Tuesday night brought a respite from the subject du jour — politics — at Miami Book Fair. But only fleetingly.
Novelist Geraldine Brooks, author of “The Secret Chord,” about the Biblical King David, referenced the election almost immediately. “It's been a tough week,” she said after a rough day of travel that made her slightly late for her appearance. “We lost Leonard Cohen, Gwen Ifill — and the country.”
The jibes at last week's presidential election dispensed with, Brooks spoke about the perils for a writer of historical fiction — “I think the odds are very high of getting it wrong,” she said — and the power of words and how she chooses them.
The story of King David — warrior, poet, musician — is the first political biography, she said, adding that in her mind, humans really haven't changed that much over the centuries.
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“I believe the human heart hasn't changed, that we're much the same creatures driven by love and hate," she said.
The second speaker of the evening, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, might disagree. Interviewed by WLRN's Tom Hudson, she discussed — what else? — the Donald Trump presidency, how it happened and what comes next.
Dowd, whose columns on the election have just been collected in “The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics," told Hudson that she once told the president-elect that during his campaign she told him that he didn't sound like the man she'd covered all those years in New York. Trump, she reported, replied, “I got to No.1 by saying these things, so I kept saying them.
“He's basically a salesman,” she said. “In essence he's thinking of it [the presidency] as one of his licensing deals. He is basically licensing it to Mike Pence.”
But, she added: "He listened to the voters. He heard that anxiety and paid attention to that."
Dowd also talked about outgoing President Barack Obama, whom she feels mistakenly backed Hillary Clinton, part of the machine he had defeated eight years ago. But she believes Clinton will be just fine, thank you.
"She is going to end up winning the popular vote, and she will take her passions and do something wonderful with them."
Even so, she told the large audience, the 2016 election was like nothing any of us have ever seen, fueled by what she called "identity crises" for Americans and political parties alike.
"This election will have profound effects in many areas for decades to come.’’
If You Go
What: Miami Book Fair
When: Through Nov. 20
Where: Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., downtown Miami
Tickets and information: www.miamibookfair.com
Schedule of events this week
Wednesday: Tavis Smiley, 8 p.m.; $15
Thursday: Annette Gordon-Reed and Peter S. Onuf, 6 p.m.; Jeffrey Toobin, 8 p.m.; $15
Friday: An Evening with the National Book Awards Winners and Finalists, 6 p.m.; $15
Street fair: Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; $8 for adults; $5 for 13-18 and over 62; 12 and under free. Bernie Sanders will speak at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Chapman Auditorium. Tickets are sold out for the free event. Those interested in attending can try to get tickets at the standby tickets line at the auditorium.