O, Miami Aims to Inspire Verse, From Symphonies to Barstools

Categories: Literary

Courtesy of O, Miami Poetry Festival/Gesi Schilling
Ivan Lopez channels José Martí.
Travel across the Magic City from Little Havana to Lemon City, Hialeah to Homestead, or South Beach to Surfside and you'll be serenaded by a sonorous canto of contrasting voices.

For interdisciplinary artists Juana Meneses and Leila Leder Kremer, that multicultural heart is the inspiration for "Home: Beyond Geography," their new conceptual project. The pair will crisscross the county this month armed with pens and postcards to capture local residents' personal stories.

"We want people from different neighborhoods to share their impressions, stories, and memories," explains the 35-year-old Meneses, who moved to Miami from Bogota in the late '80s. "Many people who live here came from other places, and this is a way for them to relate their experiences of our city in an index that is highly personal while remaining open-ended."

See also: O, Miami: A Month of Verse In Our Paradise of the Perverse

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Send in Your Miami Stories for the Big Read Tumblr Project

Courtesy of MDC
When it comes to bibliophilia, these aren't the glory days of Reading Rainbow (we miss you, Levar!). With attention spans shortening, libraries closing, and book publishers going broke, any chance to promote tomes lengthier than 140 characters is a step in the right direction.

Enter the Big Read, a National Endowment of the Arts program to promote reading and literature. The Center for Literature and Theater at Miami Dade College is getting in on the fun with a whole host of events inspired by the book The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Think flash mobs, Indian film screenings, and best of all, a Miami Stories Tumblr open to submissions from everyone.

See also: MDC Confucius Institute and MIFF Bring Chinese Cinema, Film Students Face Off For Place In Shanghai Film Festival

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Orange Is the New Black Author Piper Kerman to Speak in Miami

Award-winning author Piper Kerman is busting out of her frozen New York digs and making her way to the Magic City, which happens to be one of her favorite places to visit.

Kerman, who wrote Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison, will stop by to deliver the keynote speech at an event for the National Council of Jewish Women - Greater Miami section.

"I live in New York City, so it's actually rare to visit an American city which feels as multicultural and exciting as New York, but Miami is definitely one of those," Kerman said. "Not to mention much better weather."

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The Minimalists: Five Ways to Be Happy With Less Stuff

Categories: Literary

Courtesy of the Minimalists
Stuff. So much of our lives are spent wanting it, buying it, trying to keep it. We work 60-hour workweeks so we can fill our drawers and purses and closets and storage units and attics with stuff. We take pictures of our stuff to post on Instagram, spend weekends picking out more stuff to buy, talk about our stuff at cocktail parties.

Sure, we need some stuff. We need to eat stuff, use stuff, and wear stuff (in polite society, anyway). But how much stuff do we really need? And how much of our stuff actually brings value to our lives? That's the question Ohioans Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus began asking themselves when, in their late 20s, they realized they were outwardly successful but inwardly miserable.

The duo, who call themselves the Minimalists, recently penned a memoir titled Everything That Remains. Their book tour includes a stop at the Bookstore in the Grove next Monday, so we spoke with Millburn and gleaned some serious wisdom about living a happier life.

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NoViolet Bulawayo on We Need New Names and Michael Jackson's Popularity in Zimbabwe

photo by Smeeta Mahanti
NoViolet Bulawayo: has a perfectly good name, thank you very much
In NoViolet Bulawayo's debut novel We Need New Names -- a finalist for this year's Man Booker Prize -- teenager Darling moves from Zimbabwe to Michigan, where she is struck by a rather large difference between Americans and the people back home.

In Zimbabwe, Darling thinks, fatness "did not interfere with the body; a neck was still a neck, a stomach a stomach, an arm an arm, a buttock a buttock. But this American fatness takes it to a whole 'nother level: the body is turned into something else -- the neck becomes a thigh, the stomach becomes an anthill, an arm a thing, a buttock a I don't even know what."

In fiction about Africa by non-Africans, it is jarringly common for the entire continent to be exoticized into a morass of clichés, a single place in need of saving and understanding by the West. But Bulawayo, who also moved from Zimbabwe to America (and who will be reading at this weekend's Miami Book Fair International), inverts this trope to put her outsider's eye on the grotesqueries of Western living.

"It's always been a personal interest of mine," Bulawayo says of the way the West appears to peoples living outside it. "As somebody who came from another culture, moved here and had to learn all the codes of behavior, I particularly wanted to flip the script."

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Miami Book Fair: Poet and Publisher Jonathan Galassi on Coming Out as Gay in His New Book

photo by Nancy Crampton
Like most poets, Jonathan Galassi is also the president of one of the world's most renowned publishing houses and is the foremost translator of Nobel Prize-winning Italian poet Eugenio Montale. He probably also has a cat.

Galassi runs Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which has Montale and 21 other Nobel laureates on its roster, as well as a phalanx of acclaimed authors -- Jamaica Kincaid, George Packer, Sam Lipsyte and August Kleinzahler among them -- who will be at this year's Miami Book Fair International. Galassi will be there, too, but as a Knopf author with his latest volume of poetry, Left-Handed.

"The book is about change, about stripping off layers and getting to reality," Galassi says. He readily volunteers the nature of this change: after two decades of marriage, Galassi divorced and came out as gay.

See also: Miami Book Fair International 2013: The Ten Best Events

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Cristina García Dethrones Castro in King of Cuba with Farts and Impotence

photo by Isabelle Selby
Cristina Garcia: proven to give dictators indigestion.
The first appearance of El Comandante, the ersatz Fidel Castro in Cristina García's King of Cuba, finds the enfeebled dictator confined to lead his revolution from his bed.

"The tyrant shifted onto his left arm, aiming his scrawny buttocks at the Straits of Florida, and released a sputtering, malodorous stream of flatus," she writes. "'Take that, you fat-livered idiots,' he muttered, slumping against his padded headboard."

What follows is a series of drastically increasing humiliations that García afflicts upon her fictitious dictator, of which impotence and assassination attempts are among the most mild.

"I'm not good at controlling myself, so I let quite a bit rip," Garcia laughs. It's the sort of novel whose author an egotistical autocrat might not readily welcome back into his country.

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O Miami Poetry Festival Returns in 2014, And Wants Your Ideas

Liz Tracy
There are a lot of things Miami does wrong -- particularly when it comes to our lack of cultural substance. But this city is also capable of utterly awesome and unique endeavors, an example of which is O, Miami, a cool, classy tribute to the written word.

This festival originally kicked off in 2011, skipped 2012, then came back with a blaze of glory earlier this year. And now, according to founder P. Scott Cunningham, the interactive poetry extravaganza is officially becoming an annual event.

See also: O, Miami Food Poems: #thatssomiami

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Karen Russell on Ghost Stories in the Grove: "In Miami, Doesn't It Always Feel Like Halloween?"

Categories: Literary

Karen Russell.jpg
Karen Russell is Miami's most frightening storyteller
Karen Russell writes some of the scariest, most haunting stories around. The 32-year-old also happens to be from Miami, of course. So we thought we'd take a moment on Halloween -- the most terrifying day of the year -- to ask her how local ghosts and ghouls shaped her literary career.

"In Miami, doesn't it always feel like Halloween?" she said with a laugh. "Nothing is really flagged for you as a kid as any more strange than any other thing because it's all getting narrated in this one register. So it's like, uh, a tropical storm rained tarantulas down on US-1. Or The Mango Strut parade, you know, with a man with an orange on his head wandering around in tights. Then it's school time. Time to learn fractions!"

Click through to read our complete Halloween interview with Russell, including her fear that dead bodies will crawl out of the Grove like crabs.

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Pure Imagination Live Returns to Sweat: Parallel Universes and Oldies

Bridget Davis
An illustrated take on Gajewski's "Russkie Brewskie" story on display at Sweat Records.
Last Saturday, a packed house took over Sweat Records for the 20th installment of Pure Imagination, a live performance of storytelling, music, and quantum physics. And as usual, creator Matt Gajewski's intellectual creativity was on full display.

At the record store's small wooden stage, the Mountain Dew Code Red Terror Alert provided jazzy, instrumental musical accompaniment to Gajewski dark, comedic story about parallel universes titled "Parallelism." Told in five parts, the story details the adventures of a protagonist that leaps from setting to setting through space and time, and morphs into various characters.

"In one universe, Schrödinger's Cat Stevens has a Friday evening gig at Churchill's in Little Haiti....In one universe one of your Craigslist roommates who doesn't listen to Celine Dion starts dating a girl named Peaches....In one universe you go on another first date in a bar called Russkie Brewskie."

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