Book Fair Bonanza

Since its modest beginnings back in 1984 as a little thing called Books by the Bay, neither wind nor rain nor threat of hurricane has been enough to knock the Miami Book Fair International off its course to becoming one of the biggest and best (if not the biggest and best) book festivals in the nation. The lineup of authors in town to speak and read at this year's fair looks like a greatest-hits list from Publishers Weekly.

As a prelude to the weekend street fair of exhibitors, the book fair offers its popular series called "An Evening With," which features readings by some of the hottest names in fiction and nonfiction. "It's always in the eye of the beholder," admonishes Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books and one of the original forces behind the book fair. "But yes, it's a strong year. We always try for a nice balance between fiction, nonfiction, and poetry."

The week starts off with sizzle at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 7, at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus. This will be an evening with Donna Brazile and David Brooks. With so many political books flooding the market this year, Kaplan points out, there's sure to be a wealth of provocative commentary by guest authors just a week after the election. (Who knows? They may still be counting ballots.)

As campaign manager for the Gore-Lieberman ticket in 2000, and the first black American to lead such a major campaign, Brazile, author of Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics, is a savvy political strategist and a regular on CNN's Inside Politics and American History. She'll be paired with political commentator and humorist Brooks (Bobos in Paradise), who can be found on the op-ed pages of the New York Times and on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.

The stellar week of speakers continues Monday, November 8, with fabled film director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon), who has published thirteen books on Hollywood and the movie industry. Former U.S. poet laureate Rita Dove appears Tuesday in the college auditorium to discuss her latest poetry collection, American Smooth, on the form and expression of dance. Novelist Ann Patchett appears Wednesday and cartoonist/author Art Spiegelman will discuss his 9/11 opus In the Shadow of No Towers on Thursday. Capping off the week on Friday, November 12, is Tom Wolfe, celebrated chronicler of America's colorful characters as well as its character flaws (The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, The Bonfire of the Vanities), who will discuss his latest novel I Am Charlotte Simmons, a look at the curious world of college life. This year's fair also features the Spoken Word Café. A lineup of local artists and writers such as poets Michael Hettich and Adrian Castro will read a mix of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, followed by music that will range from the Latin jazz of Yvette Vinas to the acoustic folk of Matthew Sabatella.

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John Anderson