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Tampa Bay book lovers, get ready for a banner week

The next week is a literary lollapalooza in the Tampa Bay area.

Two lions of American literature come to town to talk about their writing: Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate, and award-winning novelist E.L. Doctorow.

In addition, the Tampa Jewish Community Center kicks off a celebration of Jewish Book Month that features appearances by eight nationally known authors.

As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, Eckerd College in St. Petersburg will present Collins, distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, on Wednesday.

Collins is known to poetry aficionados and NPR listeners for his beautifully crafted, often witty poems, anchored in the details of everyday life, and for his accessible, entertaining reading style.

Collins' books include Sailing Alone Around the Room and The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems. His most recent collection of poems is Ballistics, published in September; the New York Times praised it for its "enchanting show of sleight-of-hand."

On Thursday, the University of South Florida Humanities Institute will present Doctorow, professor of English and American letters at New York University, speaking about his novels. He revolutionized the historical novel with such works as Ragtime, World's Fair, The Book of Daniel and Billy Bathgate.

Doctorow's most recent novel, The March (2005), is a harrowing story of the Civil War based on Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's destructive sweep through the South, told in many voices. It won the PEN/Faulkner and National Book Critics Circle awards and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Doctorow will also speak on Friday at the Clearwater Main Library.

The Tampa Jewish Community Center's celebration of Jewish Book Month presents a wide range of authors of fiction, memoir, advice and children's books.

First up on Thursday is Roger Bennett, author of the nostalgically funny Camp Camp: Where Fantasy Island Meets Lord of the Flies, a collection of photos and memories from summer camps (not to mention a compilation of the worst of 1980s fashions).

On Saturday, sisters Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein will talk about and sign Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited. Their book recounts their separation as infants, adoption and discovery that they were part of a secret study of twins.

Other authors in the series in the following week include novelist Jeffrey Hantover (The Jewel Trader of Pegu), family expert Dr. Ruth Nemzoff (Don't Bite Your Tongue: How to Foster Rewarding Relationships With Your Adult Children), Rabbi Brad Hirschfield (You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism), memoirist Benyamin Cohen (My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith) and children's book author Anne-Marie Asner (Klutzy Boy).

Colette Bancroft can be reached at or (727) 893-8435.

. If you go

Meet the authors

Billy Collins speaks at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Fox Hall on the Eckerd College campus, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. The event is free.

E.L. Doctorow speaks at 7 p.m. Thursday at Marshall Center's Oval Theatre, University of South Florida, 4200 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. He will also speak at 10 a.m. Friday at the Clearwater Main Library, 100 N Osceola Ave. Both events are free.

Jewish Book Month Celebration begins with a free appearance and signing, plus singing and s'mores, by Roger Bennett (Camp Camp) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Tampa Jewish Community Center, 13009 Community Campus Drive.

Elyse Schein and Paula

Bernstein (Identical Strangers) will appear at a book signing and dessert reception at 8 p.m. Saturday at Congregation Rodeph Sholom, 2713 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa; tickets are $18. For a complete list of Jewish Book Month events, go to

Tampa Bay book lovers, get ready for a banner week 11/08/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 10, 2008 3:08pm]
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