When Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, had a chance to host what some consider the greatest living American writer, Paul Auster, Kaplan knew he wanted to do something beyond a simple book reading. "We were in talks with Paul about coming down here to celebrate his amazing new novel, 4, 3, 2, 1," Kaplan says. "His 70th birthday will have just passed, so I really wanted to do something special."
The result is Tuesday night's event at the Arsht Center, Music, Magic & the Muse: An Evening With Paul Auster. The music comes courtesy of Auster's daughter Sophie Auster, a cabaret singer-songwriter. The magic materializes with world-famous illusionist David Blaine, who'll perform a half-hour show. And the muse will be represented when Auster reads from 4, 3, 2, 1.
Kaplan learned of Auster 30 years ago. "There wasn't a lot of translation of French poetry back then," he says. "His selection of French verse was amazing." Over the years, Kaplan followed Auster's career through the novels, the essays, and the occasional film he wrote and directed. But of all of Auster's work, Kaplan thinks 4, 3, 2, 1 might be his favorite. That is heavy praise for a heavy volume, but guests will be able to decide for themselves; admission to the event includes an autographed hardcover edition of the 880-page book, which chronicles four alternate realities one boy's life might take.
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From the available excerpt, the new book features many of Auster's trademarks: stories within stories, men with names that are way too apt, and literary references. But most significant, it keeps his tone. Just as punk rock made everyone think they could form a band, Auster’s matter-of-fact voice makes you think anyone could write a novel. Probably the best descriptor of his writing was a blurb conjured by D.T. Max of the New York Times Book Review that was used prominently on all of Auster's book covers: “He is gifted at making the intellectual life sexy.”
Though Kaplan produces the granddaddy of all literary events — the Miami Book Fair — and holds 600 author events a year at his various Books & Books locations, he hopes Tuesday night will be the beginning of presenting more atypical promotions to celebrate books.
"This is the second event we've ever had at the Arsht," he says. "We want to do a lot more of these outside-of-the-box kind of things."
Music, Magic & the Muse: An Evening With Paul Auster
8 p.m. Tuesday, February 21, in the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; arshtcenter.org; 305-949-6722. Tickets cost $40 via arshtcenter.org.