"So many books, so little time," muses Alina Interian, reflecting on her ten years as executive director of the Miami Book Fair International. The weeklong event, celebrating its fifteenth anniversary, kicks off this Sunday with a reception at 6:00 p.m. and a reading by Aharon Appelfeld.
This weekend avid readers may find themselves longing for the quiet sanctuary of a library as 250 authors, 300 national and international booksellers, and 500,000 visitors begin to descend on the Wolfson campus of Miami-Dade Community College for the largest literary event of its kind in the nation.
"When we started, we were the first ones who combined authors directly interacting with the public -- as part of their sessions and autographing afterward -- and vendors concurrently selling and exhibiting books outside," Interian says of the publishing plug fest, which began as a two-day event.
Ironically bibliophiles, who often depend on to reading as a soothing escape, have seven days of sensory overload in store. Frustrated cooks can hang out on Epicure Row and watch demonstrations by high-profile chefs, including Chicago's Charlie Trotter, and New York's Mario Batali of the TV Food Network's Molto Mario. Fiction lovers can listen to readings by authors such as horror huckster Stephen King and pop culture vulture Tom Wolfe, will read from his massive second novel, A Man in Full. (Ten years in the making, Wolfe's book was recently nominated for the National Book Award, before it was even published.) Collectors of first editions and other rare books will be encouraged to add volumes to their libraries in the Antiquarian Annex. Kids will be continually entertained in the Children's Alley with interactive activities, games, and exhibitions, as well as three stages for literary-theme performances.
In addition to the old standbys, the fair offers several new features this year. The Enhancing Our Lives series, readings concerning new-age topics (shamanism, feng shui, spirituality), will take place at 6:00 p.m. during the week as precursors to the popular 8:00 p.m. Evenings With ... series. Aspiring writers who have been dying to share their unpublished works with the public will want to visit the Write Out Loud poetry cafe, a tent where would-be wordsmiths can recite their poems or fiction for five minutes, before a live audience, on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. "You might be listening to one of tomorrow's best-selling authors," notes Interian. Shoppers will be happy to know that in honor of the fair's anniversary, they may buy a $15 coupon, which provides a fifteen percent discount on all books sold by the fair itself.
While discovering new authors, which Interian likens to "an awakening," is a primary objective of the event, the occasion is not directed solely toward ardent readers. Interian is optimistic that people who don't open books very often will have their curiosity piqued too. "I hope the fair helps people discover what a joy it is to read," she says. "It doesn't have to be a novel. It may just be something they may be particularly interested in knowing more about. By coming out and listening to an author, that might trigger them to say 'I want to read more.' Turning people on to books and reading is really what we're all about."
Miami Book Fair International takes place from Sunday, November 15, through Sunday, November 22, at MDCC Wolfson Campus, 300 NE 2nd Ave. Admission to all events is free. See "Calendar Events," page 47, or call 305-237-3258 for more details.