Miami Book Fair authors dish on dads

 

cogle@miamiherald.com

Neither rain nor traffic nor a Miami Heat game kept the audience of Miami Book Fair International at home Tuesday night (although anyone at the 8 p.m. session could be forgiven for hoping the Hawks took the Heat to overtime just to avoid the postgame gridlock).

On the third night of the fair, married authors (for 16 years) Pat Conroy and Cassandra King sat together on stage and told stories about their books (both of them) and their families (mostly his).

What did we learn during the warm exchanges and the great stories? He is fond of introducing her as the author of 50 Shades of Grey or simply saying she writes “pornography” (she doesn’t; her latest novel, Moonrise , is a modern day retelling of Rebecca). She says she “always holds my breath when Pat’s talking about me because I never know what he’s going to say.”

“Amazingly,” he says, she actually liked his father.

Conroy’s father, the subject of his novel The Great Santini, is also the subject of his new memoir, The Death of Santini, which Conroy says he hopes is “the last book” about what he calls his “ridiculous” family.

“I’ve been writing about them for 40 years,” he said. But there’s good reason for that obsession: “Because of the way I was raised, I will never feel like a good writer.”

The evening’s next guest admitted to being a little bit obsessed about his father, too.

“Every f------ story I’ve ever written is about some Indian dude with father issues,” said Sherman Alexie, author of the story collection Blasphemy and his classic debut The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, which won a PEN/Hemingway Award.

Alexie - who was introduced by Edwidge Danticat, who proclaimed herself a Sherman Alexie fan – was funny and engaging, playing Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby to introduce his poem Roll Baby Roll. (He had little luck getting the crowd to sing along, sadly - or maybe not so sadly.) He joked about how Native American-owned casinos that book old ’70s acts are revenge: “As Indians we rely on nostalgia. And now we’re in charge of your mythological past.”

He told the young crowd that he liked waking up in Miami – “I look like everybody!” - but confessed that he didn’t care much about the beach because he’s a “bad Indian.”

“People ask me about the beach, but to me the outdoors is one big hallway between buildings,” he said.

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