I Wasn’t Canceled. I Was Problematized.
Maybe it's worth aspiring to.
Last week, someone I know from the literary world emailed me to ask if I’d be her interlocutor when she came to my city on her upcoming book tour. I was elated. I used to do this sort of thing all the time but haven’t been asked in years.
In fairness, no one gets asked to do anything anymore; at least it can feel that way. Live events were decimated by the pandemic and are unlikely to make a complete comeback. But in my case, something else might be in play as well. When it comes to literary events, I might be a tiny bit canceled.
Or maybe not. Honestly, I don’t know. But falling out of favor with your old crowd is kind of like being exposed to a virus. Whether or not you’re actually sick, you still risk spreading your contaminant to others, so there’s a moral obligation to tell people what they might be getting into by being in your presence. That’s why, as excited as I was by the prospect of sitting in the event space of an indie bookstore with a handheld mic and asking a fellow author “about your writing process,” I felt the need to make sure my friend was comfortable putting me on the bill.
So I explained that while everything would almost surely be just fine—besides, this was her event, not mine—there was possibly a certain kind of (purely hypothetical) indie bookstore employee that maybe kinda sorta would be less than jazzed about my participation. I added that since she and I had last crossed paths, there was also possibly a certain kind of book buyer who might wince at the sight of my name on an events calendar. I suggested that she might want to contact the bookstore events manager and float my name alongside a few others and gauge the response. (The fact that authors are now charged with coordinating their own events is a whole other pitiful matter.)
I also suggested that I was probably crazy for thinking all this and she should take it for what it was worth. Also, I had no idea what it was worth.
Of course I’m crazy. Writers are crazy. I’m also not blind.