With more than 250 authors arriving in town to participate in the twentieth anniversary of the Miami Book Fair International, South Florida, of all places, becomes the hub of the book world for two weeks. It seems as if everybody's here (and we're not talking Beyoncé or P. Diddy), from literary giants to obscure and subversive desperados to squeaky-clean television personality types.
Bookworms, brace yourselves.
Kicking off the festival is the much-lauded Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. Her work is steeped in the traditions of African and African-American storytelling. It embraces the mythology of ancient folklore and brings that into a modern context. In her work, the master of style cuts deep to elemental truths of humanity. Morrison's keynote lecture and reading comes just as her newest novel, Love, is published.
Morrison's opening-night presentation is likely to draw huge crowds -- after all, she was placed in the forefront of the mainstream American consciousness by Oprah. Still Morrison is worthy of the hype around her. She's one of the biggest talents who will be on hand.
Also opening the festival is Zoe Valdes, the Cuban-French author who will be reading in Spanish from her latest book, Lobas de Mar, in a separate presentation. Valdes, too, mines the rich heritage of her native roots to weave intricate meditations on love and life. Her signature style is influenced by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda as she gives life to inanimate objects that in turn tell her stories.
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Other greats such as Mario Vargas Llosa and Elie Wiesel and popular authors like Dave Barry and Garrison Keillor will appear in more intimate settings during the book fair's nightly Evenings With...Series.
The fair kicks into high gear next weekend with the Congress of Authors, two days of lectures, panels, and workshops led by notable authors and personalities including Madeleine Albright, Sidney Blumenthal, Joyce Carol Oates, sex columnist Dan Savage, and TV host Al Roker. (Yes, Al Roker.)
If the lectures and readings get too heavy, the Street Fair, a bazaar of booksellers and arts, offers a whimsical alternative to the discussions. On the street will be international pavilions that will showcase the arts and traditions of Mexico, Europe, North America, and Central America. If you want to lose the kids for a while, the fair offers its Children's Alley, a virtual arcade of educational games and activities as well as book-related performances. When all the discussion sparks your appetite, be sure to step out for a literary arepa, dripping with cheese and greased with the eternal folly of the human condition.
Toni Morrison opens the 20th annual Miami Book Fair International with a reading starting at 8:00 p.m. Sunday, November 2, at Central Baptist Church, 500 NE 1st Ave. Zoe Valdes appears at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, November 2, at Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE 2nd Ave. The fair runs nightly through Sunday, November 9, at MDC Wolfson Campus. Admission is free. Call 305-237-3258.