Gene Weingarten: Why would you question a last-minute invitation to a book festival?

From Gene Weingarten’s column in Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine:

The good news came in from my publisher just recently. I had been invited to the prestigious Tucson Festival of Books to speak about my new book.

I was so glad for the offer that I didn’t really stop to wonder about a curious fact: The event had been planned since August but now it was just two weeks away and for some reason I had to give them a yes or no immediately. Eventually I mentioned this to my friend and editor, Tom the Butcher, whom I can always count on for an ego boost.

“Virus,” he said. Some speaker probably canceled because they don’t want to die, Tom theorized, so they’re probably flinging you out there just to see what happens. . . .

I informed Tom that his supposition was preposterous. As soon as the words came out of my mouth my laptop issued a little ding. It was a Google alert; I get them for any new Web item that includes my name. In this case, it was a newspaper story, under the headline “Authors cancel appearances at Tucson Festival of Books, cite coronavirus concerns.” Mo Rocca, the author, comedian and a mainstay of NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” was one of the cancelers, and, according to this story, he had been replaced by me. . . .

I had been to the Tucson festival once before, and it was a beautiful, terrific, well-run venue for displays of the sort of blatant authorial ego book festivals tend to encourage. . . .

Then came another news alert. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new advisory: No one over 60 (um, check) should take commercial transportation (check), especially planes (check), most especially if they have a compromised immune system (check, from a long-ago bout with hepatitis).

I canceled the trip.

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