Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Love Miami...Ft. Liquordale, Too...

By Pablo Levine

I love Miami.

I love the local color, the Hispanic influence, the sense that you're not in Kansas--or even L.A.--anymore.

I love stone crabs and key lime pie at Joe's on Miami Beach. I love the fish tacos and grilled mahi-mahi at Paul Flanigan's Quarterdeck Lounge on Fort Liquordale Beach.

And I love the Miami Book Fair, a week-long extravaganza of 300 authors, several hundred thousand readers (some estimate close to half-a-million). Last week, I greatly enjoyed serving on a mystery panel with South Florida crime mavens James Grippando and Barbara Parker. Bob Williamson, head of the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, kept the show running. The crowds at the street fair were sidewalk-to-sidewalk. The corn arepas were hot; the mojitos were cold; and as usual, I-95 was closed more than once with fatal accidents.

Lately, Renee and I have begun staying at hotels on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Clean, uncrowded, great for a five-mile walk as the sun comes up over the Atlantic. Water, a clear turquoise and warm enough for a morning swim. Try that in Santa Monica in November!

For serious lap swimming, I always jog down to the International Swimming Hall of Fame for its 50 meter lap pool. The locker room could use some work, but the public pools there are great.

There was a great party for all the "Miami Noir" authors at Scotty's Landing in Coconut Grove...except my flight got in too late...and I missed it!

Wonderful signings at Books & Books in Coral Gables and Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach. Standing room only. (Okay, they're small rooms). Old friends, new friends. Here's a question raised by a reader, a question that's close to my heart. "Why aren't young people reading?"

I looked around the bookstore. The median age of my audience was a suntanned 55. "Good point," I said. "But what about Harry Potter?"

"A one-time deal," the reader replied.

I decided to do a completely unscientific survey on the flight home. I roamed up and down the aisles on the American flight from MIA to LAX. Not very many children aboard...and NONE reading books, at least during my stroll. A three-year-old girl, who sat behind her parents, had a DVD player and watched movies continuously throughout the flight. At least, she stayed quiet.

I expanded my survey to adults. In one section of the plane, there were 63 occupied seats. Some people slept. A few leafed through magazines. Many watched the on-board movie, "You, Me, & Dupree." Lots worked or played on their computers. And two middle-aged men read books. Two out of sixty-three!

A few years ago, it seemed there was an FAA regulation requiring all passengers to carry a book by either John Grisham, Dan Brown, or Mitch Albom on all flights. They must have repealed the rule.

I hate to keep ranting that the sky is falling where reading is concerned. I take heart in all the people who show up at book and library events and who take part in these blogs. But still, I feel a sense of gloom about the future of reading. To paraphrase John D. MacDonald's famous essay on the importance of written word, "The person who does not read has no advantage over the person who cannot."

By Paul


  1. Miami sounds like fun. Wish I had been there.

    As for readers, I wonder, too. I've taken mini-surveys on planes and paid attention in airports and I'm a bit dismayed. On the plane the competition also seems to be iPods as well as laptops and mini-DVD players. I only hope some of these people read at some other point in time.

    And I love that JDM quote.

    Mark Terry

  2. !Hola! Pablo. Muy interesante y muy bueno. Mi gusto mucho. I think the ipods and such are doing to reading as e-mails are doing to writing, but I've done no surveys, so that's just a guesstimate. I give books for Christmas and birthdays, especially to the grandkids who much prefer giftcards to Abercrombie & Fitch, and so I'm not quite sure where I'm held in their hearts. American Girl books, and Lea Wait's childrens books; this year I'll give them James'.

    I need help: please, somebody, explain to me the L.A. Times' bestseller list! #12 this week in NF is a new translation of Vergil's Aeneid. Does this tell us something about the reading public? My own college Latin translations of the first six books, of many of Cicero's orations and Horace's satires, Ovid's Metamorphoses and some of the letters of St. Jerome were not too far below lame (though I did avoid the Fabio-covered translations attributed to gushy coeds: "I dream of a man and his arms...), but #12 on the bs list? How does it work?

    Thanking you all in advance....

    Tom, T.O.

  3. Whoops--knew I should have proofread: the Aeneid was #12 in FICTION.


  4. Dang, Paul. You've got to rub in all of the nice weather and fun summery things to do, don't you? It's getting too darn close to brass monkey weather here, up north. I keep tripping on all of the brass marbles... :-D
    Sounds like a lot of fun down there.

    I always read on planes, 'cause I don't always like the movies - if there are any. Last two trips across the country, I took my walkman and listened to 'Sapphire and Steel' british audio plays.


  5. On the other hand, a few days ago I walked into the salon where I get my hair cut and saw a woman reading Our Jacqueline's book, PARDONABLE LIES. I almost said, "Omigod! She's a Naked Author." So glad I maintained a bit of decorum.

    Pablo, I'll agree, Miami has an ambiance all its own. I've only been there a few times but it always strikes me as sort of eerie and dangerous.

  6. I have only been to Miami once, with my Uncle Hunt. He used his car ham radio to get directions to Calle Ocho--we wanted Cuban food, but the other ham people were a bit suspicious of our motives.

    The kids I know are big readers, if that's any help. I think it's because we keep them good and bored, so they've taken up books in self-defense...

    And reading the words "Ft. Liquordale" was definite spit-take material!

  7. Beats me. I'm still trying to figure out what a "helmut" is! Gotta quit reading all those thrillers set in Germany..., or start proofing.

    Tom, T.O.

  8. Tom you silly rabbit, helmuts are head-gear worn by people who drive fast German cars. As for iPods--I'm pretty sure they're something brought to earth by UFOs.

  9. Honest to God, once you get one, you'll be sold on it. Just for a moment, imagine having your ENTIRE record collection (er, CD collection... you know what those are, right?) in a package the size of a cigarette pack.

    (Now imagine losing it...hmmm...)

  10. "Silly rabbit," Patty? Of course! That's it--"helmuts" are for VW Rabbit Drivers Wanted, and Elmer sings "Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!"

    I should have seen it.

    Tom, T.O.

  11. "Silly rabbit," Patty? Of course! That's it--"helmuts" are for VW Rabbit Drivers Wanted, and Elmer sings "Kill the wabbit! Kill the wabbit!"

    I should have seen it.

    Tom, T.O.