What do Sarah Palin and novelist Alice Hoffman have in common?…

…besides an unfortunate fondness for Twitter? Thin skin.

Here in Alaska, we’re all familiar by now with the erratic and manic manner Palin employed in her recent resignation speech (and follow-up Tweets) – defensively and unattractively promoting herself on the way out, while bashing anyone who has dared question or criticize her.

The Palin explosion reminded me of another very recent clash of egos. Here’s the summary from salon.com about Alice Hoffman’s attack of self-defensive rage, directing at a book reviewer who gave her a mixed review:

Smarting from a so-so review of “The Story Sisters” in the Boston Globe, the prolific novelist tweeted her fury to the world. She came out swinging, calling reviewer Roberta Silman “a moron,” quickly moving on to “idiot,” then expanding her repertoire to dis the newspaper and the city of Boston itself. But the real jaw-dropper in Hoffman’s two dozen plus tweets on the subject was her suggestion that “If you want to tell Roberta Silman off, her phone is [Silman’s phone number and email address]. Tell her what u think of snarky critics.”

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Those of us who are not as stoic or silent as we’d like to be might recognize a good literary lesson in these oddly paired celebrity dust-ups.

If I ever doubted it before, I’m sure of it now: Dignified silence is usually the best response, for both politicians and authors. One might think that threatening a book reviewer or delivering a long, self-pitying speech that climaxes with a quote from a refrigerator magnet (ah – our literary governor, how I will miss her) will earn one more respect, but somehow it doesn’t.

Isn’t it obvious that the higher one rises to prominence, the more criticism one should be ready to handle? And the more careful one should be using technology that encourages overly quick responses and magnifies one’s mistakes.

But now I’m just lecturing, which is nearly as unattractive as whining.

What I’d rather take away from this is a question: How do we writers keep ourselves open to experience and emotion, while thickening our skins just enough to survive the criticism we’re bound to receive – which in fact we should receive?

Thanks for reminding me, Ms. Palin and Ms. Hoffman. Next time I’m feeling defensive, I’m going to try to keep it under wraps. And for the time-being at least, I’m staying awaaaaaay from Twitter.

3 thoughts on “What do Sarah Palin and novelist Alice Hoffman have in common?…”

  1. Twitter does indeed have the potential for "danger close" barrages of stupid fall upon the unwary tweeter.

    Venting in writing in a medium potentially read by umptillions of strangers is seldom a good idea. Especially in light of the fact that most of those tweets are catalogued and retrievable far into the future.

  2. I agree, Basil. We live in a flashpan era, and reasoned response is becoming a rare commodity indeed. Our (almost ex) governor sees opportunity, cashing in through media that neither require nor promote careful thought and articulate prose. The prospect is more Orwellian than Orwell. You can overthrow an oppressive regime, but how do you stop a pop-culture runaway train?

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