Miami Book Fair spins into town

Put down that book. Pick yourself up and head to Miami Dade College's downtown campus. Hundreds of America's top authors — including a former president, the grandmother of punk rock, and what's-his-name Rushdie — will be in town to shill their books beginning November 14 for Miami Book Fair International.

The big names will begin talking on the campus at NE Second Avenue and Fourth Street this Sunday and finish during the street fair next Friday through Sunday, November 19 through 21.

Below is Miami New Times' take on the most prominent/interesting writers. Unless otherwise noted, they will speak at the Chapman Conference Center (Building 3, Second Floor, Room 3210).

As a 16-year-old girl, Patti Smith wasted an entire summer working in a factory that made handlebars for tricycles. She hated it, so she spent her days lost in arty fantasies of some future life in a faraway place. "I'd brag that I was going to be an artist's mistress one day. Nothing seemed more romantic to my young mind," Smith, now 63, writes in her recent memoir, Just Kids.

And though the notoriously tough proto-punk poet shed her early, innocent yearnings for mistressdom, she nevertheless found that dream boy. Of course, there was her husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith, the late MC5 guitarist. But even before him, she loved, supported, and worked with a soon-to-be-infamous photographer named Robert Mapplethorpe.

In the four decades since the two artists met in New York City and 21 years since Mapplethorpe died of complications from AIDS, their friendship and occasional collaboration has become one of the great love stories of American culture's outlaw, post-hippie period. This book provides an intimate and lyrical personal account.

A nonfiction finalist for the National Book Award, Just Kids sometimes reads like a 308-page prose poem, even slipping into verse near the end: "Little emerald bird/We must say good-bye."

Smith will speak Friday, November 19, at 8 p.m. — S. Pajot

Seventy-eight-year-old Gay Talese is a strange combination of ire and grace. "It's one of those rare occasions where the writer of record didn't do much work," he answers when asked about his newest book, The Silent Season of a Hero.

Of course, Talese put a hell of a lot of work into the book's 38 pieces. But the work was produced over the course of 60 years. Surprisingly, that's the most rewarding aspect of Silent Season. Whereas most anthologies are a waste of time, this one is terrific — charting Talese's evolution as a writer through the lens of sports. It begins with articles he wrote as a teenager and ends with some of the most famous, poignant essays on athletes ever written, including stories about Joe DiMaggio and Muhammad Ali.

"What makes sports special are their immediacy," Talese says. "If you're covering a war, you don't see the war. If you're covering politics, you don't see the intrigues in the backroom... You're getting it secondhand from some spokesperson, some spin artist, some flack. But in sports, you're actually there in the press box, on the sidelines."

In the modern-day world of sports media, though, do we still need 10,000-word articles about athletes? Talese believes so. His interest has always been in losers, or over-the-hill competitors anyway. In "The Loneliest Guy in Boxing," he profiles Ruby Goldstein, a failed boxer-cum-referee whose dedication to the sport has left him all alone. "And that's the most interesting thing of all," Talese says. "How can athletes move on when they can no longer compete in what they're trained to do?"

He, along with author Ian Frazier, will discuss The Silent Season of a Hero Saturday, November 20, at 4 p.m. in the Auditorium (Building 1, Second Floor, Room 1261). — Michael E. Miller

The most boldfaced name attending the book fair is an author so devoted to literature that he didn't stop reading the children's book The Pet Goat even as the Twin Towers fell. We got our hands on an early draft of George W. Bush's Decision Points — and we must say, this memoir was a lot more interesting pre-editing.

Here's what Dubya's ghostwriter left on the cutting-room floor:

• A combined 28 pages of transcribed nervous chuckles — heh-heh, heh-heh — and 12 pages of macaroni art.

• "I had the greatest respect for Dick Cheney, but we did differ on some policy points. Like when he started murdering his gardeners."

• "Wearing only a cowboy hat and a presidential belt buckle, I ran my hand up Laura's navy blue skirt. Her eyes glowed red with longing, and she bared her metallic teeth. Then I felt Condi's pincer grasp on the back of my neck, and I gave in to pleasure."

• "I had thought Iraq and Iran were different names for the same place, like Missouri and Mizzou."

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New Times staff