In a few days, South Florida takes off its dunce cap, trades its oversized reflector shades for a pair of sturdy bifocals, and flees the thumping club beats for the quietest stall at the library. It’s that great time of year when the Miami Book Fair brings the world’s literary elite to town to talk writing, politics, religion, and the enduring search for the great American novel.
The fair consists of a slew of events spread over eight days, but the main draw is the Street Fair, happening Friday through Sunday. New Times interviewed some of its biggest headliners. Unless otherwise noted, these authors will speak at the Chapman Conference Center (Building 3, Second Floor, Room 3210).
What would happen if Judy Blume rewrote Dante’s Inferno to star a sexually repressed teenager who thinks she’s in hell for overdosing on pot? There’s only one author alive qualified to tackle that question; luckily Chuck Palahniuk, maverick author of Fight Club and Choke, decided to give it a shot.
The result is a rollicking trek through a land of cascading shit waterfalls and oceans of hot vomit populated by Hitler and a cast of teen stereotypes out of the Breakfast Club. Palahniuk uses the gruesome setting in Damned, his new novel, to skewer America’s Puritan obsession with healthiness.
“My books all start with some horrible, unresolved thing in my own life,” Palahniuk says. “Before I wrote this, I was taking care of my mom with cancer.”
Palahniuk has cultivated a reputation for shocking audiences. One infamous short story, called Guts, is so brutal that when Palahniuk reads aloud on his tours, dozens have reportedly fainted. But in Damned — which has its own share of stomach-churning encounters — and other works, Palahniuk says his real goal is a legit human response.