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At the time, he wasn’t, but this spring, he emailed me and said he was working on something new.He’d tell me the old story, but only if I listened to the new one.
Then, in 2015, he wrote a viral, and virally hated, essay for .
It was called “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.” The piece was based on a simple and not particularly controversial premise: Boudinot, who had just quit his teaching job, argued that writing cannot be taught.
Punishment is one thing, but punishment in front of a crowd is a whole different animal.
Ironically, writing a book about public shaming led to Jon Ronson’s shaming as well.
In one particularly memorable scene in his book, Ronson writes about Lehrer’s attempt to publicly atone while giving the keynote speech at a journalism conference.
As he spoke onstage, tweets reacting to his talk were projected on a giant screen.I agreed, and over the course of our conversations, I realized he was right: His new story was far bigger and more interesting than the old one. It follows the stories of people like Justine Sacco, whose poorly worded joke on Twitter led to a massive pile-on and cost her her job in 2013, and Jonah Lehrer, the best-selling author and former contributor who, among other crimes, was busted making up Bob Dylan quotes.Sacco and Lehrer both apologized for their sins, but in neither case did it particularly help.I recorded my reaction, and when I listen back now, I can hear myself say, “Jesus Christ. Before everything fell apart, Boudinot was a writer and teacher.He’s written two novels, two collections of short stories, and a collection of essays, and for a time, he was an instructor at Goddard College’s Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program.I handed them over, and he plugged them into his i Phone. “Just listen.” Boudinot pressed play, and all of a sudden, I had the uncanny sense of being in a puddle. This is not where he would have envisioned his career landing just a few years ago, but then something happened that derailed his life as he knew it.“Very few people have heard what you’re about to experience,” he said. It sounded like water dripping on leaves, but unlike traditional audio, the sound seemed to move around in space. He lost his friends, his colleagues, his career, and he became a pariah in the community he’d spent decades as a part of.Initially, the audience was with him, but then, something shifted, and the commentators quickly turned vicious.“By mid-apology,” Ronson writes, “it seemed irrelevant whether the criticisms had legitimacy.You’re either born with talent, or you’re not—and most of his students, he wrote, were not. “No one cares about your problems if you're a shitty writer,” he wrote in the essay’s most pointed section.“Just because you were abused as a child does not make your inability to stick with the same verb tense for more than two sentences any more bearable.