This is the first book I've read by Jon Ronson, so I don't know if his approach here and writing style are typical. I was drawn by the subject matterThis is the first book I've read by Jon Ronson, so I don't know if his approach here and writing style are typical. I was drawn by the subject matter but found the writing--especially the first two-thirds--curious: casual, talky, in a way that felt dumbed-down. That I was familiar with all of the cases he discussed in the first 2/3rds of the book did not help. Still, it almost felt like the book was aimed at a young adult readership. The last third is better as he gets off the worn path of recent cases of public shaming by social media and into more off-beat investigative research. Still the book felt padded, light, not as penetrating as I would have liked. It is not a spoiler, it seems to me, to include here one nugget of his research: quoting James Gilligan, Ronson writes, "'Universal among the violent criminals was the fact that they were keeping a secret, a central secret. And that secret was that they felt ashamed, chronically ashamed, acutely ashamed...I have yet to see a serious act of violence that was not provoked by the experience of feeling shamed or humiliated, disrespected and ridiculed. As children, these men were shot at, axed, scalded, beaten, strangled, tortured, drugged, starved... [the list goes on]. For others, words alone shamed and rejected, insulted and humiliated, dishonored and disgraced, tore down their self-esteem, and murdered their soul.' For each of them the shaming 'occurred on a scale so extreme, so bizarre, and so frequent that one cannot fail to see that the men who occupy the extreme end of the continuum of violent behavior in adulthood occupied an equally extreme end of the continuum of violent childhood abuse earlier in life.'" Such research that Ronson uncovers in his pursuit of public shaming seems to me more than worthwhile....more
Sy Montgomery is a good writer but I strongly recommend the essay she wrote for Orion a few years back over this book. The essay is very moving and inSy Montgomery is a good writer but I strongly recommend the essay she wrote for Orion a few years back over this book. The essay is very moving and incredibly revealing about the otherness and being of an octopus as well as the connection that is possible between such a being and a human. While the essay felt distilled, rich, with no extra weight, the books feels chatty, padded, diluted....more
update: Well-researched and written, a fascinating account of six white women who passionately involved themselves, to varying degrees of success, in tupdate: Well-researched and written, a fascinating account of six white women who passionately involved themselves, to varying degrees of success, in the lives of Blacks in Harlem.
Heard the author speak yesterday at the Mount, Edith Wharton's home. Highly informative, passionate and engaging. Looks like a great read. ...more
The sort of story that once started, I have to finish in nearly one sitting. A fascinating account of a woman whose childhood was spent in part amongThe sort of story that once started, I have to finish in nearly one sitting. A fascinating account of a woman whose childhood was spent in part among monkeys in the Colombian jungle (as a five-year-old, she was kidnapped, then abandoned in the jungle). Later, surrendering herself to a stranger, she is sold to become a slave-worker in a brothel but her wits, along with a kindly neighbor's warning, keep her from actually becoming a prostitute. Street life and more follow but Marina's wits, well-honed in the art of survival, as well her need for genuine human connection, keep her safe for the most part and alive.
I am fascinated by wild child stories: what makes us human? What makes us 'civilized'? What are we without the human family? Marina's account of her time among monkeys adds to my appreciation of animal intelligence. More than once she is saved by a member of the clan: once, terribly ill from something she ate, she is brought to water by an elder, made to drink and hence, vomit.
Some of the other goodreads reviews doubt the veracity of the account. I do not, or at least no more than I doubt other memoirs to be 100% "true." Intrinsic in the act of writing about one's life is embellishment, and the line between memory and imagination is not always clearly drawn in our mind. But those who doubt, it seems to me, fail to consider both the incredible cruelty humans beings can have for others, the mercenary ends we engage in, the extent of human trafficking, and the capacity that the animal world, in particular primates, have for connection, empathy, and awareness.
There is one aspect that I'm not sure I believe and that is the actual length of time Marina lived with the Capuchin monkeys. Looking back with her daughter, she calculates time in terms of how much her daughter's hair grew in childhood with memories of how much her own had and comes up with x number of years. But who's to say whether her own hair would have grown at the same rate, especially given her limited diet, and more to the point, how can time spent alone as a child be calculated? I remember summers feeling like years... Seasons in the jungle are not so noticeable, so not a reliable marker of time passing. I question whether she really spent the 3 or 4 years she calculates. I don't doubt, however, that the author did live with monkeys, followed their ways and learned much that was important: what to eat, where to sleep, for example, along with playfulness and affection....more