Beach Reads

Big names? Big Deal. An alternative take on the Book Fair.

Why did you include yourself?

It just seemed appropriate; I cut everybody else's heads off. — Rob Jordan

John Berendt
John Berendt
Philip Gourevitch
Philip Gourevitch


Congress of Authors, November 12-19; Street Fair, November 17-19. Miami Dade College, Wolfson Campus, downtown Miami between Biscayne Boulevard and NE 1st Avenue from NE 3rd Street to NE 5th Street;

Emerging Artist
Malika Oufkir, Freedom: The Story of My Second Life
Saturday, November 18, 2:30 p.m., Room 7128 (Bldg. 7, 1st Fl.)

The story of Malika Oufkir's "first life," as she calls it, is one of those tales that defies reason. That she survived to embark on a second is even more astounding. The eldest child of a powerful Moroccan general and aide, Oufkir — who now lives in Miami — was raised in that country's royal palace alongside King Hassan II's daughter. In 1972 her father unsuccessfully tried to overthrow the despot. He was assassinated and Oufkir, her mother, and siblings were exiled without trial to a secret desert jail where they would remain for the next twenty years. When the family finally escaped, the dark-haired beauty was almost 40. She had never used an ATM, never seen a computer, never had sex. Stolen Lives, Oufkir's heart-wrenching account of her imprisonment, was banned in Tunisia and Morocco, received international acclaim, and became an Oprah's Book Club selection. She recently released a second book, Freedom, which details her decade-long struggle to reintegrate into a society from which she was hidden for most of her adult life.

To what extent was writing these two books therapeutic?

The first book, honestly, was not therapy for me because I spent four years going back in my past, reliving this nightmare. But with this [second] book, I feel as though I was more like a writer than a witness or a victim.

What are your thoughts about Miami?

Miami is more superficial, and it's maybe because of the weather and because it's more a tourist place of sun and fun, but I hope it's going to be the same experience I had elsewhere on my book tour, which has been very positive.

Who is your audience here?

The same like anywhere else. Three kinds of people: those who listen to you like you are a heroine of a fairy tale; those who see their own suffering reflected in your story; and those who read my book and realize how lucky and spoiled they are. I hope that they all recognize in this book is a message of hope. — Joanne Green

The Floating City
John Berendt, The City of Falling Angels
Saturday, November 18, 1:00 p.m., Chapman (Bldg. 3, 2nd Fl., Rm 3210)

"Beware of Falling Angels." Someone posted the sign outside the Santa Maria della Salute church in Venice, Italy, in the early Seventies. The church, like much of the ancient city, had been on a slow path of decay for centuries, and marble ornaments had begun to fall off of its façade. For John Berendt, the anecdote was not only inspiration for his book's title but also a glimpse into the theatricality that makes Venice. The city, less than twice the size of New York's Central Park, is as much a stage set as a place. On that floating set, Berendt weaves his story around the destruction by arson of the Gran Teatro La Fenice, a world-famous opera house. Berendt's pages are populated with caricatures that range from glitterati to "the Rat Man," an entrepreneur who blends local cuisine into rodent poisons he markets around the world. Published last year, City of Falling Angels is Berendt's first book since his 1994 best seller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a nonfiction thriller set in Savannah, Georgia.

Why did you choose Venice?

I thought, What other place in the world is as magical as Savannah? I realized the place is what made the first book work. I call [the opera house fire] a weird coincidence, and it really made it possible to do a book based on a tragedy that sort of brought out what was special about Venice ... to see the city through the lens of this tragedy.

How did you report the story?

I would either talk to [Venetians] directly or find out who they were and find some way of approaching them. I would try to reconstruct conversation. If it's taped, it's very easy. I jot notes; I don't always do it in front of people. If a conversation's going on and all that, I'll jot notes down and just sort of afterwards or during a break of some sort [reconstruct conversations].

What are your thoughts about promoting your book in Miami?

I don't change my stripes wherever I go. I do what I do.

What was your worst book fair experience?

There is no bad question. Every question is simply an opportunity for me to say something.

How would you characterize your previous Miami experiences?

I've visited several times. It's lively; it has a real pulse. You can sense that in a city.... I would not be averse to doing a book in Florida, but I don't have an idea. — Rob Jordan

The Writing Life
Philip Gourevitch, The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. 1
With critic and historian Christopher Hitchens on Sunday, November 19, 5:00 p.m., Auditorium (Bldg. 1, 2nd Fl.)

Philip Gourevitch's book is the first of three volumes highlighting the best of the Paris Review's interviews about the writing process. It includes authors Ernest Hemingway and Dorothy Parker, editor Robert Gottlieb, and filmmaker Billy Wilder, among many others. Gourevitch has worked as a staff writer at The New Yorker and, most recently, as editor of the Paris Review. His best-known work is We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families, a history of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

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