Tuesday, May 18, 2004

BOOK FAIRS 2001-2002

Miami Book Fair 2002
The Miami Book Fair is a bibliophile's mecca, so I had a wonderful time. I couldn't help but notice that the street fair was smaller than last year, which was smaller than the year before, which was smaller than the year before that. Borders hasn't had a booth for two years now. No Books-a-Million either. Waldenbooks had a small booth, and Barnes & Noble was still there, but in considerably smaller quarters than previous years. Lots of indies though, including Books & Books, the originator of the fair, and Murder on Miami Beach - which is becoming Murder on the Beach and moving north to Delray Beach, which is in my neck of the woods, making me a very happy BookBitch.

As usual, there were multiple authors speaking at the same time which forced me to make some tough decisions. Then I ran into a scheduling problem when an event didn't start on time. I waited in line for almost half an hour to see Les Standiford, but by the time they opened the doors and it would have gotten started, it would have been time for me to leave to get to the next panel. That was a heartbreaker, but more on that later.

While wandering around the street fair early Saturday morning, I ran into Robert Mykle, author of Killer 'Cane: The Deadly Hurricane of 1928, which devastated the Florida Everglades. If you liked Perfect Storm or Isaac's Storm, check it out. Then I headed for the first panel of the day. Robert Bausch read from The Gypsy Man, a literary thriller set in Virginia in the late 1950's. John Dufresne was next, and he read from Deep in the Shade of Paradise, which is resting comfortably on my dining room table - at least until Thanksgiving, then all bets are off. This is the pseudo-sequel to Louisiana Power & Light, and I think Publisher's Weekly summed it up best: "Imagining John Irving, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor or Max Shulman (or all of the above at once) on peyote juice only begins to evoke the dimension and energy of the seriocomic fantasies of Dufresne at his freewheeling, frenetic best." Dufresne is an experience not to be missed.

The highlight of the day for me was the last speaker on that panel - Tim O'Brien. He is, in my humble opinion, an American treasure, and one of our greatest living writers. The National Book Award winning Going After Cacciato is my personal favorite, not to slight The Things they Carried and In the Lake by the Woods, all Vietnam War books in one way or another. I am totally in awe of this man's brilliance and talent, and it turns out he is also gracious and funny. It was beautiful to see teenagers asking him questions about his books that they had studied, and to see the patience and care that he expressed in answering them. He was slated to read from his latest novel, July, July, which is about several characters and their personal stories that emerge at a college reunion, except he was told to prepare for a twenty minute reading. Upon arrival at the fair, he was told to keep it to ten minutes, which he felt was inadequate to do justice to his book, so instead he just told us about the book. He also told a very funny story about the inspiration of one of the characters in July, July.

It seems he received a twenty page, handwritten letter from a woman who wrote him the most bizarre story. She said that she had met a man and he told her that he was a writer using the pseudonym Tim O'Brien. He kept up the charade for a very long time, coming up with more excuses and more lies to cover up than he ever bargained for. Eventually they got engaged and were to be married. Every now and then she would question him, because she never saw him write for one thing, but he always had an answer for her. One day she borrowed one of Tim O'Brien's books from the library, and confronted him with the picture. He told her that they were writing partners, and eventually he told her that the partner was gay and they'd had a fight about that, so he signed over all his rights to the name Tim O'Brien to his partner. She kept on believing, until shortly before they were to be married when he broke down and admitted the entire thing had been a lie. She immediately ended the relationship. Eventually she wrote Mr. O'Brien this story, addressing it to "the real Tim O'Brien." Enclosed with her letter was a letter of apology from her former fiancĂ©, which inspired a character in the new novel who likewise gets caught up in a lie.  

An interesting question was raised about the impending war in the Middle East. While stating that he didn't wish to get into politics, Mr. O'Brien also suggested that our fearless leaders put their bodies where there mouths are. All in all, Tim O'Brien was an entertaining and enlightening speaker.

The next panel I went to began with a laugh; Cassandra King read from her new novel, The Sunday Wife. This is a book about a preacher's wife in a small Southern town. She read a hilarious scene about a meeting of church ladies trying to get some "pornographic" novels banned from the high school - books by some famous pornographers like Mark Twain, Joseph Heller and Pat Conroy (who also happens to be the author's husband.)  

Following Ms. King was Mark Dunn, author of Ella Minnow Pea: A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable, and one of the most creative and original novels I've ever read. He explained the progression of the book, and how difficult it was to write, and how it was even more difficult to find a publisher for it. This is a book written entirely in letters. It's set in a small town whose most famous resident invented the pangram, "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." There is a statue erected in his honor, along with the pangram. One day the "Z" falls off, and the town leaders decide that it is some sort of sign, and forbid the residents from using the letter "Z" in writing or in speech. Then another letter falls off. And another. And eventually there are only a handful of letters left that are legal to use, forcing the townspeople who remain to become quite creative in speaking and writing. It was very interesting hearing the letters read aloud. The first letter read was from the night before the "Z" was banned, and he ended with the last letter of the book that was written with the scant half dozen letters that were left, making it most difficult to read aloud, but also pointing out the stark simplicity of his story. I ran into him a little later in the day and we chatted. He was delighted to hear how much I enjoyed his book, and was very personable. His newest book is called Welcome to Higby, and was just selected as a New and Notable book by USA Today, and they have posted an excerpt.

The last author to speak on that panel was Robert Olen Butler. I've never read any of his works, but he has won numerous awards and was an eloquent and amusing speaker. He teaches creative writing at Florida State University, and I truly envy his students. He read from his latest novel, Fair Warning. This book started out as a short story commissioned by Francis Ford Coppola. Apparently Mr. Coppola met Sharon Stone when she was working as an auctioneer for a fundraising event, and was quite taken with her. He commissioned Mr. Butler to write a story about a woman auctioneer, which he did and it was published in Mr. Coppola's literary magazine, Zoetrope. The idea lingered, however, and came to fruition as a full length novel with this book. Every year at the Fair I generally find an author whose work I've never read, but intrigues me, and this year was no exception. I enjoyed the reading Mr. Butler gave, and look forward to exploring all his writing.

After a brief stop at the food court, which was also an abbreviation from previous years, I headed over to see Les Standiford. His newest book is not a mystery, but rather a fascinating look at a small piece of Florida history called Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean. It's a quick read, and one that is most enjoyable. Speaking with Mr. Standiford was Tony Horwitz, author of Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, which I am dying to read, and Philip Gourevitch, author of A Cold Case, which is a true crime book that I would have liked to have heard about. Unfortunately, due to David Rockefeller running long and the auditorium not being available on time, I had to leave for the next panel. I was also very sorry to miss the only mystery panels of the day with Ridley Pearson (Art of Deception) and Gregg Andrew Hurwitz, who I haven't read, although Do No Harm is in my to-be-read pile, and another one with Karin Slaughter (Kisscut, which I didn't love although I did love her first book, Blindsighted) and Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. There were several mystery authors scheduled to speak on Sunday, but I had tickets to see The Lion King, so I was limited to Saturday only. I really need to figure out how to be in several places at once, and I'll have it all covered.
The last panel of the day was entitled New Fiction, and ended with Robert Clark, author of Love Among the Ruins. He read a wonderful excerpt of this literary novel about young love set in the late 1960's in Minnesota.

The reason I was so determined to see this panel was Leif Enger, author of Peace Like a River, which my reading group will be discussing next week. Leif (whose name rhymes with "safe" - I asked) was a very witty and charming speaker. He has spent eighteen years as a reporter for National Public Television in Minnesota, and told a great story about an Associated Press reporter there. It seemed that this reporter always got the best stories, including one from a memorable 4th of July that Leif just loved. It was a very busy news day, with a horrendous storm destroying a huge chunk of a national park, and various other tragedies. But the story that Leif liked best was about a boy who held on to a firecracker for a second too long - and had his finger blown off. This sort of thing happens pretty much every 4th of July, but the kicker to this story was that the finger was never found. Leif was totally intrigued with that, comparing it to the phantom hitchhiker type stories that have become the stuff of urban legends, and used that story on all his newscasts that day. Except shortly after that story hit the newswire, the AP reporter responsible for it came forward and admitted that he made it up. And shortly after that, he admitted he'd been making up stories for twelve years. It seemed like this was the impetus for Leif to turn his hand to fiction.

Peace Like a River is a gentle, flowing book about a family with all sorts of problems. The protagonist is a young boy named Reuben, who struggles with asthma. Reuben believes his father can perform miracles, and there are touches of magic realism throughout the novel. Reuben has an older brother named Davey, who gets into some serious trouble, and a younger sister named Swede, who I just fell in love with. Swede is a nine year old girl who loves reading the westerns of Zane Grey, and writes beautifully metered cowboy poetry. Leif told us that it took several years to write, and that he wrote it for his family; he has a son with asthma. I am grateful that he got to share it with the rest of the world. I asked him if he had anything he'd like to say to my reading group, and he said to tell them that "every word of it is true."

Ann Packer, author of the NY Times bestselling novel The Dive from Clausen's Pier, was also on this panel. If you've read the book, all I can say is that Ann was exactly like I pictured Carrie, her main character. This is a very interesting book, and is perfect for reading group discussions, and she read quite a long bit of it. Carrie is engaged to Michael, but soon realizes that she's not quite as much in love with him as she had originally thought. Memorial Day weekend finds them on their annual picnic, and Michael dives into the lake. But the water is exceptionally low this year, and he breaks his neck. Carrie stays by his side while he remains comatose, but she knows that if he survives, he will be a quadriplegic. One night she takes off, abandoning him and her responsibilities. It's so easy to judge, but the beauty of this book is that it dramatizes varying viewpoints.
Before heading home, I stopped by the Florida Mystery Writers of America booth. Christine Kling, author of Surface Tension (the book I'm giving away this month) was scheduled to sign books late Saturday afternoon. But when I got there, Joanne Sinchuk (of the aforementioned Murder on the Beach) told me that the fair wouldn't allow her to do the signing because she was scheduled to speak on a panel on Sunday, so she wasn't allowed to do anything else. (And bravo to Ballantine, who managed to get copies of the book to the Fair even though the official publication date wasn't until 11/26.) I was disappointed because I wanted to meet her and tell her how much I enjoyed her book. Now here's the kicker: "Pages" magazine also had a booth at the street fair, and they were giving away the current issue with Scott Turow on the cover. They had a big sign stating that he would be there at 2:30 to do a signing. But Scott Turow was scheduled to speak on a panel on Sunday, just like Christine Kling. Now I don't know if he actually did the signing or not, because at 2:30 I was waiting in line for Les Standiford, but it seems to me if he was able to do it, then she should have been able to do it too. Why would they allow a best-selling author to do what he wants and not let a first time published author who really could use the extra PR not do it (yeah, yeah, never mind.) That's the sort of thing that drives me nuts. I hope somebody can tell me that they made Turow cancel too, and I will feel much better about that.

Broward County Literary Fest 2002

It was my privilege and pleasure to be able to attend this event. Kudos to BYBLOS, the fundraising arm of the Broward County Library System who arranged this Day of Literary Lectures. It was held at the beautiful new library at Nova Southeastern University. This library is unique in that it is believed to be the first such joint venture in the United States between a private institution and a public library system.

The day was divided into thirds, allowing me to see a variety of authors, but sadly forcing me to miss some as well. The morning panel was called "American Dream". The first speaker was John Byrne, co-author along with Jack Welch of JACK: STRAIGHT FROM THE GUT, the best-selling autobiography of the man who runs General Electric. John is a writer for Business Week, and he took a year's sabbatical to write this book. The Wall Street Journal story about the reporter from Harvard Business Review resigning because of her involvement with Jack had just broke and that was the first question put to the author. He danced around it, saying that they had a "relationship of sorts" but negating to specify anything further. If you're not a subscriber to the WSJ, read the TIME.com story about it.

Next up was Homer Hickam, author of THE ROCKET BOYS (renamed October Sky after the film) and his newest book, WE ARE NOT AFRAID. It's an inspirational tome he wrote after 9/11, putting his Coalwood, West Virginia spin on the fears generated since that horrific event.

Up next was the very young and very interesting Ana Menendez, author of the short story collection, "IN CUBA I WAS A GERMAN SHEPHERD" which is the punch line to a joke in the title story. Sorry, you'll have to read the book to get the whole joke!
That panel wound up with Lynn Sherr, the famed ABC correspondent from 20/20, with her new book, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL. This books tells the history of the song that some people, Ms. Sherr included, believe should be the National Anthem. Ms. Sherr, the apparent queen of understatement, made an impassioned speech about the TV news industry in response to a question about the whole Ted Koppel/David Letterman debacle, indicating that there are some people in management at ABC that are "not very nice."

The next panel I attended was called "Crime Stoppers". This was a tough decision, I had to forego seeing writers like Art Buchwald, Susan Griffin, Frank Deford, Delia Ephron and Jennifer Egan. But the main impetus for my even shlepping down there was to meet George Pelecanos. He spoke eloquently about the problems his city, Washington D.C., faces - the inner city problems, not the ones on Capitol Hill. I was a bit troubled by RIGHT AS RAIN, it had an almost a preachy feel to it at times in dealing with racism and he pulls no punches with the life of the people living in the urban blighted-Marion Berry neighborhoods. But after hearing him speak, I think that is his goal, he wants people to feel uncomfortable as it really gets the point across. He was a very thought-provoking speaker. He told us that his newest book, HELL TO PAY, is based on an actual incident that happened there and the book is dedicated to the little boy that lost his life. This book has been generating amazing reviews (not only from the BookBitch) and lots of publicity. Check out the terrific articles about him in USA Today and the NY Times. And on a more personal note, his pictures do not do him justice, he's a hottie!

Elaine Viets actually opened this panel, and she was very funny. If she ever decides to give up writing humorous suspense, she would do well in stand-up comedy. Her books are set in St. Louis, including her last one called DOC IN THE BOX. In this book she gets to kill off every doctor that ever left her waiting while they finished a round of golf, that didn't return her phone calls, that patronized her when she deemed to ask a question, and, well, you get the idea. She lives in South Florida and says that her next book will be set here as there are only a limited number of unusual story ideas found in St. Louis, while South Florida is an never-ending source! I am looking forward to it.

Phillip Margolin, author of legal thrillers like THE ASSOCIATE and GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN, was very entertaining. I saw him just a few weeks ago at the Martin County Library but he did not repeat himself at all here. He is a very interesting man who still seems amazed by his success. He says that he can't help but think that writing is just a hobby, albeit "the hobby that swallowed" his law practice. He retired from the law to write full time.

Laura Lippman, winner of the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony and Agatha awards, was the other "Crime Stopper" on the panel. Her popular mysteries are set in her hometown of Baltimore. She was an intelligent, engrossing speaker and I look forward to reading all of her "Tess Monaghan" books, starting with BALTIMORE BLUES through the last one, IN A STRANGE CITY. The next book in the series, THE LAST PLACE, comes out in September.

The last panel of the day was called "Below the Mason-Dixon Line". I figured this would be a giant step towards overcoming my prejudice (read: ignorance) against Southern literature. This was a most impressive panel with an eclectic combination of different Southern accents! Robert Inman, author of the wonderfully reviewed CAPTAIN SATURDAY, grew up in Elba, Alabama. He spent most of his working life as a TV journalist in Charlotte, NC, until he retired in 1996 to write full time.  
Robert Morgan, winner of the Oprah lottery with GAP GREEK has a new book out, a sequel set twenty years later entitled THIS ROCK. Morgan is a native of the mountains of North Carolina and according to his publisher is "widely regarded as the poet laureate of Appalachia". He currently teaches English at Cornell University.

Next up was the amazing Kitty Oliver, author of Multicolored Memories of a Black Southern Girl, a native of Jacksonville, Florida. This book is her memoir, and in it she talks about being one of five African-American freshman that integrated the University of Florida (student population: 18,000) as well as being the first African-American journalist at the Miami Herald. She is a good jazz singer, which she demonstrated, and claims to make a mean jambalaya! I was awed by this all around inspiring, talented woman who is currently teaching a class in nonfiction/autobiographical creative writing at Florida Atlantic University.
The last speaker of the day was also the most pivotal for me: Rick Bragg, born and raised in the hills of Alabama and the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist for the NY Times, author of ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' (which is required reading in high schools all over the United States, including my neighborhood) and his newest book, AVA'S MAN. I have literally sold hundreds of copies of ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' but I've never read it. He spoke about his family, (both books are memoirs), and about growing up in the South. Then he quoted the beginning of ALL OVER BUT THE SHOUTIN' and simply blew me away.  

At the end of his talk, he asked for questions from the audience. The last one to speak was a woman who stood up and said that she was from NY and never really cared for Southern literature. She told him that a good friend of hers was from Alabama, and over the years had sent her various books but none of them ever really changed her attitude. Until his book.  

"Rick Bragg writes like a man on fire. And All Over but the Shoutin' is a work of art. While reading this book, I fell in love with Rick Bragg's mother, Margaret Bragg, a hundred times. I felt like I was reading one of the prophets in the Old Testament when reading parts of this book. I thought of Melville, I thought of Faulkner. Because I love the English language, I knew I was reading one of the best books I've ever read. By explaining his life to the world, Rick Bragg explained part of my life to me. You feel things in every line this man writes. His sentences bleed on you. I wept when the book ended. I never met Rick Bragg in my life, but I called him up and told him he'd written a masterpiece, and I sent flowers to his mother." --Pat Conroy

After the lecture, I met Rick Bragg and told him that I could be that lady from NY...so he signed my book for me and I am in the process of reading it, a few beautiful, emotional pages at a time. It bears careful reading. The language is mellifluous and the story is spellbinding. I feel most fortunate to have found this book, and this author, and I humbly beg the readers of this site to do likewise. 

BookMania 2002

BookMania is an annual Martin County, Florida tradition and they do a superb job. I wasn't able to spend the entire weekend but I enjoyed a talk by Eileen Goudge and her fourth husband, Sandy Kenyon. The way they met goes into the "truth is stranger than fiction" file. He interviewed her by phone for his radio show, and afterwards she invited him to call again. He did, they dated by phone for a while before actually meeting, and when they finally did it was love at first sight. They recently celebrated their fifth anniversary.

The crime panel discussion was the reason I attended though. The legal thriller maven Phillip Margolin, the veddy British Peter Robinson and the supposedly-reclusive genius Dennis Lehane spent an hour and a half discussing their work and their genre. The panel was led by Scott Eyman, books editor of the Palm Beach Post. One of the fascinating facts revealed by Peter Robinson was that he does not use an outline to write his books, just starts writing and often doesn't know "who done it" until he is three quarters of the way through! He also revealed that he wrote one book that was set in Los Angeles, but it was only published in Canada and is most difficult to find.

On the other hand, Phillip Margolin revealed that he does very extensive outlines, 29 pages long for THE ASSOCIATE and 68 pages long for WILD JUSTICE, which is my personal favorite (and his!)

Dennis Lehane admitted that he had a commercial light at the end of his tunnel while writing SACRED, and it is his least favorite of all his books, while he is most proud of GONE, BABY, GONE and MYSTIC RIVER. Clint Eastwood bought the film rights to MYSTIC RIVER and production is supposed to start at the end of this year. Finally, if you've ever wondered what writers actually read, Dennis highly recommended a mystery called THE BLUE PLACE by Nicola Griffith and THE LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley. All in all, it was a lovely afternoon.

Miami Book Fair 2001

I'm still basking in the glow of the 18th annual Miami Book Fair. I was thrilled to be able to spend the day there Sunday, November 18, 2001 and I got to hear some great authors speak.  This fair is international in scope; in fact several booths were devoted to consulates of various countries. It lasts a little over a week, with a series of lectures all week culminating in a three day street fair that also encompasses several lectures. The most difficult part is in choosing who to see, as there are usually three or more lectures going on at the same time.  

I couldn't help but notice that there were far fewer booths at the street fair than there have been in the past. Borders was absent, which saddened me. Most of the big publishers had booths, some smaller presses as well, and B&N, Walden and a handful of independents like Books & Books and Murder on Miami Beach. Deals abound; I was able to pick up Leif Enger's book, PEACE LIKE A RIVER, for less than half price. There is something to be said for hitting the fair on the last day! The rep assured me that it was the best book he'd read all year, and I've heard that from a lot of other people who don't have quite as much vested in that statement.

After spending the first couple of hours checking out the booths, it was time for the first lecture of the day. I had to pass up Nicholas Basbanes (PATIENCE & FORTITUDE), Michael Pollan (BOTANY OF DESIRE) and a poetry reading, among others, to see a panel discussion entitled "Dark and Dangerous" featuring Tim Dorsey, T. Jefferson Parker and James Grippando. Tim was the opening speaker and was hilarious, admitting that at times he felt like he was "morphing into Carrot Top". He gets my vote for the guy I'd most like to go drinking with, but I digress. He read from his upcoming book TRIGGERFISH TWIST (May 2002), a prequel to FLORIDA ROADKILL which I adored. I think Dorsey's books can best be summarized as humor with dead bodies.  

I've never read T. Jefferson Parker, but he was very interesting. His books are set in southern California, which is his home. He spoke about where he got his ideas from and told a great story about his latest, SILENT JOE. He said he saw a man on the boardwalk, holding a baby. The man's face was horribly disfigured, but that infant, his daughter, was looking at him with such unconditional love that it started his wheels spinning. From Booklist: "...Parker offers another compelling take on one of his favorite themes: damaged souls forced to confront their own inner demons."

James Grippando gave an enlightening and moving talk about one of the results of the ongoing civil war in Columbia; the staggering number of kidnappings. A KING'S RANSOM was inspired by his prodigious research into this nightmare. A few years ago I read FOUND MONEY, which was excellent and this new one sounds even better.
The next hour found another tough decision. I skipped Stephen Ambrose (THE WILD BLUE), and David Rackoff (FRAUD) to go to a lecture entitled "Powerful Voices" featuring James Hall, Peter Moore Smith, and a man I hold in the highest esteem possible, Andrew Vachss. 

James Hall opened the lecture with bird calls and monkey sounds. There is more to this man that meets the eye! He then proceeded to read us a most interesting piece he had written for the NY Times, A Fireball Too Far. He also read a bit from his upcoming thriller, BLACKWATER SOUND (January 2002), and it sounded terrific. I am looking forward to reading it. 
Next up was Peter Moore Smith. I'd not heard of him or his book, Raveling, which is his first novel. He didn't speak much but spent way too much time reading from his book, to the point of being rude I'm sorry to say. 

Andrew Vachss. I will try not to gush but consider yourself warned. It's not just his writing, which is so compelling and gritty and worthy enough of praise. He is a lawyer with a unique clientele; he only represents children, who generally don't have much in the way of disposable income. The books pave the way for Andrew Vachss to perform his life's work; to try and help children.  

When I first read him I checked out his website. His bio is completely overwhelming. I had so many questions for him, but I was too intimidated to even write him. When I found out he was going to be at the fair, I knew I would go hear his lecture, but I didn't even bother to bring his books to be signed. I am far from shy, but I didn't think I would have enough nerve to actually talk to him.  
I haven't read his newest thriller, PAIN MANAGEMENT, but I will. I am reading him in order and doing it slowly, with lots of fluff in between. He said he was unable to read his book because the legal disclaimers from the publisher were so numerous, due to the content, that if he read them all he wouldn't have time to read the book anyway. So instead, he spoke a bit about the abused children in this country and how he got involved in trying to help them. In that brief speech he was so passionate and so eloquent that I found myself crying at times, yet he also made me laugh. He was simply mesmerizing.  

Apparently there are people who attend these things simply for the autographs, for when we came out of the lecture there was already a huge line of people waiting. I left to have lunch. But sometimes fate has a way of stepping in. As I stepped off the escalator on my way to attend the next lecture, there he was, just having finished up, and I practically walked right into him. I figured it was meant to be so I babbled something about being totally in awe of his work or some such thing. He was gracious and charming and oh-so-sexy and I am still floating...
I grabbed a quick lunch (the food is surprisingly good and varied) and headed over to the last lecture of the day for me. The 3:00 hour was the worst kind of torture, choosing between Dave Barry (DAVE BARRY HITS BELOW THE BELTWAY) with Jeffrey Toobin (TOO CLOSE TO CALL), Edna Buchanan (YOU ONLY DIE TWICE) with Laura Lippman (IN A STRANGE CITY) or the panel I headed for called "Stellar Fiction", with Chip Kidd, Mark Salzman and Rosario Ferre.

I walked in during Ms. Ferre's reading of her book, FLIGHT OF THE SWAN. I chose this particular lecture because of Chip Kidd. Regarded as the world's foremost book jacket designer, this was his first attempt to create the inside of a book. Some of his more famous covers include Jurassic Park, Geek Love, American Rhapsody, and the super-hero coffee table book Batman Collected, among many, many others. His terrific novel THE CHEESE MONKEYS was very different and the most creatively designed novel I've ever seen. He read one of my favorite parts, and read it well, dramatically, bringing all his quirky characters to life.  

Last up was Mark Salzman. I had heard of him, but hadn't read any of his books. He was my find of the day; brilliant, achingly funny and totally fascinating. He is exceedingly accomplished and experienced.

I ran out immediately and bought his newest book, LYING AWAKE. It's about a Carmelite nun who has a form of temporal-lobe epilepsy that causes her to have visions of God. His meticulous research and his way with words had me hooked. And in a delicious bit of irony, it appears that Chip Kidd designed the cover!
I came home and got my hands on his first book, a Pulitzer prize nominated nonfiction memoir of his years in China called IRON AND SILK, which I'm following up with LOST IN PLACE: Growing Up Absurd in Suburbia, another memoir.  
All in all, a truly memorable day.  

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