Three Politicos to Read, Discuss Tomes at Miami Book Fair

The 2010 Miami Book Fair International, one of the premiere cultural arts events in South Florida, is already underway, christened last night with a sold-out evening with none other then George W. Bush (Say what you want about his politics, but is there a bigger “get” right now in the entire literary world?).

The stars keep coming, with Christopher McDougall and Robert Goolrick on Tuesday night, cult filmmaker John Waters on Wednesday night and Pat Conroy on Thursday night. More authors than I could possibly list will flood Miami Dade College in downtown Miami from Friday to Sunday, which also features the great street fair, offering new, rare and discount books.

Author events will run constantly from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Sunday, withPatti Smith, Jonathan Franzen, Meghan McCain and Salman Rushdie among the luminaries. As a political nut, I’m most interested in the news media figures hawking their books this weekend, and I got a chance to read three of them in advance. Here’s what I thought (Almost all of the authors, including the ones discussed here, will read at the Chapman Conference Center at Miami Dade College, 300 N.E. Second Ave., Miami).

Willie Geist, reading “American Freakshow” alongside Dave Barry at 10 a.m. Saturday

I enjoy Geist in small doses, which are the only kind of doses in which he appears on MSNBC. The host of “Way Too Early” on the network’s coveted 5:30 a.m. slot and a cohost on its succeeding program, “Morning Joe,” Geist offers a light-hearted, satirical spin on the day’s news, sports and pop-culture. He tackles all three areas in his humor book “American Freakshow,” spinning fictitious and absurdist yarns involving everyone from Barack Obama to Sarah Palin to Lindsay Lohan. Some of the ideas are creative and fresh; Geist envisions Bernie Madoff as the subject of a Friar’s Club-style roast in Hell, and he comments on the perversely funny perils of living in a totalitarian world through his “Kim Jong-Il Charity Golf Tournament.” But most of his yuks are second-rate, exhausted riffs on obvious targets: Bill Clinton and Tiger Woods are horndogs, George Bush is an idiot, etc.

Bill Press, reading “Toxic Talk: How the Radical Right Has Poisoned America’s Airwaves,” alongside John Avlon at 2:30 p.m. Sunday

Nationally syndicated progressive talk-radio host Press offers this bit of read meat for liberals, exposing the disgusting lies and propaganda spewed forth daily by right-wing radio hosts such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, and attempting (mostly unsuccessfully) to level the public airwaves with a little more balance. For the most part, Press is just as hyper-partisan as the pundits he derides, and a lot of his book just reads like sour grapes from a host who, like most liberals on the airwaves, hasn’t been able to build as powerful and devoted a listener base as the talking heads on the opposite side. As a regular listener to his radio show, I can confirm he’s much better on the air than in print.

Eugene Robinson, reading “DisIntegration: The Splintering of Black America” at 6 p.m. Thursday

By far the most studious and cerebral of the three authors I read in advance this year, Pulitzer Prize-winning economist and MSNBC contributor Robinson offers an intriguing premise: That “Black America” is no longer unified as it once was, instead splintering off into four distinct groups: the Mainstream, the Abandoned, the Transcendent and the Emergent. It’s a far more sobering, and less polarizing, read than most books you’ll find in the “politics” or “public affairs” sections of the bookstore, and its ambitious scope touches on everything from Jim Crow segregation to desegregation to the campaign and election of Barack Obama to Hurricane Katrina to “Precious,” offering a comprehensive Rosetta Stone to understand black culture in contemporary America – in all four of its geographic, economic and cultural shades. A must-read.