Books

Book Fair opens with serious, funny topics — and beer!

Brenna Mello of Miami Beach does a little reading in between events inside The Swamp as the Miami Book Fair International opens Sunday, Nov.16, 2014 at Miami Dade College.
Brenna Mello of Miami Beach does a little reading in between events inside The Swamp as the Miami Book Fair International opens Sunday, Nov.16, 2014 at Miami Dade College. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

If you couldn’t find some way to entertain yourself at the kick-off of the Miami Book Fair International on Sunday, you weren’t looking hard enough.

The 31st annual fair — held at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus in downtown Miami through Nov. 23 — began with the serious and the topical (a discussion of Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality with author/attorneys David Boies and Theodore B. Olson); the artistic (music plus video plus live painting by Lebo); and the hilariously literary (comic writer Alexander McCall Smith, who discussed the best first lines in novels, etiquette issues involving white shoes and his non-partisan attitude vis-a-vis dogs and cats).

Also, there was beer. And it was brewed in South Florida. Thank you, Biscayne Bay Brewing Company.

Sunday marked the grand opening of The Swamp, home to all things Florida, including a bocce court, lavish murals by local street artists, food trucks, adult libations, performances and more. The Swamp, which will be open in the late afternoons and evenings throughout the week, may well turn out to be the pulsing heart of the fair, the perfect outdoor vantage point to enjoy Miami’s fall weather while the rest of the nation shivers.

On the literary end of things, McCall Smith kept the audience and himself laughing as he chatted about the latest installment of his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, The Handsome Man’s De Luxe Café. Hearing his pleased giggles could well end up being one of the week’s highlights.

“You only have to see him once to want to see him again,” fair chairman Mitchell Kaplan told the audience. He was right. Whether he was describing his role in The Really Terrible Orchestra, in which he plays at least part of a bassoon, or discussing his affection for young Bertie, the little boy who struggles with a pushy mother in his 44 Scotland Street series, McCall Smith, clad in his trademark kilt, struck a perfect balance between warmth and hilarity.

Fitting, though. McCall Smith is all about the smiles. “None of my books have an unhappy ending,” he assured the crowd.

You know what else they don’t have? Car chases.

“My readers are far too nervous for that,” he said, then added that he does take readers’ desires to heart.

“I added a chase with supermarket carts,” he explained, then giggled.

Monday at the fair

5-8:30 p.m.: The Swamp: Oscar Fuentes, The Biscayne Poet; Everyone’s a DJ; Swamp Shorts; screening of “Deep City: The Birth of Miami Sound”; DJ Le Spam.

6 p.m.: “An Evening With Patricia Cornwell,” Chapman Conference Center; $15

8 p.m.: “An Evening With Anne Rice,” Chapman; $15; come dressed in a vampire costume, post a selfie before her presentation (#MBFILestat) to win a bookstore gift certificate and a photo with the author.

All events take place at Miami Dade College, 300 NE Second Ave., downtown Miami. For tickets and more information, visit www.miamibookfair.com.

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