Friday, April 16, 2010

What If They Had a London Book Fair and the Americans Didn't Come?

Earlier this week I was all set to send out another ho-hum blog post about how my husband was once again heading off to the London Book Fair for the 11th year in a row. But as most people know by now, something happened.

The car service picked Jason up at 3:45am yesterday and took him to the airport to catch his Chicago flight, and from there on to London. At 7am, as my daughter and I were getting dressed, the Today show came on with the news of the volcano eruption in Iceland. I gasped. As my brain was processing how absolute the Heathrow ground halt was, the phone rang. Indeed, Jason had been advised to get off the Chicago flight (which was delayed) and go home. He rebooked through Paris for today, thinking things might improve. (Meanwhile, I drove about 100 miles round trip to fetch him, take him home, and then go to work.)

By this morning, of course, the ash situation worsened, and e-mails were flying back and forth among him and his colleagues here and in Upper Saddle River. The group's annual rights summit was scheduled for tomorrow in Dame Marjorie's private dining room overlooking the Thames from The Strand. There was no way they'd make it in time for that. So they decided to cancel it. And they also decided that the travel situation would make it nearly impossible to get there in time for the fair itself on Monday. So they surrendered to Vulcan and cancelled their trips altogether.

Jason has spent the entire day undoing all the work and plans that he's been making for months: cancelling dozens of publisher meetings, hotel rooms, flights, trains, dinners, and more. He's absolutely devastated and feels out of sorts to be here and not there. But many of his publishers responded that they, too, would not be able to make it to the fair. What can all of humankind do when Mother Nature kicks over our intricately constructed societal anthills?

Fair officials are still planning to go ahead with the event. But periodic searches of the #LBF10 hashtag on Twitter indicate that the British will likely end up doing a lot of talking to one another because even their European counterparts can't get across the Channel in time. Still, it will be a great economic loss to everyone. Such a shame.

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