Beaches? Yes. Bars? Yes. Books? Rarely.
Once a year, this city, more famous as a place to party than as a literary Mecca, becomes the destination of choice for the U.S. literati. They descend upon Miami and breathe life into its book fair, where thousands of people browse the stalls, buy books and have the opportunity to hear and meet authors.
Organizers say this year will be an even bigger celebration as they mark the Miami Book Fair International's 25th anniversary from Nov. 9 to Nov. 16. They expect some of the world's most acclaimed writers to attend, including Salman Rushdie, Nathan Englander and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as some locally based talent.
Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses" led to a fatwa, or religious decree, by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 ordering his death. It forced Rushdie to live for years under police protection.
"Of course I don't regret writing it. It seems to me there is nothing wrong with the novel. The novel is fine. The attack on the novel is the problem," he said. "It would be a strange world in which writers were asked to be regretful every time somebody attacks them. I can't imagine my shelf of books without it. ... I think it's as good a book as I have written."
Regarding the recent controversy with Sherry Jones' "The Jewel of Medina," where there were fears the novel about the Prophet Muhammad's child bride might lead to violence and threats, Rushdie said he doesn't think books should be suppressed.
"It's clear that the writer in question, if she'd been afraid, she wouldn't have written the book. It's easy to whip up the fear. That's, I suppose, what happened," he said.
In his latest novel, "The Enchantress of Florence," Rushdie says he wanted to find an interesting way to tell a story of "cultural collision." He had been going to the city of the Medicis since childhood and has returned many times.
"I have been trying now for many years to find stories to tell which talk about cultural collision, contact, conflict ... not just the negative, but the positive aspects of that," Rushdie said.
As far as writing, Rushdie said: "People assume that books, even if they are fictional, are somehow autobiographies in disguise. It just comes from a different place in your head. I find that the reasons that I write books have almost nothing to do with autobiography or at least they do in the most general sense."
Rushdie says he's pleased to have had longevity as a writer.
"It's nice to know that I am not yet dead," he said. "I find it very odd to be turning into the older generation. ... It's very strange to suddenly have this long life in books. I mean, I like it."
'Illusion of power'
During the fair, Rushdie will share the stage with Nathan Englander, whose latest book, "The Ministry of Special Cases," is set in Buenos Aires.
"I got interested in the story of Buenos Aires. ... I got interested in the way people love their cities," Englander said.
Englander, who was raised in an Orthodox Jewish community, now proclaims himself a "failed atheist." He says he's too superstitious to not believe in God, but that he isn't religious.
Englander lived in Jerusalem for several years. He says he feels that peace in the Middle East is possible, but it also made him see what it means to fight a war at home.
"It's when I became aware that there (are) multiple realties," he said. "I saw what it was to be part of the world. ... We don't feel the war here."
It took him 10 years to write the book.
"It was really all-consuming. It was just my life's work," he said.
He is now working on a translation of the Haggadah, the book that serves as a guide to the Passover Seder.
James W. Hall, who has interwoven South Florida into his 15 novels, said after the book fair was created, Miami became a destination for writers.
"It's a national stage where people meet people that they wouldn't have met otherwise. It's a very unique platform," he said.
Hall is now writing a book about common factors among best-sellers — and good prose isn't one of them, he said. They include: high nonfiction content and a lot of information.
So, what makes him write for 10 to 12 hours a day?
"It becomes a world that you can control, that you can have some say in," he said. "It gives you the illusion of power."
Mitchell Kaplan, the fair's co-founder and owner of the independent bookstores Books & Books, said Miami has become a vibrant literary home to authors and poets.
"I think there is still room for lots of growth. I think Miami will continue to grow and diversify as a literary community," he said.