You want to write a novel but are daunted by the prospect. All those characters to develop. How do writers do it? Ask Donald Antrim, whose delightfully wacky novel The Hundred Brothers is populated by 100 characters -- all of them brothers. The siblings range in age from midtwenties to early nineties and include a compulsive whisperer, a new-millennium psychotherapist, and a channeler of spirits who speak across time. The brood gathers in the library of their crumbling family estate one night in order to locate the urn that holds their father's ashes. What ensues is an outrageous take on the typical family reunion. Hear Antrim read from and speak about his book at 8:00 tonight at Books & Books, 296 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Admission is free. Call 442-4408. (NK)
Back in 1916 when David Fairchild acquired ten acres in Coconut Grove, he did what most ordinary people do with land: He built a house (which he named the Kampong, a Javanese word that means "settlement") and planted a garden. Except Fairchild wasn't an ordinary guy. As chief of the seed and plant introduction section for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he traveled all over the world collecting hundreds of plant specimens, a huge variety of which he relocated to the grounds of his home. Today the breathtaking property is one of only two tropical-plant research sites in the nation, and is seldom open to the public. From 9:00 a.m. to noon today, take the Kampong Tour, led by curator Larry Schokman, and get to know the estate's rare and exotic vegetation. Meet at 4013 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove. Admission is $15. Call 247-5727 to register. (NK)
Can't get enough of Beethoven? Head over to the New World Symphony Beethoven Festival at the Lincoln Theatre (541 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach). Tonight Michael Tilson Thomas leads the orchestra, piano soloist Leif Ove Andsnes, and the University of Miami Chorale in "The Beethoven Marathon," a two-part program consisting of eight major works by the composer, which re-creates an 1808 concert in Vienna that Beethoven conducted himself. Showtime is 7:00 p.m. Tickets cost $70 and $100. Call 673-3331. (NK)
Think "airport" and what comes to mind? Loud planes, rushed people toting cumbersome luggage, bad food, dreary terminals. Miami-Dade Art in Public Places has a bit of a different take: It sees millions of people traipsing through Miami International -- a huge, ready-made audience for art. Some of the exhibitions the program has set up at MIA, such as Keith Sonnier's installation "Miami Heliotrope," are there on a permanent basis. Others change throughout the year. The latest show to open at the temple of transience is photographer Hank Luria's In Living Color. Corals, clams, anemones, and other sea creatures inhabit the Concourse E gallery in sixteen eleven-by-fourteen-inch images of an underwater world that might help you forget the outside bustle, if only for a moment. The exhibition runs through July 27. Call 375-5362. (NK)
It's almost Easter again. That means someone at home (probably you) is going to have to supply the kiddies with baskets full of teeth-rotting goodies, preceded by the task of dyeing and decorating oodles of eggs in preparation for that grueling exercise in sleuthing, the egg hunt. Maybe you should take a break this year and pack the youngsters off to the Easter Eggstravaganza at North Shore Open Space Park, 79th Street and Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Kids of all ages can compete for prizes by stuffing their baskets to overflowing with brightly colored eggs that have been well-hidden all over the park. The fun starts at 10:00 a.m. Admission is free. Call 673-7767. (NK)
Meet John Barrymore: brilliant stage and screen actor, extraordinary alcoholic. The younger brother of distinguished performers Lionel and Ethel -- and grandfather of the annoying Drew -- the egomaniacal Barrymore was an incredible talent hell-bent on destroying himself and making everyone around him miserable in the process. He began his movie career with melodramatic roles in the Teens, then graduated to more substantial fare in the Twenties, achieving international fame -- even though he often performed while juiced. Actor, writer, and New World School of the Arts teacher David Kwiat created the one-man stage play John Barrymore: Confessions of an Actor in the mid-Seventies and has performed it at all over the world, including the prestigious Edinburgh Festival. Set on the eve of Barrymore's final performance, the play uses flashbacks and anecdotes to provide a poignant glimpse of a dissolute man. The show closes today. Performances take place at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. at the New Theatre, 65 Almeria Ave., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $10 and $15. Call 443-5909. (NK)
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Laurence Shames moved to South Florida in 1989, mainly so he could sweat. He settled in Key West intending to while away most of his time in the great outdoors, soaking up sun while playing tennis, going sailing, and doing some fishing. Things didn't go exactly according to plan for Shames. He's spent hundreds of hours in the not-so-great indoors, basking in air conditioning and writing novels. He produced his first book, Tropical Depression, in 1992 and has written five since then. All have been acclaimed as witty, well-crafted tales of life in quirky Key West. His most recent, Mangrove Squeeze, features Russian mobsters, a stressed-out ex-Wall Streeter, a wannabe reporter, and an arthritic chihuahua. Doesn't sound like fiction to us! Shames reads at 8:00 p.m. at Books & Books, 296 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables. Admission is free. Call 442-4408. (NK)
Most people know Billy Taylor as the soft-spoken, mellow arts reporter -- the guy who wears the oversize Elton John-style glasses -- on CBS's Sunday Morning TV show. While he's been a correspondent for the past sixteen years, the 76-year-old Taylor is more than just a nice guy and an aficionado of high-fashion eyewear: He is also an actor, arranger, teacher, radio personality, author of more than a dozen books, composer of more than 300 songs, and a renowned jazz pianist who has worked with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday. Tonight at 8:00 when Billy Taylor and the FIU Jazz Band perform together, Dr. T. indulges his musical side. The concert takes place at FIU University Park's Wertheim Performing Arts Center, SW Eighth Street and 107th Avenue. Tickets cost $10 and $15. Call 348-1998. (NK)
What is it about Grammy winners and the Cameo Theatre (1445 Washington Ave., Miami Beach)? The venue has been a virtual Grammy magnet lately. Bob Dylan, who copped Album of the Year recently, graced the Cameo stage in late March, Now it's Argentina's Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, whose most recent release, Fabulosos Calavera, received the first-ever Grammy in the Latin Rock/Alternative Performance category. Their freewheeling blend of punk, ska, rock, funk, and a little bit of everything else, honed over the past twelve years, has established them as Latin rock's preeminent band. Veteran swing-ska zoot-suiters the Cherry Poppin' Daddies and local ska rockers King 7 and the Soulsonics open the show. Tickets range in cost from $15 to $17. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Call 532-0922. (