When the Miami Book Fair International began, who would have dreamed that our smoldering, sweaty, sexy city would be the proud annual host to one of the nation's most prestigious literary events? Every year, more than 500,000 book lovers are drawn to our shores in hopes of hearing their favorite author read, or, even better, autograph a well-worn copy of their most beloved book. The street fair officially opens this week. It's a mini-city of rainbow colored kiosks and outdoor exhibits from booksellers and publishers.
Bibliophiles can prowl Antiquarian Annex in search of rare books while the little ones enjoy Children's Alley, a vibrant space featuring games, exhibits, and a stage for book-related performances. This year promises an expanded Spanish-language program featuring Latin authors such as Argentina's Federico Andahazi, and Chile's Roberto Ampuero. Caribbean authors such as Colin Channer and Edwidge Danticatwill be highlighted in a series of panels. Politicos can listen to Maureen Dowd (Bushworld), and Senator Bob Graham (Intelligence Matters) while sensualists glean techniques from Betsy Prioleau (Seductress: Women Who Ravished the World and Their Lost Art of Love) before enjoying the erotica panel, featuring Nancy Friday, Steve Almond, and Cuban-American author Daina Chaviano. James Ellroy (L.A Confidential) will present Destination: Morgue! and Edna Buchanan will read from her latest page turner. Nigella Lawson will discuss Feast: Food to Celebrate Life, and Pat Conroy will present Recipes from my Life. There also will be musical performances from people who usually spend their time cooped up at a computer screen typing out a living; The Rock Bottom Remainders, a.k.a. Ridley Pearson, Dave Barry, and Kathie Kamen Goldberg lay down their pens and rock out. Stars of FIU's special "Florida Noir" issue of Gulf Stream, Tigertail poets, and local heroes John Dufresne, Ferdie Pacheco, Milton Hirsch, and Jeffrey Swain get their moments in the spotlight as well.-- Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik