my alley, and the dust jacket description states that the book is “a love letter to reading.”
The woman ahead of me in line buys 35 paperbacks for that many dollars. She trundles them away in a cart she brought for that purpose. I purchase The Thirteenth Tale for $3. Two books, $47 left.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:45 PM
Another audience member asked if the focus on concussions and their long-term effects will have an impact of the success of the NFL in the future. She cited Lebron James, who is among a growing number of athletes—football players included—who have said that, knowing what we do know about the long-term effects of concussions, they will not allow their children to play football.
"The evidence is a bit mixed," Crepeau began. "The game is so popular that the evidence would have to be overwhelming to have an effect. It's clearly a problem that could have a serious impact on the game."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:38 PM
When asked to what he attributed the NFL's popularity, Crepeau said "The key I think, in the end, is the NFL's ability to harness TV. The NFL understood what TV was about. It could be an enormous money train that could not be stopped. He went on the add that, in the early years there was a direct parallel between the growth of the NFL and the rise in the number of TV sets in the household."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:35 PM
Richard C. Crepeau, author of NFL Football: A History of America's New National Pastime, in response to Tim Elfrink, who penned The Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era, begins his portion of the panel with an admission, "I thought I should start by saying that I have never failed a drug test."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:30 PM
Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin are promoting their fourth book in the Doll People series, The Doll People Set Sail.
During their conversation, they talked about their backgrounds. Martin went to college for education and childhood psychology, but she knew she wanted to write. Godwin, in addition to writing children's literature, is also an editor for children and middle grade children's books. She described her job as editor as "hook[ing] things together."
One funny story Godwin told was that, as a child, she thought the librarian, who was always typing, was writing the books in the library. I smell an idea for a children's book there.
As Godwin explained, twenty years ago a mutual friend of hers and Martin's at Hyperion wanted them to write a picture book about dolls. Their story was too long, and they knew they had a novel in their hands.
They discussed how they work together. They first talk about an idea and then Godwin writes an outline of about 50-60 pages. Martin then writes from the outline. After that, they pass the story between them.
Martin also talked about her other new book, Rain Reign, about Rose who is in the Autism spectrum and whose dog is her emotional connection to the world. Rose loves homophones.
It wasn't until the Q & A that Martin talked about her Baby-Sitters Club series. She said she is most like Mary Ann, but her favorite character and alter ego is Kristy.
Martin stated she wanted to create girls who were very different but worked well together. She included universal themes so readers could relate to the girls, no matter ethnicity or religion.
As a fan of the series, I wanted to belong in a diverse group which happened to run their own business and held meetings while eating junk food. I thought that was the ideal teenage life. Still do.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 12:10 PM
This year I only have one day at the Book Fair, and I need to use it wisely. I love used bookstores, and the Fair is a great place to visit a large variety of new and used booksellers. Thus, I’ve brought along a large brown messenger bag and sixty dollars with this goal: either the bag will be filled or the sixty dollars spent, whichever comes first. As anyone who buys physical books knows, that isn’t hard to do. Here are my rules: 1) I would first peruse the used book tents. 2) Anything I buy should be uncommon. 3) I cannot have previously read any of the books in their entirety. Inevitably, these rules are meant to be broken.
My first purchase is at Bookleggers. Their tent is the largest one for used books I’ve seen here, and I picked up a few good reads there last year. At first nothing strikes me, but I come across a collection of Graham Greene novels. Though it includes The Power and The Glory and The Third Man, which I’ve read, it also has The Heart of the Matter and four others, which I’ve wanted to read. I take it to the cashier and pay ten dollars cash. One book in the bag, $50 left.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:48 AM
As I thought, the crêpe stand in the food court is the place to be. Short line there while there was no line at the neighboring booths. The grande bouffe (crêpe with chicken, mushroom and spinach) I got was worth the wait.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:28 AM
I'm staying in the same room the Learning to Adapt: How Books Become Films panel was held in to see Ann M. Martin in conversation with Laura Godwin. I like authors coming to me instead of the other way around. I'm already buying their books.
The room host just told the gathering audience to move closer to the front because it isn't going to be packed.
Excuse me, these ladies have fans, sir.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:27 AM
José A. Villar-Portela, Reading Queer’s Director of Programming, takes the stage to get things started. He wonders if scheduling an event the morning after the Book Fair’s Author Party was perhaps not his best idea. “Is it bright in here,” he asks, “or is it just my hangover?” Despite his post-party woes, he’s excited to tell us that today is Reading Queer’s one-year anniversary. Their first official event was a poetry reading at last year’s Miami Book Fair, and they’re celebrating in style today with champagne, and drag queens blasting confetti canons. In addition to the festive atmosphere, he tells the audience that Reading Queer has also sponsored a mobile HIV testing van outside The Swamp to promote safe sex and offer rapid testing.
The first act after Villar-Portela’s introduction are Juleisy y Karla, drag queens from Hialeah who do a raucous performance art set to a series of audio clips. Martin Luther King Jr. speeches, news segments on Reagan’s and Obama’s military involvement in Libya, Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop,” and Miss South Carolina Teen USA’s infamous speech about education in the Iraq and such, among other clips, splice together in rapid succession, peppered with various sound effects. The duo lip synch to the mix just as any queen would to her favorite Beyonce tune, and storm out of the tent to enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:26 AM
During the Q & A at the Learning to Adapt: How Books Become Films panel, Russell Banks explained a great film can be made of a great book, but it's not a great film because it's a great book. They're still different.
There was one man who asked if film agents or scouts take books from the authors themselves, in particular self-published authors. It was obvious the questioner was talking about himself. Howard Sanders said he only takes referrals. Chris Goldberg suggested the man get a literary agent who will fight for him.
One thing I remember hearing at one point was that some studios take novels that weren't so great because they think the book will do better as a film. That made me rethink adaptations I'd seen. Were they taken on because they were good works of literature or bad ones?
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:25 AM
Arrived at The Swamp just ahead of the start of the This is for the Ladies who Lunch brunch presented by Reading Queer, which is celebrating its one year anniversary today. Lots of people are on hand, some lined up for the brunch mimosas and granola parfaits, most sitting with phones in hand to take pix of the drag queen performance that kicks off the festivities.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:20 AM
The session on the "literary life" that led off the Sunday program in Chapman featured Ann Patchett, Nicholson Baker, Francine Prose and Walter Mosley. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, moderated, and the format mirrored that of her "By the Book" features: get famous authors to talk about reading. Here's a sampler of the discussion.
Why do you read? Mosley: Because my parents read. Prose: Because otherwise you're limited to leading just one life.
What were you reading in transit to the Book Fair? Baker: George Saintsbury's literary criticism—it's expressed so eloquently.
What do you reread regularly? Mosley: T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets. "I still don't understand them, but each time I misunderstand them differently."
Do you read on electronic devices? Patchett is paper only—"I own a bookstore." Baker reads books aloud in his parked car, but in the middle of the night reads on his iPhone. Prose goes electronic only on airplanes to keep from traveling with so many books. Mosley reads mostly on paper but pointed out the value of electronic readers to children who cannot afford books.
Baker put in a plug for "murdering trees." He lives in Maine. If we don't buy books, the paper industry continues its decline, and the forests of Maine become condo developments.
The question of "How often are books tossed aside unread?" turned into a discussion of negative reviews. Prose: There are so many crappy books out there that you have to speak up. Mosley: Books that serve up misinformation need to be called out.
Quiz time! Question: What did you love reading as a child? Answers (in alphabetical order): Charlotte's Web, Lord of the Rings, Mad Magazine, Spiderman comics. Match the author with the answer.
For more in this vein, see Paul's newly published collection, By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:05 AM
FYI aspiring scriptwriters and/or authors, Paula Mazur said most companies don't accept submissions. They use companies like Howard Sanders's which try to have studios make movies of the film rights they have.
And you won't be making millions. Russell Banks said normally an author gets two paychecks: when the film rights are bought and when principal filming starts. They're not six-figure numbers, adding, "I won't say two-figure," but it's closer to that than a six-figure.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:00 AM
Russell Banks has "let go" of his books in some cases when they're being adapted to film, but has stayed involved in the process as producer. He explained that the author starts with power, but it's a "descending slide of power."
But Chris Goldberg added that movie studios want the authors to be behind the film because a disgruntled author might take to social media and bash the film. He believes that in future, authors will have more power.
Maybe authors will have more power when their work is adapted, but I feel people will still go see a film if the author bashes it just to see what the writer is talking about. As they say, any publicity is good publicity.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:55 AM
When discussing what they look for in books to see if they're adaptable, Chris Goldberg said that films, unlike some books, have to be plot-driven, so there isn't a set list of criteria.
The moderator, Rachel Deahl, asked about the elevator pitch, or log line, that's about 10 seconds long, and whether they work.
Howard Sanders answered with a definite "no."
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:42 AM
I arrive at the Reading Queer Brunch well ahead of schedule—I’ve been excited for this one all week. There’s a Pop-Up Drag Closet just inside the entrance full of goodies to help the audience join the fun: tutus, gold sequined shawls, feather boas. I grab a white fur coat from the stack to keep me warm and fabulous in the chilly Swamp tent and slide into a seat to people watch.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:40 AM
Russell Banks said "novels get pillaged for film," not adapted. He further compared it to a potter who makes a 3-D pot. Adaptation means coming in and smashing the pot and trying to find the 2-D pieces. A guild then comes in to make a stained glass window of the pieces. It's a lone vs. a collaboration work.
I took that to mean that books and films, like pottery and stain-glass windows, are two different mediums, but it doesn't mean one is better than the other. It's just difficult, and impossible at times, to turn a book to film. It'll no longer be the same.
Paula Mazur added that the script should be seen as a "blueprint" that a "ton of people" are going to "manipulate."
Howard Sanders then said something I completely agreed with: not everything written should be a film.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:30 AM
Howard Sanders said, "Hollywood is looking for people who can write," speaking of authors who turn to writing original screenplays.
Paula Mazur added that writing novels and writing movies require different tools, though.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:20 AM
Howard Sanders is a film agent who acts as a intermediary
between Hollywood and the publishing world. He explained that most
authors and literature used to end up in motion pictures, but now
television, which he said included Netflix and Amazon, "has exploded" and literature has ended up there, too.
Sanders's fellow panelist, Paula Mazur, said that if a work
has "proven itself in one market," the idea is that it will in
another, hence why so many books are adapted.
Sanders added that the "pendulum has swung": the
creator/author of a work now has more power and is more important than the actor, which was not the case before.
This statement caused a slight argument with author Russell
Banks, who disagreed.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:10 AM
Chris Goldberg is a film scout for 20th Century Fox, seeking
out books to turn into film by going to book fairs and contacting
publishing houses. He then recommends to the executives which books he thinks should be adapted.
I want to be a film scout.
Another panelist, author Russell Banks, asked Goldberg, "Did
you read these books?" The audience laughed. I laughed because I
thought, Of course he did, that's his job.
Goldberg replied that they do try their best, but with hundreds of book recommendations and only a handful of assistants, it's hard to read them all.
Guess I was wrong.
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:00 AM
I'm excited to see the Learning to Adapt: How Books Become
Films panel, featuring Howard Sanders, Paula Mazur, Chris Goldberg,
and Russell Banks with moderator Rachel Deahl, because I loved movies before I loved reading, and, in fact, wanted to be a screenwriter
before I decided I wanted to be a novelist. But I still have a soft
spot for film and haven't given up the idea of screenwriting.
Another thing that made me pick this panel as the first one
for today is that as a film and literature fan, I am sometimes
disappointed and angered when a book is poorly adapted to film, but
excited when I hear a beloved book will be adapted. Let's see what I
Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, 9:22 AM
Book Fair real estate report. I count 11 tents in Writers' Row, where self-published authors promote, sell and sign their works. With two per tent and single day occupancy, that makes for a wide and colorful cast of characters across the weekend.
But the biggest footprint belongs to Author Solutions. Eight tents in their "gallery" displayed self-published books, plus four more where their authors (those who pay for the marketing) sign.
No surprise that a lot of Book Fairgoers would like to be Book Fair authors as well.
Saturday, Nov. 22
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 9:00 PM
The Standard Hotel in Miami Beach is the host hotel for the authors' party. I'm here in my capacity as one of the hospitality staff, but honestly, it doesn't feel much like work. A waiter just offered me a citrus vodka cucumber drink. Questlove just walked by. A second ago, I thought I heard someone say, "There goes John Waters!" But when I looked to see if the "Pope of Trash" had indeed blessed the crowd with his presence, I catch just the slightest glimpse of a shiny suit jacket as it disappears behind a hedgerow. I've never been to a party this well-attended. Everywhere I look, there are writers. Wow, this is quite the cocktail—and quite the party.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 6:30 PM
The poetry panel went slightly longer than I anticipated, but I managed to arrive at the panel featuring another FIU professor, John Dufrense, who was with Ben Mezrich and Phillip Margolin.
I walked in when Dufrense was talking about not knowing who the killer was in No Regrets, Coyote 200 pages into his manuscript. Every time I hear that, I am shocked. I don't always outline my stories, but I know the plot essentials before I start writing. There is no one way of writing.
Margolin said he didn't meet another published author until he was in his 30s. He used to be a criminal case lawyer, but none of his cases had elements of mystery. Some of his story ideas, instead, came from "moral and ethical dilemmas."
For his current book, Woman With a Gun, Margolin found a photograph over the toilet of a public bathroom of a woman at the beach looking out to the ocean and holding a gun. He bought the photo and came up with the title. It took him several years to come up with the story. He ended by encouraging aspiring novelists to go to toilets around the country.
I'll pass. I'm scared of what I might find.
Mezrich is best known for his nonfiction work, two of which were turned into the movies 21 and The Social Network. His new book, Seven Wonders: A Novel, is like Indiana Jones. It's been pitched as a three-movie deal to FOX.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 6:22 PM
The late-afternoon nonfiction panel featured three former journalists taking us to scary places.
Héctor Tobar's Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free is the inside story of the miners trapped 2,300 feet underground for 69 days from August to October 2010. After their rescue, the miners stuck together in choosing an author for the official version of their story, and they confided in Tobar details about life and behavior underground. The book is about "what average guys do when thrust into extreme circumstances" with back story about their lives, why they worked in the mine, and why they wanted to survive.
When contact was first made with the miners 17 days into their ordeal, one of the first things sent down through the newly drilled hold was a fiber optic cable and miniature TV. They went from seemingly forgotten to non-stop media story that they could watch. Surreal.
Kathryn Miles' Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy focuses on the build-up of the unprecedented storm; how it caught meteorologists, emergency agencies, and local governments by surprise; and why it can happen again.
She related how the tall ship Bounty sank in the storm, and saving most of its crew was perhaps the most dangerous and expensive Coast Guard rescue ever. Yet the Coast Guard guys and the ship's crew were both psyched by the challenge and risk of fighting the storm. As were the hurricane hunters flying into the storm to measure its force.
She said the book began as an inquiry into risk and ultimately revealed how vulnerable we are when it comes to natural disasters and emergency management. Starting in the National Hurricane Center, which operates with old technologies and older policies, and has several hundred jobs unfilled. One of the miscommunications around Sandy was that meteorologists couldn't decide what to call it. It was technically no longer a "tropical hurricane" after merging with the second storm system that intensified it.
Hampton Sides' In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette is the story of the 1879 attempt to reach the North Pole and what many believed to be an open arctic sea via the Bering Strait. It's the "American Shackleton story that nobody's heard of." But it got enormous media attention in its day because, though officially a Navy expedition, it was funded by the publisher of the New York Herald.
The well-provisioned ship was trapped and drifted in ice for two years before finally being crushed and sinking. The crew then made a 1,000 mile trek across the ice dragging their remaining supplies in lifeboats before reaching open water and eventually the coast of Siberia. Sides described the Jeannette as the ideal find for a nonfiction writer: compelling story, rich primary source material, important in its day, and all but forgotten.
The authors then compared notes on the media's role in each of their stories, and on the unsung heroes—the individuals who stepped up, independent of official roles, to help their comrades survive.
The session reminded me to be thankful that it's been a quiet hurricane season.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 5:45 PM
The only poetry panel I went to was one featuring Kimiko Hahn, Vijay Seshadri, Peg Boyers, Denise Duhamel, and Carl Philips. I recognized a lot of fellow FIU MFA students in the audience. That was not surprising since Duhamel is a professor at FIU.
Hahn's Brain Fever has many science poems, including some on dream theory. For those, she would take an item, such as a pillow or lacquer box, and write what it would dream of.
Seshadri found in American poetry "writing a poem of the moment." He attempted to write one of those poems one morning, but after trying for 30 min., he went back to bed. He read that attempted poem from 3 Sections.
When referring to her collection, To Forget Venice, Boyers said forgetting the city is "a project I'm still working on." She went on to read three poems in borrowed voices: Mrs. Casanova, Mrs. Lenin, and Sand.
Duhamel jumped into reading from Blowout, including one piece titled "Victor," who is a made up boyfriend the speaker uses to avoid dating the handyman. Duhamel was hilarious, as always.
Phillips also went straight to reading. From Rock Harbor, he read a poem about getting drunk in a parking lot. After reading it, he joked that he recently did that. In "Blizzard," about Emperor Hayden, Phillips was proud he wrote a line in iambic pentameter.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 5:30 PM
After some rather highbrow literary readings, I was more than ready for the outrageous, bawdy humor of John Waters. Best known as director of campy cult films, like Hairspray and Pink Flamingos, John Waters discusses his new book Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. He embarked on a hitchhiking odyssey from Baltimore to San Francisco, carrying a sign that read, “I’m Not Psycho,” and survived to tell about it. In his book, Waters fantasizes about the worst and best case scenarios, and tells the audience, “The worst that can happen is diarrhea and getting murdered.” Though he says that serial killers don’t usually go after 66-year-old men. “I’m not anybody’s type,” he adds.
Waters says that Kansas was the hardest to get a ride, and describes it as barren with baby tornadoes everywhere. Yet Kansas is also his favorite state, as it is the most extreme visually. He would get up at 6:30 AM every morning, but wouldn’t get picked up until after 11:00 AM. He says, “Waiting makes you ugly, you need lots of moisturizer.” Waters was never recognized as a celebrity, and even though he tried to dress conservatively, generous strangers gave him money on several occasions.
He tells of rides with an indie rock band, farmers, and a young Republican he refers to endearingly as “Corvette Kid.” When Corvette Kid called his parents to tell them about his new friend, Waters became worried, saying that, “If you Google me, I’m parents' worst nightmare.” Waters enjoyed listening to the people who picked him up, and hearing their stories. He also says that if you keep them talking, they’ll take you farther.
Waters traveled alone, though he did have a staff of people working for him long-distance to help with emergency back-up plans, like making motel reservations. While stuck in Kansas, Waters panicked and called his assistant to ask her to find the nearest gay bar. “Then I realized that was a ridiculous plan,” he says. Waters never had a scary experience with his rides, only fears of not getting picked up and having to sleep in strange places, like a chicken coop. The people were wonderful, and he says that the men all praised their wives and the women were smart.
Waters encourages local hitchhiking, calling it Green and a great way to make friends. The last time he himself picked up a hitchhiker was in Baltimore five years ago. The guy started huffing glue and asked Waters if he wanted some. He replied, “Not on a Tuesday morning!” When asked during the Q&A about why he thinks people don’t hitchhike anymore, he explains that horror movies have a lot to do with it. But Waters says, “I’m more afraid of being stuck at home doing nothing."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 5:10 PM
Technical malfunction drove me into Chapman late in the day. It's a fate I try hard to avoid, but the live streaming of Chapman events into the Friends of the Fair hospitality room was not working, and I wanted to see John Waters.
By one of the immutable laws of Book Fair attendance, I wound up in the talkative section. Three pairs and a threesome. Most annoying of the pairs wasn't paying attention to Waters—just talking.
I know that a lot of unimaginative people encamp in Chapman all day, but I was amazed at the number. I was near the front of the Friends' line, and when I entered the place was already two-thirds full. And not with your John Waters fan demographic—they had to wait in line and stand in back.
WAKE UP, PEOPLE! Get some exercise! There's a big Book Fair out there. Full of more—and more interesting—stuff than you encounter spending the day wearing out a chair in Chapman.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 5:06 PM
I was thrilled to see a packed room all the way over in Building 7 at the event about wildlife of Florida, from Florida Animals for Everyday Naturalists and Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens to The Big, Bad Book of Botany: The World's Most Fascinating Flora. Who knew people were so excited about birds and botany?
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 4:50 PM
I make my way out of Destination Comics as a few raindrops are beginning to fall. Despite the cloudy weather, no one shows sign of slowing down. There are still plenty of people, young and old, making their way into the little Comic Book corner of the Book Fair. I cannot wait to be back next year.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:49 PM
T Cooper, Allison Glock-Cooper, and Ariel Schrag all touch on the appeal and importance of imagining life as someone else during their funny readings in Building 1. For Cooper and Glock-Cooper, whose novel Changers Book 1: Drew follows a young boy who wakes up freshman year of high school and finds out he’ll be living out the year in the body of a teenage girl, co-writing a YA novel was a chance to explore the issues of empathy teenagers face. The couple travel around leading writing workshops for young people and have started wearechangers.org to encourage conversations about empathy among high-schoolers. Their inspiration for Changers came from parenting their two tween daughters. Sitting in the park one day while their kids played, they started talking about the way their kids seemed to wake up as different people pretty much every morning. They decided to run with the idea and Changers was born.
Schrag was also taken with the idea of shifting identities when she decided to write Adam, her novel about a white cis teenage boy who visits his queer sister in Brooklyn and tries to find love in a world that makes little sense to him. Schrag had already written several graphic memoirs about her own life, and she wanted to write about a character unlike herself. She enjoyed the challenge of writing from the perspective of a teenage boy, and when someone in the audience asks how she managed to write a character so unlike her, she explained that she knows some pieces of her can’t help but seep into her characters, but that’s valuable because it helped make Adam a fuller character and kept her from writing a stereotypical teenage boy.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:46 PM
Wow. I just got back from the James Baldwin panel with superstars Elizabeth Alexander, Edwidge Danticat, Jeff Chang, Azar Nafisi and Claudia Rankine. Danticat said that Baldwin made her feel less alone when she was in Haiti, Rankine and Chang talked about his influence on multicultural poetry and fiction, and Azar Nafisi discussed Baldwin’s lesser known children’s books. Chang also gave a great teaching tip that I might use someday. He says if you can’t get Caucasian students to talk about race because they feel uncomfortable, pose a question like, “Hey, isn’t it hard to talk about race nowadays?” Genius.
I’ve always been an admirer of Baldwin, so it was cool to see his influence on some of our greatest contemporary writers.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Saturday, November 22, 2014, 4:36 PM
Catching a discussion by artist/publisher Denis Kitchen, one of the anti-establishment architects of the underground comic movement of the late 60s early 70s. He’s here to celebrate a compilation release of his 1974 Marvel Comics collaboration, called Best of Comix. “An underground comics for the newsstands.”
Kitchen starts the discussion with a ten-minute slide show that explains how underground comics came about. “We started out as angry and against things. We wanted to shock the middle class.” Underground comics were, according to Kitchen, “The first hippy literature.”
Kitchen explains how they got around the dominant comic code authority of the time by ignoring newsstands and instead distributing through head shops, which didn’t care about the code.
Then, he tells us, came the crash of 1973. A new law was passed that gave local municipalities the right to determine what was obscene. Local authorities clamped down on head shops.
That led to Stan Lee, of Marvel Comics fame, offering him the opportunity to publish an "establishment" underground comic. Kitchen took Lee up on his offer. They called the comic, Comix. It had a five-issue run.
Though the comic was short-lived, Kitchen explains, it was a harbinger of modern day publisher/creator relationships. Lee paid artists a hundred dollars a page (at the time the going rate was twenty-five). He allowed the artists/writers to maintain ownership of their creations and their artwork.
Ironically, one of things that caused the comic to cease publication were complaints to Lee by traditional comic writers and artists, who were upset about the better benefits Kitchen and his people were getting.
It is a fascinating insight to an era that produced a style of comics that, in some ways, continues to shape the comic creators of today.
—Louis K. Lowy
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:25 PM
Still at the Creature Entertainment booth, I learn that the large banner that caught my attention corresponds to writer Juan Navarro's work Zombie Years, a zombie apocalypse set in Miami. Mr. Navarro was nice enough to talk with me for a bit about his inspiration for the piece.
I asked him why he chose to set his story in Miami and he answered simply, "Well, I'm from here." He then went on to explain that the inspiration for this story came from a particularly bad hurricane season a few years ago, during which a lot of Miami was without power.
This turned into an eight-page short story, which Navarro says he could not let go, about mankind reverting to survival mode. "I started drawing parallels between hurricanes and zombies. What do you do to prepare for a hurricane? Board up your windows. What do you do to prepare for the zombie apocalypse? Board up your windows." Eventually, Zombie Years, the comic, was born. Being a Miami native myself, I could not resist picking up a copy of Zombie Years, Book 1, which Navarro was nice enough to sign. More information about all the works by Creature Entertainment is available on their website.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:23 PM
I didn’t know anything about Daisy Hernandez except that one of my professors posted about her on Facebook. I decided to take a chance and go to her afternoon panel. She read from her new memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed, and the excerpt she chose to read moved me to think deeply about how our culture treats the transgender community.
When Hernandez dated a partner who identified as male but was biologically female, Hernandez worried a lot about her partner’s safety. Hernandez became panicked at a movie theatre once when she exited the women’s bathroom and couldn’t find her partner anywhere in the lobby. She worried that her partner was being harassed in the men’s bathroom. To her relief, a few minutes later her partner emerged from the concession area, smiling, and carrying a large bucket of popcorn.
Her story made me pause and think about how it would feel, in addition to all of the other daily bad things that can happen to a person (car crashes, illnesses, muggings), to have to worry about whether my partner would be harassed or attacked just for using the restroom at a movie theater.
I left the Book Fair glad that I encountered Hernandez and her work.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:16 PM
Even Norman Lear I got to experience at the Miami Book Fair International. Lear, the producer behind some of my favorite Seventies sitcoms, making him also indirectly responsible for some of the catchiest sitcom theme songs ever (Sanford and Son, Maude, The Jeffersons) is also, at 92, an author.
At 91, after working on the manuscript for four years, Lear finished his memoir, Even This I Get to Experience.
In the packed auditorium, it was clear that Lear’s shows, now in syndication, still resonate. For example, a woman told Lear how much she had recently enjoyed a rerun of All in the Family (also created by Lear). Although she said she barely watched TV, she became riveted watching the “Draft Dodger” episode from 1976.
My favorite moment was when Lear described the similarities between him and the Maude Findlay character played by the late Bea Arthur. “She was an unreconstructed emotional liberal. She was like me,” said Lear, who founded the advocacy group People for the American Way. “She came from the right place.”
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:15 PM
A large "Welcome to Miami" banner catches my eye, and I head over to the Creature Entertainment booth. Writer and publisher John Ulloa is there and we have a brief chat about his experience at the Fair and our shared penchant for hand sanitizer. Several of his works are on display:
◇ Ravenous, the story of Idian Blackthorne, who takes it upon himself to defend humanity from various monsters.
◇ Forgive me Father, a crime novel centered around main character Father Pedro's loss of faith.
◇ The Gun, the story of a particular handgun and its effect on its owners' lives.
◇ Tommy, the story of a young boy who discovers his imaginary friend, and pet rabbit, is a serial killer. I found this last one most interesting.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:14 PM
I notice that there's a booth and a Sunday session featuring 100 Things To Do in Miami Before You Die. #1 on my list is moving north before the waters rise.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:09 PM
Arrived at Cornell West too late to gain entrance. Watched simulcast. Lots of laughs. Met him afterward at the autograph table, where he addressed everyone as "brother" or "sister."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 4:00 PM
I walk over to TOON Books and chat with a friend who is manning this booth. For anyone who is a fan of the Peanuts cartoons, head here. They have them all in book format!
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 3:45 PM
The wind starts flipping the pages of the many Comic Books and Graphic Novels laid out in front of the Tate's Comics booth. Me and around twelve other people crowd by the booth. Some are there for Ed Piskor's signing, others to pick up a new issue of their favorite comic or graphic novel. I'm surprised by the amount of works they have been able to fit under one tent. There's a section for manga, which includes most of the currently well-known series - Attack on Titan, Dragon Ball - as well as some older classics, such as Akira. As for Comic Books, you can find any and all of your favorite DC and Marvel heroes conspicuously set up on opposite sides of the tent. Finally, for Graphic Novel enthusiasts, almost all the staples are here: Frank Miller's Watchmen, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, and Brian K. Vaughan's Y the Last Man and Saga. This booth is perfect for both the uninitiated reader and the Comic Book veteran. Check out their website for more information: www.tatescomics.com
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 3:38 PM
I make my way through the Saturday crowd and toward Destination Comics. If all the other people gathered by the "Miami Book Fair Loves Comics!" archway are any indication, I'm not alone in my excitement.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 3:34 PM
The truth is I came to this panel discussion to see Ann Patchett, without much knowledge of the other two authors, Lucinda Franks and Mona Simpson. As it turns out, I am pleasantly surprised by the humor and wit of Lucinda Franks, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, as she reads from her memoir Timeless: Love, Morgenthau, and Me. The book is a heartfelt and funny account of her marriage to a New York high-powered lawyer, who is thirty years her senior. Franks says there are always two questions that people want to ask. How did his kids feel about you? They were angry, she explains. It’s been a difficult relationship with her stepchildren, the oldest of whom is her age. And do you think you married your father? To which she replies, “Kind of, yes.” But she clearly loves both her father and her husband of thirty-seven years. She says of her memoir, “I didn’t want to write a love letter, I wanted to write an authentic portrait.”
Mona Simpson and Ann Patchett took a more laissez-faire approach to the panel. Simpson admits to buying her own book Casebook: A Novel from one of the vendors at the Fair in order to have a copy during the discussion. She says that she’s not that comfortable discussing her novels. Patchett also decides not to read from her collection of essays This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, but seems content with a casual dialogue with her fellow panelists.
Though it may have taken a while for them to gain their stride, with some awkward moments at the beginning of the talk, the three ease into a conversation that ranges in topics from experiences with stepchildren, and being a stepchild, to craft and finding balance as a writer. As Patchett talks about her family, she reveals that her father was in law enforcement, and one of those responsible for arresting Charles Manson. Patchett herself tried out for the police academy. She tells the audience, “This was not the discussion you all were expecting.” Patchett also shares a connection with Simpson. When Patchett was twenty years old, Simpson helped to get her first short story published. Simpson was reading the slush pile for The Paris Review and discovered Patchett’s story. Lately, Patchett has turned to writing essays since opening her independent bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. Parnassus Books keeps her busy and social, as the author admits, “My entire fantasy life revolves around giving up email.”
For those writing nonfiction and memoir, Patchett offers, “If someone does something bad and you want to write about it, only tell 20%.” The person will know exactly what you could have said, and they will be grateful. She adds that when you read something that you thought would be scandalous, and you realize it’s not that bad, it’s very freeing.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 3:20 PM
I know that the hospitality suite for authors is an exclusive place. But who among the hundreds of authors at the Book Fair is the lucky one permitted to enter? We need a return visit from Lynne Truss, grammarian author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves.
Actually, not that exclusive. I snuck in early in the day when security was lax to say hi to Book Fair Program Director Lissette Mendez and catch Dr. Padron in the act of a photo op with Valeria Plame.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 3:11 PM
At Susan Pinker & Steven Pinker: packed crowd. PowerPoint presentations.
Susan Pinker discussed The Village Effect (also the title of her new book), which explores how face-to-face/in-person interaction is a greater predictor for health & longevity than diet, exercise, and smoking habits. (This is welcome news to active members of the Slothful, Chain-Smoking Carnivores Club).
Next, Steven Pinker summarized the first couple of chapters of his new book, The Sense of Style. He recommends using the Classic Style of composition, if a writer's intention is clear communication to a wide audience. He briefly explained why others revert to academese and legalese (insecurity/obfuscation/"Curse of Knowledge").
On to Cornell West...
News & Links
Check out the Miami Book Fair International website, including programs in English and Spanish, a map of the Fair, etc.
The FBR Blogging Team
Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Lynne Barrett, Editor and Blogging Coordinator
Carolyn Pledge Amaral
Louis K. Lowy
Saturday, Nov. 22, Continued
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 3:10 PM
First sighting of a stilt walker at the Fair, disproving my theory that they'd been grounded by the threat of high winds. Then again, this one was staying in the lee of Building 1.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 3:07 PM
Cornel West is a household name. He’s a Democratic scholar, he’s written more than twenty books and edited thirteen, he’s traveled all over the world and appears frequently on CNN and The Colbert Report. You can even find him in The Matrix. You’d think West would want to talk more about himself in his "Evenings With" interview, but he only wanted to praise scholars, family members, writers and everymen and women. West said, “I am who I am because somebody loved me, because someone attended to me.” He praised Books & Books founder Mitchell Kaplan, MDC college president Eduardo J. Padron, his vacation bible school teacher, his brother and sister, and many others. He also thanked "black prophets" for providing a “lived experience of how to act when virtue meets brute force…” He thanked African American activists because “catastrophe has been visited on black people… We have a deep sense of saying the truth… we sacrifice fitting in for bearing witness.” He also gave credit to Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglas, Malcom X, Martin Luther King, Ella Baker and the freedom fighters in Ferguson. During the Q and A, West thanked every person in line for their questions and interest in his work. He’s just a humble, dedicated, and terrific person. West is well-deserving of his fame.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 2:30 PM
I can stand in front of cooking meat all day.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 2:18 PM
I'm a fan of Bunny Yeager's Darkroom, so had to rush over to Bldg 7 for the session on Petra Mason's new collection of pin-up photography, Bettie Page: Queen of Curves. Although her career as a model lasted only a few years, Page remains a pin-up icon, her look unrivaled. Yeager, the legendary and groundbreaking photographer, lived in Miami Shores and passed away last May.
The photos in the new book were all taken in a five-month period in 1954, when Page was 32 and Yeager only 25. Page was in South Florida on the run from authorities in New York City who objected to some bondage shots.
The photo sessions put Page on the map and into the centerfold of Playboy. Most famous are nude-on-the-beach shots and photos taken with wild animals in Africa USA, a private safari park. Yeager and Page were self-sufficient, including dealing with makeup, clothing (when needed), props and equipment. Page wasn't that interested in seeing her photographs—she just had a great time being photographed.
Mason talked about the "purity of pinup." These were real women, cellulite and all, without airbrushing and "all the added-on and padded-on stuff you get today." What sets Page apart? Her look is neither scared nor coy. Rather, it has a frank sensuality, almost raunchiness at times.
Asked what a nice girl like you is doing collecting pin-ups, Mason said she's always been fascinated with glamour and wishing she were in another decade.
Lucky the coffee table that's graced with the two Bunny Yeager books.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 2:16 PM
Had to get more food since the bread pudding sample at the cooking demo I went to wasn't filling enough.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 2:15 PM
I’m hanging out in “The Swamp,” the Fair’s new venue for wacky and weird things related to our native territory. The setup is fun, with a food truck, a local brewery serving up great beer on tap, picnic tables and lawn chairs scattered around, and Miami favorite Books & Books selling local interest books out of a pop-up store.
In the middle of it all, some of the younger Fair attendees are hanging out on an astroturf bocce ball court. I’d guess they range from ages 6-10. I’m mesmerized. They have no idea what bocce ball is. They’re kicking the bocce balls up and down the court. It may not be regulation, but they seem to be diggin’ it.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 2:05 PM
I bumped into John Waters. I opened a door, bumped into him, looked him in the eyes, and said, "Oh my god, you're John Waters."
He said, "Yes I am," and walked away.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 2:02 PM
Defying the fiendish methods of the Book Fair schedulers, I managed to catch most of four sessions in three hours, starting with "Weird Florida" in The Swamp and ending with Petra Mason on Bettie Page, with rations of retirement advice and Florida food and drink in between. A new personal record!
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:55 PM
Doesn't seem fair that my lunch was delayed by attending the Florida food and drink panel, but it was worth it.
Heather McPherson, food editor and dining critic for the Orlando Sentinel, led off with Good Catch: Recipes and Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida's Waters, her guide to who produces, where to get, and how to cook native seafood. Florida's first tourism wave centered on sportfishing. The state's fishermen still produce plenty, but much of it is exported while our supermarkets offer questionably farmed fish from elsewhere. Support your local fishermen by seeking out their wares and telling your favorite restaurants to do the same.
Her parting advice I need to take to heart: "Don't be afraid when you cook seafood. It isn't that hard to get it right."
Jen Karetnick's Mango is a combination memoir and cookbook. She and her husband bought a house in Miami Shores complete with 11 (now 14) mango trees, a remnant of the area's original plantations. Inundated (and occasionally bombarded) with mangos, she had to figure out what to do with them. Not only by working them into every course of a meal, but also by trading her crops for recipes from relatives, friends and some of the area's leading chefs.
For more on mangos and her other avocations, see Karetnick's blog. And for more on Mango the book, see James Barrett-Morison's review on the Food & Drink page.
Mark DeNote gave a tour of The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide, which is both a history of brewing in Florida and a guide to over 100 craft beer breweries and brewpubs across the state. His research into beer predates that for the book. After he'd consumed, catalogued, and stored the empties of some 3500 different beers, his wife asked a sensible question: "How can we make this pay?" So he started touring and writing.
DeNote discussed the practical challenges of succeeding as a brewer and the continuous and generous collaboration among the craft brewer community. They may be in competition for local customers, but everyone wants to help everyone else succeed. After all, they're serving a clientele that wants variety, not your standard neutered lite beer. The good news is that craft breweries are opening in the U.S. at the rate of more than one a day. I'd better hit the road.
For more on The Great Florida Craft Beer Guide, see my review on the Food & Drink page.
Not sure I can count on the Food Court to serve up local sustainably harvested fish (those Crystal River guys haven't been around in years). But the smoothie stations have mangos, and I definitely know where to slake my beer thirst.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:50 PM
As assistants were passing around samples of bread pudding, Chef Michael Love showed how to make it. One tidbit he gave was that salt "brings out" the flavor in food, it doesn't make it salty, unless a person doesn't know how to use it.
Another tip he gave was to use sugar at the bottom of the baking vessel so the mixture/ingredients, in this case bread, won't stick. The bread pudding wasn't bad. I'm not a fan of the food, but the fact that I ate the whole piece I was given testifies more to me being hungry than its taste.
The croutons they just passed out are really good, albeit spicy. I can eat a whole bowl of them as a snack.
Last piece of cooking advice: don't put eggs in the fridge door because it's 6-7 degrees warmer there.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:40 PM
Just bumped into author Deborah Sharp at the Murder on the Beach tent. She is enjoying her sabbatical from writing Mama books. Meanwhile, her husband, NBC's Kerry Sanders, is in Miami participating in a cycling challenge with other Today Show members.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:33 PM
John Waters just passed by, but I wasn't quick enough to get a photo. Dang!
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:31 PM
Chef Michael Love spoke about his background, how his family always talked about food (they would be eating one meal and discussing what the next one would be), how he transitioned from a musician to chef, and how he's now a Specialty Chef at Epicure Gourmet Market & Cafe here in South Florida.
What I found interesting was that Chef Michael decided to go to music school in the '80s because culinary school wasn't "cool" for a man to attend, it being associated to home economics and women. Men, too, can fall victim to supposed gender roles.
His cookbook, The Salvage Chef Cookbook, came about when he was asked to do something with the 40 lbs. of chicken trimmings Epicure was throwing away on a weekly basis. He turned it into meatloaf. It all sold in an hour. The GM asked what else he could salvage.
Chef Michael went on to say that the number one thing thrown out is bread. (Something I know too well at home, unfortunately.) He gave two tips of what one can do with bread: breadcrumbs and croutons. A third tip was the demo and sample: bread pudding.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 1:30 PM
Quite a line for YA author Maggie Stiefwater. Will her Raven Cycle series be the next Hunger Games or Maze Runner?
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:14 PM
My inner nerd loved seeing Tony DiTerlizzi's presentation on his new children's book, The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. The Florida native energetically described how his love of the Star Wars series led him to put together the picture book, which re-tells the original trilogy of films using vintage 70s concept art illustrations by Ralph McQuarrie. His other children's books, including the Spiderwick Chronicles and the recently-concluded WondLa trilogy, show a heavy Star Wars influence--WondLa follows a girl raised on another planet by a robot. The presentation concluded with a dramatic reading, complete with audience volunteers, of a crucial moment of the story—I won't tell which one to avoid spoilers, but if you're a fan of the films, I'm sure you can guess!
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:12 PM
A panel featuring Claudia Rankine lured me to the Book Fair earlier than I might otherwise have attended. Having recently moved to Fort Lauderdale, my drive to downtown has become longer and easier to talk myself out of on a Saturday morning. Still, I remembered reading Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric in my lyric essay class with Julie Wade last year, and the prospect of hearing the author read motivated me to leave my cozy bed. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely struck me with its unconventional formatting (it is a tall, thin rectangle and the lyrical prose is mixed with images) and its honesty about dealing with depression and suicidal feelings. I knew that today she would read from her latest work, Citizen: An American Lyric, a book that has received acclaim for its exploration of what it means to be a black citizen of the United States.
I hoped to learn from her, and I was not disappointed. The first poem she shared, “Stop-and-Frisk,” had a victim of racial profiling as its speaker. The line, “And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description,” stuck with me because of how she repeats it and uses it to haunt the poem. The second excerpt she read drew an illustration of how racism can operate in subtle, near-invisible ways. A woman boards a subway train and notices there is one seat available next to a black man. She wonders why no one else has taken it yet, and sees a second woman who would rather stand “all the way to Union Station” than sit next to him. To alleviate this hurt in her own small way, the first woman sits next to the man and forges a bond with him. Rankine said she wanted “to illuminate the space between you and you” and identify what happens to dehumanize one of the “yous” in that space. I thought the very literal empty space between the sitting man and the standing woman accomplished her goal in a compelling and heartbreaking way.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 1:05 PM
I'm at Michael Love's cooking demo. It's my first time at one. I already smell cinnamon.
Assistants are passing out black napkins. I'm excited and hungry.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:55 PM
Having written an article a decade ago on the benefits of working past "retirement age," and following the trend every since, I didn't expect much new information from Chris Farrell on Unretirement: How Baby Boomers are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and the Good Life. But I was duty-bound to hear how he made the case.
He hit the high points. People are living and working longer, and many retirees go back to work, at least part-time, within two years of retiring. They're not all working as greeters in big box stores; 60% are in jobs that require significant education and skill. Many are experimenting and reinventing themselves, working in new fields. They're often self-employed (sometimes after forced by employers into "early retirement"). 25% of business start-ups in 2013 were headed by people 55 and older.
Farrell observed that today's 50/60/70-somethings are like recent college graduates—they want to be proud of what they do. A growing number of people are forced to work in retirement to make ends meet, but the overwhelming majority of working retirees say they work because they want to, not because they have to. If it's work you enjoy, it's good for you physically, mentally, socially and emotionally.
Working in retirement is also good for the economy in terms of productivity and wealth creation, plus the fact that more people continue to pay into Social Security instead of drawing from it.
Farrell said he wrote Unretirement because "people need to think differently about the last third of life." Aside from books like this and the advice of friends, there aren't a lot of resources to help people navigate into retirement. I find that the "retirement planning" industry is focused on financing retirement, not on what you need to do to thrive there.
One point of uneasiness about this book (and about some of my own work) is that the author is a Baby Boomer talking about Baby Boomers. In many cases, our generation didn't pioneer these trends so much as popularize them through sheer weight of numbers.
Farrell was paired with Neville Williams on Sun Power: How Energy from the Sun Is Changing Lives Around the World, Empowering America, and Saving the Planet. (This panel took the prize for longest subtitles.) It's his second book based on what he's learned since starting—at age 62—a solar company that's done installations in a dozen countries and spawned offshoots including a non-profit.
He said the world didn't need another boring book on solar energy (he has a bookshelf full), so his books are written as personal narratives about what people accomplish with solar. As the price per watt of solar power continues to drop (it's declined by 75% in the last five years), the business is booming around the world (if not in the U.S.). The sun provides the energy behind all the renewables, and "as Earthlings we have no choice today but to turn to it."
He comes by writing honestly, having spent 20 years as a freelancer. He explains his transition: "Old writers never die. They just become marketing directors. I joined Greenpeace instead."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:25 PM
I was stopped by a teen who wanted to know where I got my circular Tolkien poster that I was hugging against my body like a shield, my Tolkien Shield. I said where, but added that I thought it was the last one.
She said the poster was awesome.
I replied with, "I know, that's why I asked for it."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:20 PM
At the Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial—USA booth, I found an Agatha Christie collection of seven novels in Spanish. My sister and I split the cost to get it for our mom, who was the one who turned me to Christie when I was a ninth grader.
Now we'll both have some Christie to read, thanks to the Fair.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:19 AM
One of my top 10 reasons why I love the Book Fair is I'll always come across the most unique publishers no one has ever heard of.
I came across this gem, Seven Stories Press. It's their first year at the Miami Book Fair.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:18 PM
Just ran into Cornel West in the Author's Suite. He called me a “little lady” and gave me a huge hug. He’s really tall. And really friendly. Day made.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:10 PM
Just attended Richard Ford's 11 AM reading in the Auditorium. Ford read a short excerpt from "The New Normal," the third story in his latest book Let Me Be Frank with You. Ford packs his sentences with such significance and reads them with such authority that each one sounds like either the first or last line of a novel.
During Q & A he quoted Sartre & Sherman Alexi, referred to Faulkner, and admitted to having read only one of Updike's Rabbit books.
Total gent. Gracious, funny, straightforward, wise. Firm handshake.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:08 PM
I wandered to the Murder on the Beach booth because after buying a monstrous anthology of nearly 1,000 pages of mystery stories, I, of course, wanted more.
But after skimming through the paperbacks and not finding anything that caught my attention, I walked to another table that was full of fantasy novels, the other genre I love. I immediately spotted a book I've wanted to buy for years: The Hobbit: An illustrated edition of the fantasy classic. It's basically a graphic novel adaptation of The Hobbit, the book that made me want to be a writer.
I looked around to see if I had walked into another tented booth, but, no, the ladies behind the table assured me it was Murder on the Beach. I saw they had a small poster of the upcoming Hobbit movie on the table. I asked one of the ladies about it. I was told it was promotional merchandise that I could have if I bought something. I didn't need to be told twice.
When I purchased a copy of the illustrated Hobbit, I was handed the poster, a Hobbit bookmark, a pin with the Tolkien emblem, and a sticker with the emblem and the website www.readthehobbit.com.
When I asked if they had any more of the circular posters (approximately 16 in. in diameter) with the Tolkien emblem and the website, one of which was taped on one of the tent's fabric walls, I was promptly given the poster. It was too big to fit in my bookbag, so I came to terms with the fact I would have to walk around the Fair for the rest of the day with this cardboard, but I was happy.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 12:01 PM
Book Fair beer report. Suds selection has dramatically improved thanks to the Biscayne Bay Brewing Company stand outside the entrance to The Swamp. They ran out of Miami IPA mid-afternoon, but the 1513 MDXIII Golden Ale remained available.
Sensing competition, the Pub tent in the Food Court upgraded their offerings to Heineken and Corona.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:56 AM
I bought a copy of The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries. Looking through the Contents page, I see Agatha Christie—my favorite mystery writer—is listed. No surprise there. But when I see the story is "The Dream," I excitedly wonder, OMG, have I read this story?! Why have I not read this story before?!
I then realize that the editor, Otto Penzler, also edited The Best American Mystery Stories of the Century, which is sitting on my bookshelf unsigned by him because I didn't make the connection when I was still at home to grab the tome.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:55 AM
I got to kick off my Book Fair weekend with some big questions about how we situate ourselves on Earth and in the universe. Dr. Caleb Scharf's presentation on The Copernicus Complex used some modern technology (his iPhone) to show off how modern technology is forcing us to question some long-held beliefs about our place in the universe. The idea, held since the time of Copernicus, that we're "cosmically mediocre" may not be so true, especially if our solar system is as odd as it seems in light of new discoveries about other planets in our galaxy.
Marilyn Johnson followed up with a discussion of how archaeologists are helping us understand our place in history. Her examples of the vast diversity of archaeological work going on right now, from underwater in Newport harbor to the junk we have orbiting in space, made her work seem almost as huge in scale as Scharf's.
I'm not sure how much better of a grasp I have of my spot in the universe, but I know I'm glad that this weekend, that spot is the Book Fair.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:51 AM
New wrinkle in Q&A. Instead of asking Walter Isaacson a question, a guy pulled out a copy of his own white paper on "the theory of everything" to present to the author. Somebody should have redirected him to the "Weird Florida" session.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:49 AM
Viviani describing how much he loves his favorite ingredient: "I'll eat leaves of basil walking down the farmer's market like a goat."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:48 AM
Al Capp, who wrote the Li'l Abner comics, worked on his craft by scamming art schools. According to Denis Kitchen, who just published a bio on Capp, he'd tell a school that his wealthy uncle would be paying his tuition. By the time the school realized that there was no rich uncle who'd be sending along a check, Capp had gotten a free semester of classes and would move on to the next college.
I hope some modern day, higher ed Robin Hood has found a way to make this kind of scam work in the era of Navient and Sallie Mae.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:46 AM
Ana Sofia Pelaez, when asked how emotion plays into her cooking, gave an interesting example on how others' emotions spill over while cooking when she visited Cuba, telling the audience, "When I was in Cuba, a guy was cooking on a wood stove telling me his mother wasn't doing well and his sister wasn't helping. People love to share when they're sharing food."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:45 AM
Walter Mosley, promoting Rose Gold: An Easy Rawlins Mystery, said there weren't many "black male heroes" when he created Rawlins that resembled Robin Hood.
Mosley brought back Rawlins after the character drove off a cliff in a previous novel. He wrote other works during that period between killing Rawlins off and resurrecting him.
Although some of the books are set in the '40s and Mosley was born in 1952, he explained that because he heard plenty of family stories growing up, he feels like he lived through the '40s.
I have found, however, that relatives aren't always the most reliable storytellers, or maybe that's just my family.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:29 AM
Viviani, when asked how Top Chef helped him with success: "Exposure is great. But exposure is also bad. Top Chef is in its 16th season, and that's about 25 kids per season. You're looking at 300 people. Now how many people from Top Chef do you actually remember? The people who are successful from Top Chef are successful because they used that exposure to help them."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014 11:28 AM
Walter Mosley notices that an audience member is carrying with her one of his books of erotica and mentions that he’d been presented the Langston Hughes award yesterday. During the presentation he’d been introduced by three different people, none of whom mentioned his erotica. They'd talked about his crime writing, his YA, even his science fiction, but no one brought up his erotica.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:27 AM
Otto Penzler, editor of dozens of anthologies, including his latest one, The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries, stated he can talk about mystery stories, even though he's not a writer.
He said that locked-room mysteries are impossible crimes, an "illusion," and thinks they're better in a short story format than a novel. "There's always a letdown" at the end when the mystery is resolved and explained. He added it's the "ultimate challenge" for detective mystery writers.
Challenge accepted, sir.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:26 AM
During the panel “Lives to the Contrary: Al Capp, Andre the Giant, and the 80s Hip Hop Pantheon,” Box Brown, Denis Kitchen, and Ed Piskor discuss the reality of using interviews as sources for biographies. Piskor, who released Book II of Hip Hop Family Tree, his history-in-comics about the early days of old school hip hop, in September, notes that it’s not always that helpful when hip hop artists contact him directly to share stories. “My number is available to artists,” he says. But he notes that hip hop is about personas, and rappers “will sabotage their enemies to me and then pump up their own stories.” They’re fun stories to hear, Piskor says, but not very useful for the books.
Brown says that the same is true for the pro wrestlers he spoke to while gathering material for his graphic biography Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. He explains that pro wrestlers have invested so much into their characters and have to protect their assets. Since they need to maintain their public roles, often as a continuing source of income, “everything out of their mouths is immediately suspect.”
When Kitchen was working on the biography of comics legend All Capp (creator of the Li’l Abner strips), he encountered a different problem. He had worked with Capp’s estate to publish collections of the Li’l Abner strips, and they were happy to share more information about Capp’s life with him for Al Capp: A Life to the Contrary, at least for a while. Once Kitchen started asking questions about some of the darker aspects of Capp’s life, he says, the family’s support disappeared.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:24 AM
Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani on describing his eating habits: "You know how they dogs eat until they explode? That's me."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:22 AM
Otto Penzler on reading locked-room mysteries, "I wouldn't recommend reading all seventy stories at the same time, because at the end you may want to blow your head off—"
"—or yours," Walter Mosley interjects.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:19 AM
Only at the Miami Book Fair will I have the opportunity to bump into Edwidge Danticat around the corner.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:18 AM
Walter Mosley looks annoyed by the shutter sound of the MBFI camera.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:16 AM
Waiting in line to have Jason Segel sign my copy of Nightmares! made me slightly late to the panel featuring James W. Hall, Otto Penzler, and Walter Mosley.
Hall, promoting his latest novel, The Big Finish: A Thorn Novel, explains that he wouldn't have made Thorn so withdrawn had he, Hall, known he'd be with this character for 30 years.
Deaths are the only things that motivate Thorn into action, so Hall has had to kill off practically everyone around Thorn. Hall added that his fans are willing to clean the slate with each new book. I think that's a mark of a great fan. If only we were all that lucky to have fans like Hall's.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:15 AM
Hall says he took his motto for planning from Elmore Leonard, who said, "Why would I write the book if I knew how it was going to turn out?" Hall is on a panel with Otto Penzler, there discussing The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries. Locked-room mysteries must be fully plotted-out by their authors prior to writing, something Hall doesn't do.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:14 AM
Bonus feature of the former CIA operative panel (10:00 in Room 2106) was a charming introduction by former Senator/Governor Bob Graham. He said that when he was growing up here, South Florida was a "cultural desert" and a place where many came "not to live, but to avoid—the law, the tax man, a spouse." Miami Book Fair International was one of the first sustained activities leading us out of the desert and into the robust arts scene we enjoy today.
Valerie Plame is the former CIA undercover operative whose identity was "leaked" by members of the Bush administration in 2003, presumably in retaliation for a New York Times op-ed piece written by her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, pointing out that the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had been exaggerated as the pretext for going to war.
The "Plamegate" political scandal destroyed her future at the CIA, and she resigned in 2007. The couple moved to New Mexico "to rebuild our lives." Both wrote books on the scandal, and they were the basis for the 2010 movie Fair Game starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.
Plame then turned to fiction with Blowback (2013) and Burned (2014). The heroine of both, Vanessa Pierson, is drawn as a much more realistic female spy than Hollywood serves up, and the stories hinge on the ambiguities of being a covert operative.
Robert Baer is an operative's operative, a legend inside the CIA. He retired from the agency in 1997 after 21 years of service, received the Career Intelligence Medal, and began to write about his experiences. His books have also been Hollywood-bound. See No Evil and Sleeping with the Devil were the basis for the 2005 movie Syriana starring George Clooney.
His new book, The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins, is an anthology on political murder as an instrument of foreign policy, woven with the narrative of Imad Mughniyah, "the greatest assassin of our time." A leader in Lebanon's Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, Mughniyah was reportedly behind the 1983 Beruit barracks and embassy bombings and a string of other bombings, kidnappings and assassinations around the world—until his own assassination in 2008.
Baer described how he landed in the CIA "by accident" when his career options seemed few, then how South Florida almost washed him out when the military portion of his training included a couple of weeks wandering the Ten Thousand Islands equipped with a hammock.
Baer and Plame discussed how nuanced a profession spying is. You never know exactly who the enemy is, and it may be your boss or the press. To succeed in the CIA, you have to get your head in the mind of the enemy and understand their ideas of justice and injustice, the better to counteract them.
The most difficult part of Plamegate? "Losing my privacy overnight. It was like going down the rabbit hole." Was Dick Cheney behind the compromising of Plame's cover? Hasn't been proven, but his chief of staff was convicted of similar actions.
Challenged by a questioner about the morality of assassination, and who gets to decide who is evil enough to deserve assassination, Baer said that assassination is a "narrow" battlefield tactic, designed to disrupt the enemy, preserve your forces, and ultimately prevent war.
Some assassinations, such as that of Yitzhak Rabin, may be said to change history. "But the chances of an assassination actually helping your cause are slim because removing one leader can't kill the insanity of a movement like Jihad." Nobody, from Thomas Aquinas on down, has figured out who should get to decide who gets assassinated. Baer hopes his book ultimately makes the case against assassination.
Responding to a question about how much U.S. foreign policy and covert operations center around controlling natural resources, Baer said that the Iraq war wasn't specifically about oil supply. That said, Saudi Arabia is our "reserve gas tank," and the U. S. Government doesn't dare press the Saudis. How did it come to pass that 15 Saudis hijacked the 9/11 planes? To what extent are the Saudis supporting Islamic State? We don't know.
The authors agreed that as citizens we have to hold the government and its agencies to account. Plame said she was especially appalled by the low voter turnout in the recent election.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:13 AM
"I've been reluctant to keep Thorn alive, so I punish him in each book."—James W. Hall
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:11 AM
"It has become a creative challenge with each book to find a way in which to get Thorn to engage." —James W. Hall
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:10 AM
"I've always seen Thorn as Henry David Thoreau with a .357 Magnum." —James W. Hall
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:09 AM
I just finished an interview with Claudia Rankine. Loved her discussion of the “racial imaginary,” the danger of micro-aggressions and the lie of a post-racial society. She’s lovely and gives beautiful answers.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:08 AM
"I titled this book The Big Finish because, when I started it, I intended for it to be the last time I wrote about Thorn. You'll have to read the book to fid out if that happens."—James W. Hall
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 11:07 AM
James W. Hall asks the audience to raise their hands if they'd heard him speak before. Few in the audience raise their hands, prompting Hall to say that he can use the same material: “The good thing about my fanbase is that it doesn't matter if I reuse old material."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:05 AM
The sweaty upper lip. The wide smile accompanying his hands shooting up to make a double victory sign. The self-justifying protest of “I’m not a crook.” With those iconic signifiers, so easy to caricature, no wonder 40 years after he resigned from the presidency in disgrace, Richard Nixon continues to fascinate. Even 20 years after his death, documentaries and books about him keep coming, continuing to feed a virtual Nixon industry.
Today was no exception, as John W. Dean was on hand to discuss his book The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. Dean, who was White House Counsel under Nixon, implicated Nixon in the Watergate cover-up during his famous televised testimony before the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973.
But before I share some of Dean’s stories, please indulge me as I meditate on my own personal fascination with Nixon. After all, I even visited the Richard Nixon Presidential library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. (It wasn’t that much of a trek because I was living in Orange County, California, at the time.)
Sure, there’s the irresistible, inherent drama of witnessing a man who was a congressman, a senator, a vice president and a president fall from power. But he’s also the first president my father, a Cuban exile, voted for.
This was in 1972, when Nixon was up for reelection, the first year my Dad could vote because he had just become a U.S. citizen. It was a predictable vote: Being strongly anti-communist, my Dad wasn’t going to vote for Nixon’s opponent, the decent but liberal Democrat George McGovern.
Nowadays, nearly 25 years after the end of the Cold War, it’s easy to overlook anti-communist Nixon’s appeal for immigrants who had fled communism, whether they were Hungarian, Polish or Cuban. (The Cuban government often labeled Nixon a fascist when he was president. In Cuba’s state-run media, his name was often printed with a Nazi swastika in place of the “x.”)
Then there’s the fact that two of the five Watergate burglars were Cuban exiles: Eugenio Rolando Martínez (alias Musculito, which roughly means “Muscle Man”) and Virgilio González. On separate occasions in the 1990s, my father proudly introduced both men to me.
Listening to Dean, I recalled how well Joan Didion captured the common Cuban exile view of both men in her 1987 book Miami. Though it surely seems bizarre to outsiders, from the perspective of la lucha (the struggle) against Fidel Castro and all his allies and agents, real or imagined, “the 1972 burglary at the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic National Committee…appeared…as a patriotic mission, and the Cubans who were jailed for it as mártires de la lucha” (martyrs for the struggle).
Finally, I met Nixon. The details are fuzzy, but it was after he delivered a speech in a hotel ballroom in Miami in 1990. I asked him how much longer he thought Fidel Castro would stay in power. It was a silly question (hey, I was young), but at the time a common one given the then recent collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. “Castro’s a tough man,” Nixon replied. “I give him two years.” So much for that prediction…
Back to Dean’s Nixon. Dean shared interesting details about transcribing conversations captured on tapes thanks to the voice activated taping system installed in the White House.
Dean said it took four years, and the help of several graduate students, to transcribe the conversations, which last as little as five minutes and as long as eight hours. He said one tape was a recording of Nixon listening to a conversation with, none other than, Dean. “I was telling him the dire circumstances he was in,” Dean said.
In recent years, during those tedious tape transcriptions, Nixon’s voice often filled Dean’s office. This made Dean, who is 76, the age he said when some of his relatives began to lose their hearing, contemplate a scary possibility: “God forbid the last voice I hear is Richard Nixon’s.”
After listening to all of those conversations, Dean’s concluded that Nixon was “not as smart as I thought he was.” Although he’s quite articulate when discussing foreign policy, on domestic policy, Dean said, “there’s very little he’s good on—the only exception is the budget.” In most of the conversations about domestic issues, Dean said Nixon is “halting, stuttering, sputtering.” Stuttering or not, his grip remains strong.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 11:00 AM
Another reason to dislike political discussions—one is going to make me late for James W. Hall.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:50 AM
Segel started off talking about nightmares, stating doing the things that scare him are important. He explained that his nightmares as a kid were witches eating his toes. He connected that with the habit parents have of telling their babies that they're going to eat their little toes.
Segel read a section of the book in which the protagonist, Charlie, is at a meeting President Fear is having with his Nightmares on how they need to find the boy who entered their world, not knowing that Charlie is there, and reclaim their scariness. Segel read in the characters' voices, which caused an audience member to later say while waiting in line to get her book signed that it was worth getting the audiobook if he read it in different voices.
The last line from the section Segel read was a quote from one of the characters, who said, "Everyone is scared of something," a point that Segel wants people to understand and to also know that everything will be okay.
Before starting with the Q & A, Segel encouraged the audience, especially the children, to read rather than watch TV or movies, which I could not believe he'd said since he's known as a television and movie star, but it made me appreciate him and his work more. As he stated, with "my words and your imagination," kids can imagine this world he's created.
When the Q & A started, Segel asked for kids to ask questions first, which I thought was a great strategy since I'm sure many of the adults present would've wanted to ask questions about the show, How I Met Your Mother.
With the first question, Segel said Nightmares! is the first of a trilogy. The second book will be about dreams, while the third will be about nightmares and dreams trying to coexist.
Even though there were no Muppets present, the subject was brought up. In response to one of the questions, Segel explained Kermit is the reason he was up there on stage because as a kid, Segel saw Kermit, whom he saw as real as any person, acting and he wanted to do the same.
He added that he heard, "A bunch of weirdos make a family," on The Muppets, and being a weird kid, he took it to heart. He encouraged the young audience members to "be your best self."
One kid asked Segel if he was a man or a Muppet. Segel said he was a "very manly Muppet," which drew plenty of laughs.
Another kid asked if President Fear really controls our nightmares. Segel, instead of saying President Fear is not real, took the question seriously and answered it.
Segel ended the presentation by explaining his current nightmares: saying something that'll hurt someone's feeling. That raised the adorable factor tenfold.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:48 AM
After Jason Segel’s session ends I want to hear from some members of his target demographic, and introduce myself to Sander, age 9; Mia, age 8; and Daniel, age 12. They’re all grinning from Segel’s talk, and they even got to go backstage before his reading began to meet the author and have him sign their copies of Nightmares!
They’re all voracious readers, pumped to see Judy Blume later in the afternoon and asking me if I’ll be at that session, too. (My teacher-heart goes pitter patter at their enthusiasm for the written word.) When I ask what they thought of Jason Segel, they hold out their books and show me his fresh signatures.
“He’s so nice!” Sander tells me. Mia agrees. “I like how he answered the questions,” she says. A particular favorite moment for Mia was when Segel “told a really funny story, about when he was a kid and wore a superman cape.” She starts chanting, “Adam! Adam!” in the hallway outside of the auditorium, just as Segel had done during the session, describing the time he ran out onto the court at his older brother’s high school basketball game in that Superman cape, to cheer on his idol/sibling.
Daniel was excited to hear Segel talk about his new book, and thrilled to meet someone he’s grown up watching. “I’m a big How I Met Your Mother fan,” he tells me. “It was awesome seeing him in person. He’s really weird and really nice.” Daniel’s favorite thing about Segel? “He had a really good message.”
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:46 AM
I can't tell if Rick Perlstein, author of The Fall of Nixon and The Rise of Reagan, is reading from his book or a pre-written speech, possibly a foreword from the book.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:34 AM
Robert Baer said he worked his mother into the narrative of The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins in recognition of her expertise in character assassination.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:30 AM
And it begins. The first cellphone of MBFI goes off while John W. Dean speaks about The Nixon Defense.
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:29 AM
Dean: "There were two phases of Watergate: the cover-up, and the cover-up of the cover-up.”
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:28 AM
Dean: "My book is not a book of transcripts. I drew out of them narrative and dialogue.”
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:20 AM
John W. Dean: "It's not true that Liddy (G. Gordon Liddy) was a James Bond-like character. He wasn't even Maxwell Smart."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:16 AM
According to Dean, Nixon was not incredibly involved during the early stages of Watergate. His knowledge was more of a “willful ignorance."
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:15 AM
John W. Dean: The conversations in the Nixon tapes lasted anywhere from five minutes to eight hours. Transcribing them took four years.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:14 AM
Jason Segel wants kids to know that the best things in life come when you face your fears. “The things that scare you are sort of the most important things in the world,” he tells the packed auditorium before reading an excerpt from his new book, Nightmares! In the book, a young boy named Charlie has to face giants, vampires, and a group of witches who want to eat his toes, all in the name of saving the people he loves.
Throughout the session, Segel keeps reminding everyone that it’s great to be a passionate weirdo, and shares stories of his childhood strangeness. Like the time he belted out “Castle on a Cloud” from Les Miserables from start to finish on the first day of summer camp as his older brother looked on, embarrassed to see Jason sing a little girl’s song in front of everyone they knew. Or the way he wore a superman cape under his clothing for much of his childhood, “You know, just in case.” His strangeness stood out, and led Judd Apatow, who directed Segel in his first TV show, Freaks and Geeks, to encourage Segel to write. “Judd told me, ‘You’re a weird dude, Segel, and you’ve got to use that.’” Apatow urged Segel to start writing, and Nightmares! was his first project. It began as a movie script, and Segel shelved it for years before adapting it into a novel.
In addition to encouraging everyone to embrace their own passionate strangeness, another major theme for Segel was the importance of reading and the value it holds for kids. “Reading is the most important thing you can do for yourself,” he said. When you pick up a book, “you walk away smarter than when you started.” He noted that writing a book is fun, but what’s most exciting is the interaction between the readers and the book. “You guys are doing the really hard work reading,” he explained, noting that the kids picking up his book get to build this new world in their imaginations and it will be a little different for each one of them.
Segel charms everyone in the room with his combination of kindness and silliness. He’s jazzed to be sharing this book with everyone, and it shows. He values the youngsters in the room and takes as many questions from them as he can. At the end of the session Segel calls on one last young boy who asks him when he last had a nightmare and what it was about. Segel explains that lately his biggest fear is not taking other people’s feelings into account: “What really scares me right now is that I’ve accidentally hurt somebody’s feelings. So I try to be nice to everybody, and I try to work really hard.”
Saturday, Nov. 23, 2014, 10:12 AM
John W. Dean, author of The Nixon Defense, discussing the hours he spent listening to the Nixon tapes through headphones: "The men in my family lose their hearing in their 70s, which is where I am now. God forbid the last voice I hear be that of Richard Nixon."
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:07 AM
As the authors were being introduced it occurred to me that I am in the wrong auditorium. I'm here now. Don't want to be one of those rude people I'm always complaining about.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 10:05 AM
The Story Pirates take the stage. One performer introduced Jason Segel, but instead of the writer coming out, another performer came out as a seagull named Jason and then later came out as Jason Bagel, holding a bagel against one eye.
The ploy was hatched by another actor who did not want the real Segel to come out, fearing he would give us all nightmares. When the performer was informed that was not what Segel was going to do, he calmed down and allowed the introduction to occur without incident. It was a cute segue to introducing Segel and his and Kirsten Miller's book, Nightmares!
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 9:55 AM
Looking at the long line that almost circles around the entire second floor of Building 1, it seems more of the audience is comprised of adults than the targeted age group of the book, Nightmares!, Jason Segel is promoting.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 9:42 AM
The line to see Jason Segel read from Nightmares!, his new children’s novel, wraps around the second floor of Building 1. I happen to queue up just in time to snag the last spot in line next to a large window looking into the authors’ hospitality suite, and as I settle in and check the time, people begin murmuring. “Oh my god,” they say, “look, it’s him.” I turn and see Segel in line at the breakfast buffet inside the hospitality suite, politely trying to ignore the people on the other side of the window gawking at him and snapping pictures on their cell phones.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 9:30 AM
People are already lining up outside the Wolfson Campus Auditorium to see actor and writer Jason Segel at 10:00 AM. I wonder if there will be any Muppets present.
Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014, 9:25 AM
Friends of the Fair hospitality suite was slow to swing into action, until several Friends took it upon themselves to liberate the pastries. Welcome addition this year is a Juan Valdez Café station. Had a bespoke cappuccino to charge me up for the first author session.
Thursday, Nov. 20: Joyce Carol Oates, Larry McMurty, 15 Views of Miami
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, 9:25 PM
I was highly anticipating the “Evening With” talk by Joyce Carol Oates. She is a longtime favorite, and it’s thrilling to share in the presence of such a great literary figure. Her friend and editor, Dan Halpern, a well-known literary figure in his own right, begins his introduction of Oates in the usual fashion with accolades and a long list of her accomplishments. But then he offers more personal information, especially about the author’s eating habits.
Oates is a vegetarian and prefers "white food," meaning of course bland, soft foods like pasta and potatoes. Her drink of preference? Tap water with no ice. Despite her modest dietary habits, she has been known to say, “I’d like to eat Norman Mailer’s heart.” Halpern ends his introduction with, “If this were not such a serious occasion, I’d tell you about how Joyce dances. But that would be another story...”
Oates dives right in with a reading from her new short story collection, Lovely, Dark, Deep, after briefly describing that the stories are arranged to progress from realism to surrealism–from simple to increasingly more complex by her definition. The title story begins with a napping Robert Frost who is awakened by a young female interviewer. Naïve and bashful at first, the interviewer gradually transforms into a menacing figure. Frost’s arrogant and confident persona slowly unravels, as their exchange becomes confrontational, until finally the poet’s deepest insecurities and fears are exposed.
Oates reveals that she did receive some criticism from the Frost Family for her dark portrayal of the poet, but she explains that her intention was to make him a complex and multidimensional character. Oates researched Robert Frost to capture his true personality. Expanding on this idea, Oates says that many literary greats, like Hemingway and Faulkner, had personality flaws and their personal lives had little to do with their writing lives. “They were not always as good at life as at their art,” she says. Oates also mentions that people in earlier times had a real fear of going mad.
During the Q&A, Oates is asked about her writing process. She replies that she gets excited about structure, and especially by voice. She recently gave her students at Princeton an exercise to write a story in three parts, using the voices of Hemingway, Kerouac and Lovecraft. She enjoys those kinds of concepts. When she sits down to write, her cat will usually curl up on her lap to sleep. If she tries to get up too soon, the cat will claw into her thighs–which keeps her in the chair longer. Her advice to writers ends with, “Get a nice kitty with claws.” —Claire Ibarra
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, 9:16 PM
So I’ve always known Joyce Carol Oates is brilliant. Famous. Many kinds of awesome. She can write a mean short story and she pens the sorts of novels that make you call up a friend and say, “Stop everything. You’ve got to read this book so we can talk about it!”
Things I did not know about Joyce Carol Oates, thanks to Daniel Halpern: she likes cats. She “can cook. Kind of.” She really, really likes cats.
Daniel Halpern, editor, poet and owner of the best ‘fro since Shaft, introduced Oates’s “Evenings With” talk. Halpern went on a bit longer than some of the other introductory speakers. There was a lot to cover. He and Oates have a dream friendship: they’ve maintained a bond that spans decades, they mutually respect each other’s work and they can poke fun at each other. Halpern praised Oates’s attention to detail (“she’s always in the pursuit of making [her writing] right”) and her ability to write excellent short stories and 500-page novels. Halpern also mentioned that “[Oates] can only work with her cat in the room” and was jokingly hard on her cooking skills.
Joyce Carol Oates doesn’t need culinary skills. She’s Joyce Carol Oates. I enjoyed hearing Halpern go back and forth between Oates’s impressive resume and his view of her as a friend. Interestingly, the focus of the night would be the deconstruction of the “writer image,” the clash between the private and personal, the art and the author.
Like Nicholas D. Kristof, Oates opted out of an interview and spent the hour reading her controversial short story “Lovely, Dark, Deep.” In the piece, a young female writer interviews Robert Frost at the Breadloaf Conference. The story completely strips Frost of his apple-picking “Santa” image, as Oates calls it, and shines light on some of his demons. Oates’s Frost is overweight, arrogant, misogynist, and racist. He’s the sort of guy who’ll greet his interviewer with the line, “You came to Breadloaf to interview the revered Mr. Frost with but a single pair of panties?”, whip out hackneyed platitudes, call Ezra Pound, Carl Sandburg and Wallace Stevens “fakes” and move his son to suicide. The young interviewer is much like Frost’s personal devil; she picks away at the poet’s faults until he breaks, lashes out at her and stumbles away. He realizes, at the end, he’s still breathing and that’s all that matters.
The story was a bit of a shock to audience members who hadn’t read it before. We’ve generally seen Frost as the avuncular, rhyming poet who writes about orchards and sunsets and gentle animals. Oates admitted she received heavy criticism from Frost’s family members and some scholars. Oates insisted the work is “just fiction” and believes in Frost’s real-life quote, “A poet’s life is of no consequence to the poetry.” Oates said that knowing a famous author’s personal life is imperfect should give writers “hope.” She said, regardless of an artist’s failures, “Your art will outlive you.”
I understood Oates’s beliefs a bit more after watching her perform the story. I was a little starstruck when I first saw THE Joyce Carol Oates come out, but after she started reading, I forgot about her reputation. I was just caught up in the piece. Oates said her favorite part of the writing process is “developing voice and structure,” and you can tell. Although “Lovely, Dark Deep” is essentially just a story about two people talking, she brings a level of tension and conflict to the Frost v. interviewer showdown that makes the work feel a fistfight. The two characters are also well-drawn, distinct, complicated and even a bit funny. If Oates herself had some crazy skeletons in her closet, who cares? Her work is damn good.
Oates did offer a bit of advice to her audience, based on her personal life. She says, “get a cat.” Looks like it works for her. If you need me, I’ll be off searching for kitties.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, 7:46 PM
Downtown Miami is known for many incredible things. One of the not-so-incredible things it offers is Heat game traffic. I was headed downtown to see the 15 Views of Miami reading at The Swamp and got hit with traffic and pointlessly expensive parking. Thanks, Lebron-less Heat. We’re not all down there for basketball!
I didn’t get to the full show, but I caught the last fifteen minutes. I’m glad I did. Jaquira Diaz, an award-winning writer and editor, hosted “Miami V. Orlando," an event celebrating the publication of the book 15 Views of Miami. 15 Views features loosely linked stories by prominent South Florida authors such as M. Evelina Galang and Geoffrey Philp; FIU alums Melanie Neale, Leonard Nash, Corey Ginsberg, M.J. Fievre, Patricia Engel; FIU professor John Dufresne and FIU professor and founding editor of The Florida Book Review Lynne Barrett. The stories are diverse, witty and moving with a pinch of Miami’s sabor.
Although I didn’t get to catch the first part of the show, the premise was to pit Orlando writers (an anthology was published called 15 Views of Orlando) against local Miami writers in an epic showdown. Some of the readers were in the Miami and Orlando books, some were not. The talented Corey Ginsberg represented Miami. She read “In Plain Sight” a well-structured and beautifully performed story about a Miami ne’er do well, a dramatic break up and an imaginary naked woman. Jared Silvia represented Orlando and performed two delightfully quirky pieces about loss and love. I wish I’d gotten to see more, but I greatly enjoyed the performances I caught. At the end of the event, Diaz didn’t crown a winner; she said, “The winner is me.” She put together a collection so good, who can disagree?
(Also, please imagine me saying this with my finger pointed directly at YOU. If you’re at the Miami Book Fair this weekend, get a copy of 15 Views of Miami. Seriously. Get it.)
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, 7:10 PM
I’ve usually thought of writing books, especially fictional ones, as primarily, perhaps inescapably, a solitary endeavor. That’s why I was curious to learn what makes a successful writing partnership work, in this case the one between Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana.
Theirs began in the early 1990s under bleak circumstances, when McMurtry was recovering from heart surgery. “He ended up in my house and didn’t leave,” Ossana said. She recalled that McMurtry fell into a post-surgery funk for two years, his days evaporating while sitting on a sofa and looking at the mountains through a window, all while declining offers from big name directors to write screenplays.
Then McMurtry received an offer to write about Pretty Boy Floyd. Ossana sat McMurtry down and showed him a notebook where she had written all the reasons he should write it. Soon enough, McMurtry was back, but on one condition. “I’ll do it, but you have to write it with me,” McMurtry said—and a partnership was born. “We couldn’t stop writing,” Ossana said. The pair’s novel Pretty Boy Floyd was published in 1994.
McMurtry easily recognized what it felt like when the writing bug struck. After all, he said he wrote The Desert Rose in all of three weeks. “If you find the right voice, you can write just about as fast as you can type,” said McMurtry, who to his partner’s annoyance, still writes on a typewriter.
Three years later, the partnership took an important turn one night when Ossana couldn’t sleep. So she read Annie Proulx’s short story “Brokeback Mountain” in The New Yorker. “I was devastated,” Ossana said. “It was like somebody struck me with lightning.”
But this time, Ossana struggled to even pique her partner’s interest in Proulx’s short story. According to Ossana, their conversation went something like this:
Ossana: Why won’t you read it?
McMurtry humored his partner and then declared: “I don’t know why I didn’t write it myself.”
Fast forward to 2006 and McMurtry and Ossana’s screenplay for Brokeback Mountain won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Reflecting on their chemistry and success, I thought of other great and more famous (and yes, I know, usually all male) creative partnerships—Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Elton John and Bernie Taupin. Then I wondered, where could my great writing partner be? Come find me, will you. Or maybe I’ll find you.
Wednesday, Nov. 19: Badass, Barbara Ehrenreich
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, 8:07 PM
Lominy Books’s Badass features short, true stories that showcase the many kinds of badassery in Miami. In this book, being a badass doesn’t mean you have to be good at throwing down or that you own fifty leather jackets. Being a badass, according to editor Andrea Askowitz, means you know how to grow, stay true to yourself, or put your pride aside and let someone else be the hero. On Wednesday November 19th, Askowitz—the founder of the story-telling show Lip Service—gathered writers from the collection to perform their pieces at MBFI’s Swamp. Of course, the readings were pretty badass.
Nicholas Garnett, an FIU alum and all around great person, read the opening story, fittingly called “Badass.” Garnett's piece chronicles his first shot at being a tough guy. Garnett said, “A part of me always wanted to be hard. A badass…Problem is, guys in the suburbs don’t get many chances to cop an attitude…Then I finally got my chance.” Garnett’s “chance” involved him meeting “a young drunk guy named Lippy Lopez” in a Courtyard Café. Garnett gets his face slashed with keys, but he stands down and gains the respect of his firecracker of a wife. Garnett delivered the short with his trademark humor and wit, pausing for comedic effect at all the right places. The other readers’ “badass-ness” took on different forms. Esther Keniff, another FIU alum, read “Born Again Again,” a story about her struggles with spirituality, family and relocation. Her badass-ness comes from her eventual realization that “in this world, without proof of the supernatural, isn’t the real magic that any of us manage to believe at all?” Other great shorts by Miami-based writers included “Obsessed” by Sarah Klein, a story about a hobby-jumping father and a daughter who aims to please and “Tar Beach” by Christina Freedman, a delightfully disturbing piece about junkies, withdrawal and drug dealers. Books & Books employee Aaron Curtis performed a touching piece about the lasting power of first love and Maureen Daniel Pura brought tears to the audience's eyes with her story about giving away your own newborn.
Askowitz’s event didn’t have any Rocky-style fights and only a limited amount of leather. The real triumphs were the well-performed readings about everyday people winning everyday battles. Really, those are the sorts of knock-outs I want to see.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, 7:19 PM
As a fan of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America (2001), I was drawn to listen to her discuss her new book, Living with a Wild God: An Unbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything. Sure enough, she supplied two pithy quotes:
◇ "I don't like the idea of belief. I say, 'don't believe, when there's a chance of knowing.'"
◇ On the promise—or threat—of an afterlife: "Once is enough."
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, 7:15 PM
I have admired Barbara Ehrenreich as a social activist and journalist, and so I find her recent foray into religion and mysticism an interesting transition. Ehrenreich, described as an “intellectual badass,” has taken the leap into memoir with her new book Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything.
When Ehrenreich was seventeen years old, she had a deeply mystical experience, which she ignored for over three decades. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and then due to a chain of events, Ehrenreich rediscovered the journal containing a detailed description of her experience. She explains the event as “a little spot of mental illness.”
Ehrenreich descended from an Irish family of miners in Montana. Her family lost religion when a priest wanted to charge them $25.00 for a visit. “That was a lot of money in those days!” Raised by atheists, her family’s response to her spiritual questions as a child was “just keep asking the questions.” Ehrenreich always had a lively internal life. She says, “I was a morbid teenager, and who isn’t?”
The discussion of her mystical experience could have become overly esoteric and heavy, but instead Ehrenreich uses her wonderful sense of humor and some degree of self-effacement to keep the tone light.
While trying to understand her mystical experience, she realized that, historically, people would have strange experiences that were put into the context of religion. Most religions began with ecstatic rituals. She explains, “So it’s not about belief, but rather it’s about experiences.”
Her thoughts about the spiritual world are still very much based on science. If you really look around and consider God’s plan, she notes, “It doesn’t look like a plan to make things better for us.” Ehrenreich adds incredulously, “In every galaxy there is a black hole designed to eat matter—and we just stand around and think this is interesting?” She also takes notice of the cruelty of the natural world. Even the cells in our bodies serve a function, yet can turn against us.
Since Ehrenreich has been known as a scientist and intellectual, when asked about her fans’ reactions to the topic of her memoir, she explains that some have chosen to politely ignore it, while others tell her that it’s okay to talk about these things. “My sister was furious with the title,” she shares.
To get the details of her mystical experience, you’ll have to read the book. She only divulges that for her “The universe is alive.”
Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, 4:41 PM
This year I'll miss the on-campus Book Fair experience of the street fair and panel discussions. There will be no arepas, no stilt-walkers and no book-signings. In past years, I've sported a wristband for the street fair, a media badge, and an author's badge. This year I'm sporting a staff badge—and for me, it has been every bit as exciting as the author's and media passes (and honestly, even the wristband was a thrill the first time I came to the Book Fair). I was brought in to help with hospitality at one of the local hotels hosting the writers. When I reported for duty Wednesday afternoon, The Center's office, the base of operations for the Book Fair, was a flurry of activity. The conference room was filled with 9,000 children's books that needed to be stickered for the Generation Genius program, which provides free books for children in the Miami-Dade area. Prior to this year, I'd not thought about how much the volunteers contribute to the Book Fair, but after helping sticker the books with the volunteers, who worked quickly and efficiently, I can see how integral they are to the Book Fair's success. —Jan Becker
Tuesday, Nov. 18: Nicholas D. Kristof
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014, 9:13 PM
I’m not particularly proud of this, but I didn’t know much about Nicholas D. Kristof when I walked into his “Evenings With” talk. I’d seen his best-selling book Half the Sky in a Barnes and Noble and I knew he was a famous New York Times journalist. That was pretty much it. Kristof’s “Evenings With” event made me realize how much I was missing out.
Kristof preaches the gospel of empathy. He believes, passionately, that regardless of how horrible our world can be (and Kristof has seen all kinds of horrible…he’s escaped two warlords!) every act of selflessness or “drop in the bucket” matters. It was clear from the moment the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner strode on stage, grinned huge at the audience, snatched up the microphone and got to talking, he loved people. People are his life.
Kristof spent much of the talk discussing the “empathy gap,” as he called it. Many Americans are reluctant to donate money to charity because they're cynical, tired or worried about their own finances. They can't relate to people in need and don't have time to care. Kristof used a mix of statistics, personal stories, slides and anecdotes to show the power of giving. Kristof quoted a study that said the richest people in the world are the least likely to donate money to the poor. The poor, surprisingly, were more likely to give, mostly because they know what it’s like to have nothing. "Giving benefits the giver too," Kristof said. He referred to studies that claim church and volunteer workers have lower mortality rates and happier lives.
Kristof also told a wonderful story about the young life of Olly Neal, a well-known judge in Arkansas. Neal was a troublemaker as a kid and gave hell to Mrs. Grady, the local librarian in the town. One day, Neal stole a Frank Yerby novel from the library because he was too embarrassed to check it out. He loved the book (and its racy cover) and went back to get another Yerby novel. Neal went on to develop a love for reading that eventually led to his love for education. Neal got into college and law school and became the first black district prosecuting attorney in Arkansas. Neal found out later in his life that Ms. Grady saw him stealing the book, got excited and she drove 70 miles to Memphis to find novels by the same author, hoping Neal would steal more books. It was a touching story, a real example of the transformative power of empathy.
So how can we bridge the empathy gap? How do you reach out to people who are frustrated, stressed out or simply don’t care? As a writer, I was happy to hear Kristof’s answer: tell good stories. “In journalism,” Kristof said, “we often focus on the problem and that leaves people in despair. There’s a more complex reality at play. We have to do a better job with storytelling.” Kristof talked about a time in which The New York Times wasn’t publishing what Kristof thought were his best pieces. He studied social science and realized “empathy elicits emotion and emotion makes people act.” Stories, Kristof claimed, are highly effective ways of making people care about issues. According to Kristof, when readers engage with convincing narratives they are forced to put themselves in somebody else’s shoes. Readers are moved; they want to act.
There was a cool meta-ness about the Kristof talk. Kristof told stories that stirred the audience, made them empathetic and restored their hope in the ability to enact change. For me, as a writer, it’s encouraging to know that stories still matter. A lot.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Monday, Nov. 17: Anne Rice
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:20 PM
I almost feel bad to confess this, especially in a world filled with Anne Rice fans, but I’m not one. I’ve never even read one of her books (more than 30), which collectively have sold, oh, only nearly 100 million copies. But perhaps that was an advantage, as amid a sea of her many ardent fans, some dressed in vampire capes and baring fangs, I could glance away from Rice and note those little things that scream that you’re in the presence of a megastar author. You know, the things that can’t help but inspire envy and awe in the many struggling wanna be authors of the world (like me).
So allow me to share some examples that reveal how big Rice really is:
◇ Without the slightest irony or hint of arrogance, the author often refers to her “readership” because it’s just a fact she has one.
◇ She refers to different “series” of books under her name or pen names; whenever she drops the name of one of her successful books (The Witching Hour) or famous characters (Lasher), it’s greeted by fans’ whoops and cheers.
◇ Before a young woman asks her a question, she publicly thanks Rice on “behalf of her friends in Siberia.”
◇ She laments that she has "three or four orphan books that aren’t that popular.”
◇ And in the final coup de grace (at least for those wanna be authors like me) she casually reveals that she writes a book in six to eight weeks, even if she does dedicate a lot of prep time to research and note taking.
◇ Then after the event, you get to see fans elbowing each other for the chance to buy her latest book, Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles, the only one she’ll personalize, although she will also sign one more older book.
Nevertheless, it was worth sticking around for Rice, who has a gift for memorable quotes. Some examples:
◇ She said she identified with her character Louis, from Interview with the Vampire, who she described as passive and self-loathing. However, on the bright side, she pointed out: “I’m the only woman who’s been played by Brad Pitt in a movie.”
◇ On how that famous writer’s advice—“Write what you know”—didn’t work for her: “I wasn’t interested in anything that wasn’t exceptional. I lived in a dream world. I was told to not to write about that, to write about ordinary things and people. That’s good advice for some writers, but not good advice for me. I took flight as a writer when I gave up writing about pedestrian realism.”
◇ On why she wrote her erotic novel The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty under a pen name: “I did it to be free, to be behind that mask, so I could make it pure pornography.”
◇ On what Christian readers told her after she published her novels about Jesus: “We like what you did with Jesus, but we like the vampires more.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:15 PM
During Anne Rice’s “Evenings With” talk at the Miami Book Fair, Rice advised aspiring writers to “not give up until you get your miracle.” Rice is like a walking miracle herself. While news outlets offer up daily disaster stories about the publishing industry, Rice’s books are still pulling in impressive numbers. Anne Rice is a megastar with numerous movie adaptations of her novels, she reinvented the vampire genre and she writes about everything from the free people of color in New Orleans to the life of Christ. Rice also has the sort of fans you’d find at Comic Con or a rock concert. Her readers aren’t just loyal admirers; they’re hard-core devotees.
This year, the Book Fair asked fans to dress up like vampires to win a chance to meet Anne Rice. When I entered MDC’s Chapman building, I was stunned to see roughly 40% of the audience decked out in elaborate vampire costumes. I was sitting behind the young woman who won the costume contest. She wore a Lestat costume (18th century period wig and all!) and came with a friend, who was dressed as Lestat’s partner Louis. When the winner’s name was announced, the young woman bounced to her feet and squealed. Her friend cheered and pumped her fists. The Book Fair staff whisked the joyous winner behind a curtain to meet Rice. When the young woman returned to her seat she was shaking and waving off tears. I hadn’t seen Rice yet, but I could tell how much she means to her fans. (I also wondered what was going on behind the curtain. Vampire magic?)
It’s easy to see why Rice is so popular. Readers have obviously fallen in love with her books, but Rice is also likeable in person. Throughout the talk, the author was candid, funny and charming. She discussed her love of the South, her admiration of the “passionate and personal voice” of the Brontë sisters, her late husband’s influence on Interview with the Vampire, her relationship with Catholicism and her writing process. Rice has an intimate relationship with her characters and the worlds she creates. Rice said many of the characters in Interview with the Vampire, particularly Louis, are extensions of herself. The writer joked, “I was Louis; Louis was me…I always say I’m the only woman to be played by Brad Pitt in a movie.” She described her writing process as “[starting] with a character and then [letting] the character tell her the story.” Rice said when she hears her characters’ voices, “it feels like [I'm] channeling something from the astral plane.”
The characters who come over that plane have connected with her audiences, intensely. Whenever Rice mentioned Lestat, the main character from her Vampire Chronicles series, the audience whooped and hollered. The fans knew Rice’s long bibliography inside and out. During the Q and A, her readers lined up and asked Rice about the “mythology of Taltos,” (referencing the novel Taltos: Lives of the Mayfair Witches), her pornography books published under a pseudonym and various other (pretty specific) topics. Every time a fan would mention a book title, a character, or a group of characters from one of Rice's lesser known works the audience would erupt in uproarious applause.
If you’d only heard about Interview with the Vampire and her other popular books (like me), you probably wouldn’t get why people were cheering so much. What you would have seen, however, was the incredible, ardent fandom Anne Rice has created. The bond between this bestselling author and her fans was touching. Sort of like a miracle.
—Jennifer Maritza McCauley
Monday, Nov, 17, 2014, 9:10 PM
The evening comes to a close to the sound of loud applause, and Rice’s muted “thank you” in the background.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:09 PM
The final question of the night is about Violin. Rice talks about her lack of musical talent, and explains how writing that book “almost drove [her] crazy.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:08 PM
When asked about which book she preferred writing, Rice explains that she has written books both while ecstatic and depressed and that she does not feel readers can differentiate, but she was the happiest when she wrote, Christ the Lord: The Road to Canaan.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:07 PM
When asked what advice she would give young writers, Rice answers, “Trust yourself, trust your voice, trust your imagination. Write the book that you really want to read, the book you really want to be in. Don’t let yourself be pushed and pulled by outside forces. Really get down with your bad self.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:05 PM
Anne Rice is a superstar! I should have expected to see her fans wearing elaborate period and vampire costumes, but it came as a fun surprise, as did the lively and enthusiastic cheering from the audience upon her entrance.
Anne Rice has been fearless and bold with reinventing herself, as she moved from the Vampire Chronicles, to writing erotica under a pseudonym, and then to Christian literature when she rediscovered her Catholic faith. So I was more than curious to find out what she’s up to now. Turns out she’s back to vampires and her beloved character Lestat. Her new book Prince Lestat has fans ecstatic.
She explains how writing about Lestat is more like channeling. Though many of her characters demand to be heard, he has more intensity, and she had to commit to resurrecting him for this book. Rice’s characters are very much alive to her, and she says that while writing Interview with the Vampire, “Louis was me, I was Louis.” She adds, “I think I’m the only woman to ever be played on screen by Brad Pitt.” Now she identifies more with Lestat's character.
Rice admits to religious struggles, and to her obsession with redemption that currently focuses on consolation without organized religion. Her personal journey certainly has given rise to a willingness to make detours in genres and types of works she’s published.
Rice explains that she has romantic sensibilities. She was influenced as a child by the city of New Orleans, and the books Jane Eyre and Great Expectations, which instilled in her a sense of passion and imagination.
Though she researches extensively for her books, she completely trusts her subconscious when writing The Vampire Chronicles.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:05 PM
When asked about Exit to Eden, Rice explains that when writing her erotica, she just wants there “to be a safe place for the people to be happy and do S&M.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 9:02 PM
“The Vampire Lestat took the longest… because I got blocked in the middle." Rice says answering a question about how long she takes to write a novel. "Usually I write a book in six to eight weeks," Rice adds to various incredulous groans from the audience. I'm now entirely jealous of her.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:59 PM
When asked about her use of male point of view characters, Rice responds, “Dealing with a female point of view puts me too much in a world where gender matters. But it wasn’t a conscious decision. I just sat down and wrote and those characters were born.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:57 PM
When asked about her use of a pseudonym, Rice explains, “I did it to be free. I did it to be behind that mask so that I would be making pure pornography. I had to be anonymous to do that… also, I didn’t want my father to know.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:55 PM
The Q & A portion begins. "I see the characters before I see the story," Rice says in response to the first question, which is about her storytelling process. “I find the story through the characters.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:52 PM
When asked how being loving figures in her works, Rice responds, "I think love can save the world."
_Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:51 PM
Rice shares what many religious fans said after reading her other works, "We like what you did with Jesus, but we like the vampires better."
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:49 PM
"There was no modern watering-down of the biblical Jesus," Rice says about her Christ the Lord books. “I was trying very hard to embrace the entire biblical picture and make it real.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:47 PM
"It's amazing how many people give up on writing," Rice says after discussing her father's relinquishing of the craft.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:45 PM
When asked what she learned from her mother, Rice answers, “Confidence, strength, that I was a complete human being, that I could do anything that I wanted to do.”
Rice says, "She would tell us wonderful stories about the Brontë sisters, about George Eliot, about English female writers and what they had to go through to be published and accepted. She made us feel like there was nothing we couldn't do. She never imposed any sort of really strong gender identity on us. I certainly grew up with no gender identity really. I just had the most superficial knowledge of gender identity, and because we were a family of four daughters—there were no brothers—and because I went to Catholic schools that were girls' schools, I didn't really become aware of gender and the problems of gender till I was about fifteen. And it was quite a shock from which I never recovered."
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:40 PM
"He was just a picture on a mantle," Rice says of her father. By contrast, she explains that her mother was a great influence in her life as a child and in fact introduced her to the Romantic authors.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:38 PM
Rice discusses her interest in the Jewish faith and history. She adds that in her childhood home, the fact that Jesus came from a Jewish family was always respected, and she did not discover any anti-Semitism.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:36 PM
Rice shares one of the rejections from Interview with a Vampire. "Alas, I can’t see this at all."
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:35 PM
"It's wildly exciting," she says about finally building the worlds she writes and having others read it. She then adds that it's also equally frightening.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:32 PM
Rice talks about her fascination with outsiders as a theme, particularly those who "had their own way of making life more than interesting for themselves."
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:30 PM
“I really took flight as a writer when I stopped trying to write pedestrian realism… and wrote about my vampire in the black cape,” Rice says after discussing some people’s attempts at dissuading her and many other young writers from writing imaginative stories.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:27 PM
Rice explains her fascination with the Baroque architecture she saw in churches as a child, and her penchant for the exceptional as a result to her exposure to “saints, angels, heroes, heroines."
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:25 PM
When asked how her late husband, Stan Rice, comes through in her writing, Rice reveals that “Stan inspired Lestat… I thought, ok athletic grace, shoulder length blonde hair, pale eyes, androgynous movements, ok I got it.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:23 PM
"I was a slow reader. I’m not a natural reader," Rice says, as she discusses works by the Romantics. She explains that, despite her lack of technical knowledge regarding Romanticism and other genres, she “fell under the spell” of Jane Eyre and Great Expectations. “Those two novels really shaped me as a writer.”
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:20 PM
Rice points out how much of her love for New Orleans went into Interview with a Vampire. She reminisces about walking around the French Quarter, marveling at the beautiful architecture.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:18 PM
I thought I was crazy because all my characters are a little piece of me. I guess I'm in good company. Rice says that the character of Louis, his melancholy and passivity, was a reflection of herself. "I'm the only woman who's ever been played by Brad Pitt in a movie," she says.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:14 PM
This Evening With is conducted as an interview between Rice and her long-time editor, Victoria Wilson.
Rice talks about being discouraged from writing The Vampire Lestat and her struggles with the novel. She mentions that there are voices that tell writers they don't deserve to write, "You have to ignore those voices," she advises.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, 8:10 PM
The return of Lestat in Rice's new book, Prince Lestat, draws cheers from the crowd. Anne Rice enters the room to thunderous applause.
Sunday, Nov. 16: The Swamp, Elena Poniatowska, Ira Glass
Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, 9:10 PM
After the Alexander McCall Smith Evenings With, I walk along NE Second Ave through the street-fair-to-be—right now blocks lined by tents waiting for the books and authors and exhibitors that will fill them and the crowds who will browse. I follow the sound of drums to The Swamp, MFBI’s new “pop-up lounge” at the intersection of NE 3rd Street and 2nd Ave. The Swamp received support from a Knight Arts Challenge grant to showcase Florida writing, history, music, dance, film, and art, and to “explore the beauty, contradictions, uniqueness, and downright 'weirdness' of life in Florida.” Part of the Swamp is the large white tent/structure Book Fair old-timers may know as “the China Pavilion” or “the Spain Pavilion”—how great, I think, to see Florida itself have this kind of focus.
Inside the band Suénalo is starting up. I’ve missed the O Miami Poetry Karaoke, but outside lots of people are celebrating the kick-off of the Book Fair and being in the open air on this fine Miami evening. I greet Lissette Mendez, Director of Programs for the Florida Center for Literature and Writing, the umbrella organization that runs the Book Fair and other literary events and workshops through the year. Mitchell Kaplan, Chair of the Book Fair Board of Directors, is on hand, with Tom Healy, the new Executive Director for the Florida Center for Literature and Writing.
Poet Nick Vagnoni generously offers me his ticket good for a free drink (earned, I think, by his participation in the poetry karaoke), so I get some wine and browse the tented space where Books & Books has curated books relating to Florida into a pop-up bookstore. They look great together, books of history and fiction and poetry and photography, so many words written to try to capture the stories, journeys, strangeness, fragility, and resilience of Florida and Floridians.
Among the books on display are copies, fresh from the publisher, of FIfteen Views of Miami (full disclosure, a story of mine is included), which the booksellers inform me is selling briskly, in advance of its launch event, an Orlando-Miami story showdown, at the Swamp Thursday evening. A Books & Books bookseller, noticing my name on my press pass, remarks that she remembers selling many copies of my most recent book at the Key West Literary Seminar, even remembering that Joyce Carol Oates bought one. Booksellers are amazing. So I’m feeling elated—it wasn’t the wine—as I head to the parking garage, excited at all the fun we’ll be having this week, during Miami’s massive celebration of books and reading.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, 9:06 PM
It’s embarrassing to admit, but despite my long-standing interest in Latin American history and politics, until today I had never heard of Elena Poniatowska. I know: shame on me. But once I dug a little and learned she wrote a famous book about the massacre of students in Mexico City shortly before the 1968 Olympics (La Noche de Tlatelolco or The Night of Tlatelolco), I knew I had to attend her evening reading. What’s more, Mexico has been convulsed by protests in the wake of another student massacre. According to a New York Times editorial (Nov. 11, 2014), 43 students from a rural teachers college disappeared on Sept. 26 in Iguala, 120 miles south of Mexico City. The Times reported that police ambushed the students, “engaged in a shootout that left six people dead, and then turned the students over to members of a drug gang who killed them, burned their bodies and erased much of the evidence.”
To a packed auditorium, Poniatowska expressed her outrage. “I’m indignant that their lives were cut short,” she said. “It makes me sick.”
During a recent commemoration in Mexico of the dead students, Poniatowska said she emphasized what made each student unique. So at that event she spoke of each student’s favorite music, if he played guitar, which color T-shirt he preferred, how he combed his hair. Memorizing their names is not enough, she said, because “names disappear.”
When a man in the audience asked why she thought violence continues to be a so prevalent in Latin America, Poniatowska singled out the lack of educational opportunities, but expressed her faith in young people. “The solution lies in those who come after us,” said Poniatowska, who is 82.
This has been an exciting year for Poniatowska, who received the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, a lifetime achievement award and the most prestigious one in Spanish letters. And what a writing life it’s been, one often dedicated to the travails of Mexico’s poor, marginalized and dispossessed, be they women victimized by machismo, earthquake victims or slain students. Poniatowska explained that, unlike authors in the U.S. or Western Europe, she found it impossible to isolate or disentangle herself from Mexico’s reality and couldn’t help but be socially engaged. “Everything you write starts with yourself, with your reality, with your country’s reality,” she said. “The reality sneaks into your house and pulls you outside.”
Poniatowska, who was born in Paris to a Polish-French father and a France-born Mexican mother, attributed her social engagement and empathy to two events. When she was a girl, her parents fled the Mexican Revolution to France, where she was raised. Then as a young woman, after she returned to Mexico, she determined that France had enough writers and she could be more useful in Mexico. “Look at how presumptuous I was,” she joked. What became France’s loss turned out to be a gain for Mexico and readers throughout the world.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, 6:42 PM
Ira Glass started the first event of the Miami Book Fair, "Ira Glass: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Show Host," by saying, “We are aware that there was no demand for this.” And he’s right. I did not think I needed a combination of This American Life style interviews accompanied by dance in my life, but I’m glad he made that decision for me. The next hour and a half was completely bizarre, thoroughly entertaining and just the right amount of candid. The highlight, for me, saw both dancers performing an intimate choreographer on a laid kitchen table while playing a recording of Donald Hall reading from his poem Last Days which recalls his wife’s death from leukemia.