I just read Jon Ronson’s, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, and I found it fascinating. Ronson looks at the way social media, particularly the phenomenon of the Twitter pile on, impacts people on both sides of the shaming equation. Targets of shaming struggle with PTSD, job loss, relationship troubles, and depression. Those of us who pile on get the buzz of righteous indignation, of having our feelings validated by the crowd at little personal cost, for we are a huge distance from those we attack. We don’t see the results. We also become more homogenized out of fear that our turn to be shamed may be just around the corner. We hold back on dumb jokes, questionable opinions, and off the cuff comments as they could result in our own lambasting. Ronson addresses both warranted and unwarranted actions that have spurred shaming. He describes where we are all vulnerable—in the gap between who we present to the world and our true selves. The gap between the truth and the façade is rife with possibility for unveiling and shaming. Ronson doesn’t leave us there, he also discusses how we recover from shaming. Really, such a thoughtful book.
I teach memoir, fiction and generative writing workshops, and I’m part of a writing group, but the truth is, I always enjoy being a student. It’s illuminating and valuable for me as a teacher to be on the other side of the table, to feel the creep of insecurity when one’s own work is about to be discussed, and the slight worry when you float ideas and opinions to the group. Being a student keeps me humble and open, qualities I want to cultivate for the rest of my life. When I can afford it, I really love going to summer writing conferences. I have been a fellow at Sewanee and Writers in Paradise, a participant at Tin House, a teacher at Community of Writers, a presenter and participant at The Muse and the Marketplace. I recommend all of these opportunities to you. And, I recognize that sometimes we just can’t get away from our responsibilities. In the past year or so I’ve enrolled in online writing classes from One Story. You probably know them for their lovely magazine. They also periodically offer short writing classes on topics such as editing, prompts, story shape and plot. In fact, I’ve just enrolled in the plot class. I’ve been happy with the quality of the discussions and assignments. So, if you’re feeling a little lackluster sitting alone at your desk, give it a try.
Okay, this is a sort of eat/read amalgamation. I just finished, Killing It, by Camas Davis, a memoir about her pursuit of food from pasture to table. It was a fascinating education in artisanal butchering, and I’ve never craved meat so much as I did while reading her book. In fact, one day I drove across town to buy jamon iberico as I was so moved and tempted by her salty descriptions. I simply wrapped the slices around plump black mission figs because I had no patience for a more careful preparation. But, look at this option here for a terrific toast and this one for a vegetable side dish. Don’t cast aside the simplicity of wrapping a slice around a chunk of nutty, buttery Manchego, or setting a salty bit on top of deviled eggs.