Five Book Fair Highlights

I. Truth and the Truthful Truisms That Truly Don't Spring from ItWell, yep, it's presidential campaign season again. No, it's not. Liar! But this is true: Just as sure as politics and literature are the conjoined twins of the intellectual world, no book fair would be complete without a romper room of political opinionmeisters. If only we could get all of those attending the fair in the same crib and watch them wail. On Friday Al Franken, author of Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiotand Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, will be broadcasting his Air America Radio show from the street fair and simultaneously pushing his new tome, The Truth (with Jokes). Fellow Bush basher and New York Timescolumnist Maureen Dowd appears the following morning at 10:00 in Chapman Hall to tout her new work, Are Men Necessary? The right strikes back in the same room at 2:00 p.m. with William Kristol, who edits and wants people to buy The Weekly Standard Reader, as does Standard contributor Stephen Hayes, who appears with Kristol. Bernard Goldberg spanks liberals in the Auditorium at 3:30 p.m. Sunday with his new hardcover, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, and Al Franken is number 37.

II. All Things Great and Quixotic"Abundance, even of things that are good, makes people esteem them less, and scarcity, even of bad things, lends a certain value."

Miguel de Cervantes wrote that in the prologue of part two of Don Quixote. Sorry, Mike. Although that observation may pertain to most things, including 21st-century book fairs, if you think you can get too much of Cervantes's 17th-century magnum opus, you probably need to have your head examined. And then read the 400-year-old masterpiece, for once. It is quite possibly the most fascinating book to make an appearance at the fair and is still relevant, considering our TV-saturated noggins. "In short, our gentleman became so caught up in reading that he spent his nights reading from dusk till dawn and his days reading from sunrise to sunset, and so with too little sleep and too much reading his brains dried up, causing him to lose his mind," the narrator explains in the opening pages of Don Quixote. "His fantasy filled with everything he had read in his books, enchantments as well as combats, battles, challenges, wounds, courtings, loves, torments, and other impossible foolishness...." Cervantes the narrator would have us believe that the original chronicle of the ingenious gentleman from La Mancha (i.e., Don Quixote) was written in Arabic, by a guy named Cide Hamete Benengeli (i.e., Sir Hamid Eggplant). Cervantes then had the text translated into Spanish by a dude he hired in a market in Toledo (wink, wink). Had that translator even existed, he would be more than 400 years old today. But despair not. Edith Grossman, the real woman behind a new English translation of Don Quixote, appears at noon Sunday, November 20, in Room 1101.

JOE ROCCO
JOE ROCCO

III. Naked Came the Book FairWhat is a Miami Book Fair without Carl Hiaasen? Somewhat denuded, maybe. But Hiaasen, who has been on tour peddling his second children's book, has other places to fry his fish. Not to worry, though. Six other members of the Manatee Generation (we just made that up in reference to Naked Came the Manatee, the madcap 1996 tale roped together by thirteen South Florida-based writers and featuring a sea cow named Booger) are slated to make appearances. Dave Barry has a conversation with Ridley Pearson about Pearson's new book, A Conversation with Dave Barry, Sunday, November 20, at 4:30 p.m. in Chapman Hall. Edna Buchanan, per book fair publicists, "returns with a second Cold Case Squad novel," Shadows, at 11:00 a.m. in Room 7128. Les Standiford, head of the creative writing department at Florida International University, "brings alive the riveting story of two founding fathers of American industry and the bloody steelworkers strike" with Meet You in Hell: Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America at 1:00 p.m. Saturday, November 19, in Room 2106. James W. Hall reads from his Forests of the Night at noon Sunday, November 20, in Room 7128; John Dufresne "masterfully charts the power of truth and lies and the magic hidden in the mundane" with Johnny Too Bad, also at noon in the Centre Gallery; at 3:00 p.m. Paul Levine offers a glimpse of his new mystery, Solomon vs. Lord, in Room 7106.

IV. Way More than Three Sad TigersAlthough there is no official book fair policy banning participation by Cuban writers who live and write in Cuba, no one went out of his or her way to sign up such a creature for the event. The Congress of Authors — the book fair's modest little moniker for the list of attending authors — might just want to call a special session to discuss this embargo situation. Nah. Maybe next year! Meanwhile, Cuban writers in Cuba might be unbelievably delighted to know someone is representing them at the fair — three authors who don't work in Cuba: Matías Montes Huidobro, Luis González Cruz, and Roberto Madrigal. Not that there's anything wrong with that. After all, Guillermo Cabrera Infante split from the island in 1965. Alas, Cabrera Infante — the Cuban Nabokov, Joyce, and Twain all rolled into one — departed this world in February. Hence the tribute to the author of Tres Tristes Tigres (published in English as Three Trapped Tigers) — featuring the author's widow, actress Miriam Gómez; lit profs Enrico Mario Santí of the University of Kentucky and Nivia Montenegro of Pomona College; and a documentary by Mari Rodriguez Ichaso — Friday, November 18, at 8:30 p.m. in Room 2106.

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