While heavy hitters Junot Diaz and Tom Wolfe have already inspired book lovers at this year’s Miami Book Fair International, which started on Sunday, we here at Bookleggers: A Library on the Run want to give you a heads up on what’s left, what’s literary, and what’s absolutely can’t miss. Starting with …
Junot Diaz’s new book, This Is How You Lose Her, continues the Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s exploration of Yunior de las Casas.
Yunior de las Casas, that fast-talking, philandering Dominican Jersey boy, is the one addiction that author Junot Díaz just can’t quit. Díaz’s first book, Drown, was technically a short-story collection, but one that largely chronicled de las Casas’ stumbling towards maturity. The follow-up to that, the novel The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, focused largely on the title character — but even then, his story unfurled mostly as narrated by Yunior.
David Gonzalez: “Vinyl records and mp3s get along just fine. So will paper books and e-readers.”
In an attempt to expand the reading community in Miami, two local literature lovers are launching a mobile library on Thursday, July 26, at Wynwood cafe Lester’s.
Described as “A library on the run”, Bookleggers will lend used books for free on the honor system, trade books to change up their selection, and let books “take a long vacation” for a $2 donation. Modeled after similar-in-spirit projects around the country, Bookleggers won’t ameliorate Miami’s dearth of libraries and bookstores all by its scrappy self, but it’s nonetheless an exciting development for those for whom happiness is a warm “Guns, Germs, and Steel”.
The Miami Book Fair is always great, and this year’s fair (Nov. 11 – 18) promises to raise the bar even higher. The list of already confirmed authors includes Bonfire of the Vanities author Tom Wolfe, whose fourth novel, Back To Blood, focuses on immigration in Miami (see trailer below); Joan Didion, who wrote one of the best books ever written about our frightening city (“Havana vanities come to dust in Miami”); Robert Caro, a master biographer whose obsession with Lyndon Baines Johnson has resulted in four tomes and counting (I just read all 1,100+ pages of Master Of The Senate — highly recommended); novelist Sandra Cisneros (The House On Mango Street); and New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik.
If the book fair boasted only these authors it would be hugely exciting, but of course many more will be announced in the coming months. We’ll keep you posted, of course, and you should also bookmark (get it?) the official fair website.
Now in her 60s, Patti Smith commemorates earlier days in Woolgathering.
On Sunday afternoon, head over to Books and Books in Coral Gables to meet punk priestess Patti Smith, who will be autographing copies of her new book, Woolgathering (New Directions, 80 pages, hardcover, $18.95). If you were lucky enough to catch Smith at the 2010 Miami Book Fair, where she read from Just Kids a day or so after it won the National Book Award and performed several songs, including a soul-rocking a capella version of “Because The Night” — then you should probably lower your expectations. The upcoming event is billed as a signing, not a reading or a performance. Nonetheless, the opportunity to chat up Smith, at 65 years old possibly the coolest person over the age of three on Planet Earth, is definitely an opportunity worth seizing.
Nicole Krauss will read from her new novel, Great House, at the Miami Book Fair on Friday night. -- photo by Colin O’Connor for National Post
Miami-born, Brooklyn-based writer and artist Arielle Angel recently spoke to best-selling novelist Nicole Krauss, who will do a reading at the Miami Book Fair on Friday, Nov. 18.
Nicole Krauss’s third novel, Great House, is populated by private and solitary people: a pair of siblings who increasingly become shut-ins, a son who sends pieces of his manuscript home from the army in over-zealously sealed boxes marked “private,” and two female writers, one in America and one in Britain, who forgo motherhood and withhold from their partners to focus on their work.
So when I asked Krauss if she belonged to a writing group or ever shares her work-in-progress, her response wasn’t surprising.
“I’m a pretty solitary person and a pretty private person, especially when it comes to my writing. The idea of belonging to a group of anything makes my skin prickle,” she said. “Some joy and excitement about this thing that only I am working on gets deflated if I show it too early.”
While the Great House cast of characters includes the pair of female writers, Krauss said fiction gives her an opportunity to transcend her own biography.
“I’m often not interested in writing exactly in my line of experience,” she said. “I’m interested in the other path, the one that I can imagine, but that isn’t my own.”
Nelson George's new book may be the literary world's first true hard-boiled hip-hop novel. -- photo by Jelena Vukotic
With Hip-Hop America, his popular 1999 book, Nelson George deftly packed cultural criticism and a wide-ranging history of 25 years of hip-hop into a slim volume. The book served as a love letter to the music, but also a broad-viewed look at the culture surrounding it. Now, more than a decade later, George has taken up many of these themes again, but, this time, with fiction.
The Plot Against Hip-Hop, due out this month from New York-based independent publisher Akashic Books (“dedicated to the reverse-gentrification of the literary world”), boasts an eyebrow-raising title and a murder within the first few of its 174 pages. By the end of the second chapter, Dwayne Robinson, an old-school hip-hop critic who’s a thinly veiled effigy for George himself, lies stabbed to death in a Soho office building. Staggering to the office door of his old friend, the younger, successful entertainment world body guard, D Hunter, Robinson stammers a famous Notorious B.I.G. line as his last words.
The murder initiates a fast-paced, kaleidoscoping world of intrigue as Hunter searches for Robinson’s killer, opening up in the process a Pandora’s box of shady dealings in the hip-hop industry. Conspiracy theorists, aging record executives, gang members, and other shadowy figures abound, all with an apparent interest in an archival document that set out the first tenets of marketing to the hip-hop generation.
Yes, there is some of the Illuminati talk long popular in Internet hip-hop circles. But George’s novel is very much a snapshot of the industry right now. There are scenes set at Russell Simmons-hosted charity events, Kanye West name-checks, and even a relatively protracted passage detailing the beef between Flo Rida, DJ Khaled, and the Rick Ross camp.
Newly elected Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez is proposing closing 13 of the county’s 49 libraries in an effort to close a $400 million budget gap, the Herald reports. I understand the imperative to get Miami’s fiscal house in order, but shuttering 26 percent of libraries is the wrong way to do it, especially with counter-structures like casinos threatening to proliferate locally. This issue is begging for a soap-box stander, but I’m going to tackle it sans histrionics. The screenshots below show the library locations of several big cities. They are all zoomed to the same degree (10x). Draw your own conclusion as to whether Miami can afford to close more than a quarter of its public libraries if it still wants to call itself a world-class (or even a country-class) city.
Population: 2.9 million
One library for every 36,708 people
New York City
Population: 8.2 million
One library for every 89,130 people
Population: 3.8 million
One library for every 52,777 people
Population: 2.5 million
Libraries: soon to be 36 (I erased 13 currently open libraries at random — these are NOT necessarily the branches slated for closure)
One library for every 69,444 people
To this amateur statistician’s eye, Miami’s library system doesn’t look very good by comparison to other big cities’. As for NYC’s lower library-per-x-amount-of-people stat, I think the screenshot shows that those 92 libraries are squeezed into a pretty tight space, making them easier to access than Miami’s far flung branches.
So, proud peer perusers of Miami’s precious public libraries, what say you about Gimenez’s proposal?
Steven Blush was there. Whether you envy him or not depends on whether you think getting bloodied by disgruntled anti-Reagan suburban kids moshing to an onslaught of melodyless noise sounds like good times. Blush is the author of American Hardcore: A Tribal History, the recently reissued chronicle of the American hardcore punk scene in the early ’80s, and writer of a 2006 documentary of the same name. He is presenting a slideshow at Sweat Records at 8 p.m. on Thursday night. Whether you love hardcore or hate it, I highly recommend you take advantage of the chance to have Blush, with a historian’s perspective and a hardcore punk’s blackened eye, guide you through a truly radical musical/political/ethical/artistic movement.
I spoke to Blush on Monday about hardcore as a reaction to Reagan, the South Florida scene (the lack thereof), and why kids didn’t take up axes (of the six-string variety) in the Bush years.
Can you define hardcore for the uninitiated?
Yeah, sure. Hardcore was originally called hardcore punk. It comes out of punk rock. There was the original punk rock revolution in the late ’70s, which was everyone from the Ramones in New York to the Clash and the Sex Pistols in England. And it’s great music, but it was something that came out of artistically driven people, people who were into Warhol and Bowie. There were lots of kids around America who loved the music but didn’t really relate to a lot of the themes and ideas. So there’s a movement that grows in America, largely in the suburbs, and it’s called hardcore punk. And it’s taking what the Ramones had started – the idea of speed and energy – as its starting point. I don’t think there was any sort of manifesto or statement about it, but it was kinda like this zeitgeist, like a mindset around the country of all these bands who started to play really fast. It was very striking at the time.
The full title of your book is American Hardcore: A Tribal History. What made the hardcore scene a tribe?
The thing that parallels with this is the election of Ronald Reagan, kinda the start of the Neoconservative movement that we see today. There was a real hyperconformity. If you went to high school or college at the time, everyone looked the same and dressed the same. And I think people were looking for a way to stand out. People were really looking to make a statement: “We are not part of this conformity. We are standing up against this.”