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Miami Book Fair: Big names for big readers

SouthFlorida.com

You're not going to see all 600-plus authors, musicians and artists appearing at the Miami Book Fair International. Don't even try. Beginning Nov. 16, the 31st annual literary jamboree once again will spread out across the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College and points beyond, kicking off with a day that will see Ira Glass dancing at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, a Weird Miami bus tour, a bocce ball tournament and a concert by the Miami band Suenalo. Yes, this is a book fair.

Mega-popular mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith will headline that first day's proper literary lineup, and as with the previous 30 Miami Book Fairs, this one will roll on with appearances by authors experiencing all levels of fame and working in all manner of genres. Following are 10 of the most notable.

Anne Rice: Considering how lifeless the vampire genre has become in recent years, what with "Twilight" and "True Blood" passing for gothic entertainment, it was only a matter of time before Rice returned to the most notorious bloodsucker since Dracula. "Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles" reintroduces a character even Tom Cruise couldn't kill. Since readers first met him in 1976, Lestat has been a rock star, a novelist and a contemporary Dante. Whether Rice should have dug up the 254-year-old Lestat once again is open for debate. The New York Times calls the new book "dreadful," and the Independent says Rice's writing here is "howlingly old-fashioned." Nevertheless, the author herself is an unpredictable kook — "Prince Lestat" is dedicated in part to Jon Bon Jovi — and it's difficult to imagine a reading by her being dull. 8 p.m. Nov. 17 in the Chapman Conference Center. Tickets cost $15.

Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Lonesome Dove," McMurtry will join Ossana in a discussion that will likely touch on the historical novels they've written together ("Pretty Boy Floyd," "Zeke and Ned") and the screenplay that earned them an Academy Award ("Brokeback Mountain"). Expect to hear a bit, too, about "The Last Kind Words Saloon," McMurtry's fictional retelling of the events leading up to the gunfight at the OK Corral. 6 p.m. Nov. 20 in the Chapman Conference Center. Tickets cost $15.

George Clinton, Questlove and Ben Greenman: "People come to George Clinton for stories, and there are plenty of them in the book," Greenman recently wrote in the New Yorker. "Tripping on acid in late-sixties Boston. Bringing a pet pig to London and watching as it shat on the steps of the Albert Memorial." Greenman heard these stories firsthand during the two years he spent working with Clinton on "Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?" the Parliament-Funkadelic leader's recently published memoir. As if getting Clinton to open up about his life weren't cool enough, Greenman also co-wrote "Mo Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove" with the Roots drummer and "Tonight Show" bandleader. Bring your dancing shoes. 5 p.m. Nov. 23 in the Chapman Conference Center. Free, but tickets are required.

John Cleese: If the idea of hundreds of people merrily chirping dialogue from "Monty Python's Flying Circus" makes you want to flip over a chessboard, stay far away from the Book Fair on Nov. 23. Cleese, a co-founder of the British comedy troupe whose fans can politely be called obsessive, will be in town to promote his new memoir, "So Anyway …" He was great in "Rat Race." 7 p.m. Nov. 23. Free, but tickets are required.

Joyce Carol Oates: By the time you finish reading this sentence, Oates may have written another book. After all, she's written well north of 70 of them. If that joke strikes you as hackneyed (it is) or hyperbolic (it's that, too), change the word "book" to "tweet," and you'll end up with an unfortunate truth. Truth because Oates appears to spend more time on Twitter than the Fail Whale, and unfortunate because amid harmless tweets about her beloved cat Cherie, musings on "Homeland" and ill attempts at topical humor ("Can a woman or a kitty mansplain?"), Oates will occasionally reveal the xenophobe ("'Cat food' in China actually is") and Islamophobe ("Something dispiriting about "Brotherhood" political parties--wonder what it is") lurking behind those popping eyes. Hopefully, she'll stick to talking about her new story collection, "Lovely, Dark, Deep." 8 p.m. Nov. 20 in the Chapman Conference Center. Tickets cost $15.

Jason Segel: Is he man or Muppet? Find out when the erstwhile star of "How I Met Your Mother" and co-writer of the 2011 movie "The Muppets" discusses "Nightmares!" the planned first chapter in a trilogy co-written with Kirsten Miller. 10 a.m. Nov. 22 in the Building 1 Auditorium. Free with book fair admission.

John Waters: "I was this 66-year-old, soaking-wet old person standing on an entrance ramp with a cardboard sign. Everyone that picked me up thought I was homeless," Waters told the Sun Sentinel in 2012 about his then-forthcoming, wackadoo travelogue "Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes His Way Across America." The iconoclastic director of "Pink Flamingos" and "Serial Mom" presumably won't have to use his thumb to get to the fair, but keep an eye out for him on the streets of Miami, nonetheless. 4 p.m. Nov. 22 in the Chapman Conference Center. Free, but tickets are required.

Miami Book Fair

When: Nov. 16-23

Where: Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami

Cost: Prices vary; free Street Fair admission Nov. 21; $8 admission Nov. 22-23

Contact: MiamiBookFair.com

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