Something That May Shock and Discredit You
From the writer of Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column comes a witty and clever collection of essays and cultural observations spanning pop culture—from the endearingly popular to the staggeringly obscure.Sometimes you just have to yell. New York Times bestselling author of Texts from Jane Eyre Daniel M. Lavery publishing as Daniel Mallory Ortberg has mastered the art of “poetic yelling,” a genre surely familiar to fans of his cult-favorite website The Toast.In this irreverent essay collection, Ortberg expands on this concept with in-depth and hilarious studies of all things pop culture, from the high to low brow. From a thoughtful analysis on the beauty of William Shatner to a sinister reimagining of HGTV’s House Hunters, Something That May Shock and Discredit You is a laugh-out-loud funny and whip-smart collection for those who don’t take anything—including themselves—much too seriously.

Something That May Shock and Discredit You Details

TitleSomething That May Shock and Discredit You
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 11th, 2020
PublisherAtria
ISBN-139781982105211
Rating
GenreNonfiction, Writing, Essays, Autobiography, Memoir, LGBT, Humor, GLBT, Queer

Something That May Shock and Discredit You Review

  • Emily Vanderwerff
    January 1, 1970
    I think this might be the best trans (or "trans-adjacent," as Ortberg would probably prefer) book I've ever read? It brims with thoughtfulness, with joy, and with life. As always, I think I am not as in love with the classics as the author, but I enjoyed watching him discover anew what he loved in them with the new knowledge that comes from transition. And there are certain chapters that are heart-rending and beautiful (especially one about The Golden Girls, of all things). Also it's often very I think this might be the best trans (or "trans-adjacent," as Ortberg would probably prefer) book I've ever read? It brims with thoughtfulness, with joy, and with life. As always, I think I am not as in love with the classics as the author, but I enjoyed watching him discover anew what he loved in them with the new knowledge that comes from transition. And there are certain chapters that are heart-rending and beautiful (especially one about The Golden Girls, of all things). Also it's often very funny? Not unexpected, but there's a brilliance to its tonal whiplash.Anyway, I won't say more for fear of "spoiling," but I am so grateful that this book exists. I will give it to so many people.(I should note -- I know Ortberg a little. We have had coffee together, and as with all trans people, we are tapped into the great mind tree that connects the many spheres of existence, where we've occasionally run into each other in between sessions battling The Cold Ones.)
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    If you are new to Lavery's writing you will find this book either very confusing or immediately and absolutely your shit. I don't know if there's much inbetween. If you were a reader of The Toast (RIP) you probably know to expect a whole lot of very specific revamps of old and new stories and pieces of pop culture. The book's interludes have lots of the Bible, but beyond that go from Pilgrim's Progress to Mean Girls to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Anne of Green Gables. But what makes this If you are new to Lavery's writing you will find this book either very confusing or immediately and absolutely your shit. I don't know if there's much inbetween. If you were a reader of The Toast (RIP) you probably know to expect a whole lot of very specific revamps of old and new stories and pieces of pop culture. The book's interludes have lots of the Bible, but beyond that go from Pilgrim's Progress to Mean Girls to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to Anne of Green Gables. But what makes this set of "memoir-adjacent" essays particularly special is the way Lavery sees all of these stories he finds very familiar through a fresh set of eyes as he considers transition and then eventually transitions. We find ourselves looking at the recurring themes of change and transformation in these stories, tying together Lavery's sometimes arcane interests around his particular worries and dilemmas, taking us through his emotional states related to transition without making it a This Is A Trans Memoir book. It is one moment light and the next heavy, constantly anxious while still bubbling with fun. I definitely cried. I enjoyed how different the essays were and how well acquainted we became with Lavery's personality while not cataloging events the way memoirs typically do. I read this on audio and I think hearing Lavery's own voice added a lot to the experience.
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  • Mara
    January 1, 1970
    The thing that probably fascinates me most about this book as a book is trying to categorize it's genre. I think I would land on a theological exploration of gender told through personal essays and literary pastiche? Which... yeah, I haven't read anything quite in that genre before. That said, the polyphonic quality completely worked for me. I felt like I really learned something about the lived experience of someone different than myself (thematically, this is an exploration of Daniel's The thing that probably fascinates me most about this book as a book is trying to categorize it's genre. I think I would land on a theological exploration of gender told through personal essays and literary pastiche? Which... yeah, I haven't read anything quite in that genre before. That said, the polyphonic quality completely worked for me. I felt like I really learned something about the lived experience of someone different than myself (thematically, this is an exploration of Daniel's transition), and the rootedness of his perspective in the evangelical culture he was raised in completely resonated with me. This was also quite funny, which I appreciated (#CastleMakeOut). The only thing that would have made this just AMAZING would have been a bit more editing. Some of the essays & interstitials worked better than others, and while none were bad, I think the book could have been "leaner & meaner" if only the creme de creme had remained. Still, overall, highly recommend!
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  • Morgan M. Page
    January 1, 1970
    To say, "this reinvents the entire trans memoir genre" would be to completely undersell Daniel Mallory Lavery's Something That May Shock and Discredit You. Rather than a straight-forward transition account, full of its attendant clichés (I have always known, why when I was a child I was troubling gender the likes of which Judith Butler could scarcely imagine!, etc.), Lavery gives us a series of meditations in his signature kalidescope of cultural references - highbrow, lowbrow, and Biblical. To say, "this reinvents the entire trans memoir genre" would be to completely undersell Daniel Mallory Lavery's Something That May Shock and Discredit You. Rather than a straight-forward transition account, full of its attendant clichés (I have always known, why when I was a child I was troubling gender the likes of which Judith Butler could scarcely imagine!, etc.), Lavery gives us a series of meditations in his signature kalidescope of cultural references - highbrow, lowbrow, and Biblical. Athena was a tomboy and Duckie from Pretty In Pink is a beautiful lesbian, and Danny Lavery is a once-in-a-generation writer.
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  • Kirsten
    January 1, 1970
    I started reading this at 10pm and stayed up reading far into the night. Daniel Ortberg's writing has a way of seeming flippant and nonchalant while at the same time being absolutely emotionally and spiritually devastating. His last book, The Merry Spinster, applied this to fairy tales and short pieces of fiction to provide insight and expose painful cultural truths, but when he uses this skill to share pieces of his own life and recent transition, it is utterly and masterfully done beyond any I started reading this at 10pm and stayed up reading far into the night. Daniel Ortberg's writing has a way of seeming flippant and nonchalant while at the same time being absolutely emotionally and spiritually devastating. His last book, The Merry Spinster, applied this to fairy tales and short pieces of fiction to provide insight and expose painful cultural truths, but when he uses this skill to share pieces of his own life and recent transition, it is utterly and masterfully done beyond any words I have in my brain. He made me cry a lot, is what I'm trying to say.
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  • Books on Stereo
    January 1, 1970
    Quick Take: Something That May Shock and Discredit You (STMSDY) is a memoir told in a mashup of genres and pop cultural references. Ortberg's writing is effortlessly honest, while tender in its approach to its subject matter. However, the length of STMSDY was far too long resulting in certain ideas and motif being continually re-cycled via a different lens. Illuminating, but a bit too long.
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    Uneven but I'd love to read the Golden Girls essay over and over.
  • Isaac R. Fellman
    January 1, 1970
    It is hard to guess what Danny Lavery will do next — on a book, essay, sentence, or cellular level — and that’s kind of his whole thing. I didn’t predict that this would be one-third memoir, one-third jokes, and one-third sophisticated and subtle biblical exegesis, but I am deeply grateful for the result. By peculiar hairpin turns, the book is revelatory, stingingly argued, witty, and kind. (I’m editing this in early 2020 to note that I reread the book after the final round of edits between the It is hard to guess what Danny Lavery will do next — on a book, essay, sentence, or cellular level — and that’s kind of his whole thing. I didn’t predict that this would be one-third memoir, one-third jokes, and one-third sophisticated and subtle biblical exegesis, but I am deeply grateful for the result. By peculiar hairpin turns, the book is revelatory, stingingly argued, witty, and kind. (I’m editing this in early 2020 to note that I reread the book after the final round of edits between the advance copy and the release. These edits cleared away some material about the author’s family which I liked at the time, but which are not missed, and in retrospect were sentiment doing what sentiment does. The result is an even more focused and powerful book, and I’m proud to have Danny as a member of my community and my friend.)
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  • Mark Schiffer
    January 1, 1970
    Supremely enjoyable. I’m not fully up on my classics/scripture so some of the play Daniel does is difficult for me to engage with, but otherwise this work sings. I’ve been reading and listening to his work for awhile and for me this represents a highlight in the genre of memoir and cultural commentary regarding the queer and trans experience. It’s also funny and beautiful as hell.
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  • Sara
    January 1, 1970
    I received this in a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher. I loved this book. It was funny and poignant. I did think this was going to be a more traditional memoir and was hesitant, but instead it was a series of chapters and interludes that accurately reflect Daniel Ortberg's ongoing internet presence. If you've read and enjoyed anything Daniel Ortberg has written before, you'll definitely want to read this. There are a few chapters/interludes that appeared in his newsletter, but most are new. I received this in a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher. I loved this book. It was funny and poignant. I did think this was going to be a more traditional memoir and was hesitant, but instead it was a series of chapters and interludes that accurately reflect Daniel Ortberg's ongoing internet presence. If you've read and enjoyed anything Daniel Ortberg has written before, you'll definitely want to read this. There are a few chapters/interludes that appeared in his newsletter, but most are new. Humor is interlaced with very serious essays about his transition. An interlude that is about how his failure to parallel park in front of a man was what triggered his transition immediately precedes a very serious chapter on him realizing that he was trans and how that played out with his childhood memories of being a girl. There's still humor within that chapter, but the gravity of what he writes adds a depth to the levity that comes before. Something that I find particularly awe-inspiring about Ortberg is his ability to use quotes and passages from the bible and classic works of philosophy. He always manages to put a fresh spin on what he mentions and makes me want to engage in both the source material and his essay more than I did before. It's truly something to have such breadth and depth of knowledge—not many writers out there can effortlessly skewer Cosmo headlines from the 90s, write Dirtbag Sappho poems, and carefully analyze biblical passages. Weirdly, parts of this also reminded me of Carmen Maria Machado's "Her Body and Other Stories," especially the short story that is told through Law and Order recaps. Ortberg's book is more optimistic, but both think about how living in a human body is a unique kind of horror. In case anyone asks, I can't pick a favorite essay, but the one on Kierkegaard and Hans Christian Andersen is up there. I also agree with Grace: Umbrellas are tools for the selfish and it would be better for everyone if we all had and used rain jackets and boots.
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  • Erik
    January 1, 1970
    At times cerebral and cynical, while at other times droll and laggy, Daniel Lavery's new queer AF collection of essays, "Something That May Shock and Discredit You," is a thoughtful installation in trans literature.Daniel came to the realization of his gender identity later in life; at age 30 he decided to begin his transition, though what that means-and what it entails-, is exactly what his stories help him, and hopefully his reader, come to understand better. Each essay interweaves pop At times cerebral and cynical, while at other times droll and laggy, Daniel Lavery's new queer AF collection of essays, "Something That May Shock and Discredit You," is a thoughtful installation in trans literature.Daniel came to the realization of his gender identity later in life; at age 30 he decided to begin his transition, though what that means-and what it entails-, is exactly what his stories help him, and hopefully his reader, come to understand better. Each essay interweaves pop culture, classic literature, and scripture (yes, the Christian kind) into a deeply conscientious engagement with being trans, transitioning, and transforming. In what is often breathtaking prose, Lavery uses the Bible to talk about his transition and to also integrate his childhood growing up in a Midwestern, evangelical home. This use of his Christian background in such an artistic and novel way was moving and connected with my own queer, formerly-evangelical soul in a deeply meaningful way. Unfortunately many of these beautiful essays were broken up with too-experimental essays that engaged cleverly, but maybe too cleverly(?) with erudite texts and thinking.An interesting read that won't leave you disappointed. Pick up a copy, dive deep into the beautiful essays, skim the droll ones, and think a little deeper about trans experiences.
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  • Christina
    January 1, 1970
    Far from what Lavery describes as the generic "on-the-nose, po-faced transmasculine memoir I am trying not to write," this book is so wonderfully idiosyncratic that it's impossible to imagine anyone else writing it. Chapter 17's discussion of T4T energy (high-quality Gomez and Morticia Addams content!) is an utter delight, and the two-page chapter "And His Name Shall Be Called Something Hard to Remember" is unforgettable.The subsequent chapter, "Pirates at the Funeral: 'It Feels Like Someone Far from what Lavery describes as the generic "on-the-nose, po-faced transmasculine memoir I am trying not to write," this book is so wonderfully idiosyncratic that it's impossible to imagine anyone else writing it. Chapter 17's discussion of T4T energy (high-quality Gomez and Morticia Addams content!) is an utter delight, and the two-page chapter "And His Name Shall Be Called Something Hard to Remember" is unforgettable.The subsequent chapter, "Pirates at the Funeral: 'It Feels Like Someone Died,' But Someone Actually Didn't," explores the bizarre way that cis people sometimes frame gender transition as death, and the consequences of that framing:There is something willfully perverse about bereavement in the face of new life. My hope is not to squash or censor the complicated feelings of non-transitioning people, but to reconsider the direction of their sorrow. One might grieve and be prepared for something else, some new experience or sentiment to join one's grief, to mingle and ultimately sweeten it, add richness and support and texture. But to enter into mourning, to reenact the rituals of death, to borrow its vernacular, is to cut off understanding, curiosity, possibility, knowledge before they have a chance to flourish.I sometimes think of the phrase "deadnaming"as a capitulation to the sometimes-fatal language other people use about our transitions—an attempt to reroute the language of death, if we can't clear it away entirely. It is, I suppose, a useful-enough shorthand for "This name is not part of the project of life."
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  • Jessica
    January 1, 1970
    How can I write an unbiased review of Danny's book? I've been reading his work for seven years, from The Hairpin to the Toast to Dear Prudence. I'll do my best to try.This is a collection of essays and interludes on subjects ranging from The Golden Girls' last episode to Dante's Inferno, from sobriety to the choice to start T, from "wrasslin'" with God to Destry Rides Again, from what masculinity means to why we narrate our lives to our dogs. Danny's humor is that of someone raised in How can I write an unbiased review of Danny's book? I've been reading his work for seven years, from The Hairpin to the Toast to Dear Prudence. I'll do my best to try.This is a collection of essays and interludes on subjects ranging from The Golden Girls' last episode to Dante's Inferno, from sobriety to the choice to start T, from "wrasslin'" with God to Destry Rides Again, from what masculinity means to why we narrate our lives to our dogs. Danny's humor is that of someone raised in evangelical christianity as well as contemporary pop culture, with a knowledge of Greek myths that continues to amaze me. It's not a straightforward "this is why I transitioned" memoir, it's beyond that-- it's an exploration of what it means to exist in this moment in this body and in this culture. Because it can get pretty intense to read such densely-referred text, the chapters and interludes are short, allowing the reader to dip in and out as needed. Sure, this could be a quick read, but by piecing it out, you're more able to absorb all that's happening in the book. Highly recommended, and I just put the audiobook on hold because Danny reads it.
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  • Katie Mac
    January 1, 1970
    I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This one's a 3.5 for me. (I know, I know; I'm rating a lot of books 3.5 stars lately.)The book feels very on-brand for Danny Lavery--chock full of humor and absurdism on topics he writes about in a way that makes me feel like I'm not smart enough to keep up with him. My favorite sections of this sort-of memoir are the more poignant chapters about his transition and how it affected him. (Plus, I learned that he ate at I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.This one's a 3.5 for me. (I know, I know; I'm rating a lot of books 3.5 stars lately.)The book feels very on-brand for Danny Lavery--chock full of humor and absurdism on topics he writes about in a way that makes me feel like I'm not smart enough to keep up with him. My favorite sections of this sort-of memoir are the more poignant chapters about his transition and how it affected him. (Plus, I learned that he ate at the very Boston Market my family and I used to go to all the time--huge fangirl moment!)The eARC contains content about his family, which he said he cut out after his estrangement. I'd be interested to know what the book is like in its finished form.
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  • Stella
    January 1, 1970
    This is very "on-brand" for Daniel Lavery. Dark humor, cynical and cerebral, long paragraphs that take your breath away. Spliced in between very insightful and personal essays on gender, identity and Daniel's transition, there are passages of the bible and philosophy. Daniel manages to make this relevant and almost exciting when applying to his own life. This is powerful writing from a powerful voice. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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  • Donna Davis
    January 1, 1970
    Ortberg wrote The Merry Spinster, a work of dark humor that convinced me that he is a genius. This book is a lot different, although at times the same voice peeks through. My thanks go to Atria Books and Net Galley for the review copy. This book is for sale now. Many of the essays in this book are recycled from Ortberg’s blog, but since I never saw the blog, all of it is new to me. The essays describe his experience as a trans man, and though it is funny in places, most of the pieces ooze pain Ortberg wrote The Merry Spinster, a work of dark humor that convinced me that he is a genius. This book is a lot different, although at times the same voice peeks through. My thanks go to Atria Books and Net Galley for the review copy. This book is for sale now. Many of the essays in this book are recycled from Ortberg’s blog, but since I never saw the blog, all of it is new to me. The essays describe his experience as a trans man, and though it is funny in places, most of the pieces ooze pain and bitterness. And to be fair, a trans man brought up female in an evangelical Christian home, taught to consider the Rapture in every choice made, every road followed, is bound to have these things in spades. However, there is a good deal of redundancy here. After awhile I found my attention wandering, and by thirty percent of the way in, I was watching the page numbers crawl by. How much longer…? Some of the chapter titles are full of promise, but then the chapter itself disappoints. What, this again? I did enjoy the passage on parallel parking, and the chapter on Columbo (the only man Ortberg has ever loved) cracked me up. I have rated this title three stars for general audiences, but I suspect that for those transitioning to manhood, or for those close to someone doing so, the rating will be higher. Recommended to those transitioning, considering transitioning, and their loved ones.
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  • Melinda Worfolk
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to the publisher, Atria, for an advance review copy of this book (via Edelweiss+) in exchange for an honest review. A version of this review is also posted on Edelweiss+ and my blog. Daniel Mallory Ortberg is truly a gifted writer. To write as fluently and cleverly as he does is something most people only dream of. In this collection of essays and asides, Ortberg combines frank and lovely accounts of his gender transitioning with entertainingly and anachronistically imagined vignettes Thanks to the publisher, Atria, for an advance review copy of this book (via Edelweiss+) in exchange for an honest review. A version of this review is also posted on Edelweiss+ and my blog. Daniel Mallory Ortberg is truly a gifted writer. To write as fluently and cleverly as he does is something most people only dream of. In this collection of essays and asides, Ortberg combines frank and lovely accounts of his gender transitioning with entertainingly and anachronistically imagined vignettes from the Bible, Greek and Roman mythology, classic literature, and 20th century pop culture. It is insightful, poignant, and often very funny. Highly recommended, especially for anyone who misses The Toast, Ortberg’s now-retired website collaboration with Nicole Cliffe.
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  • Scribe Publications
    January 1, 1970
    Ortberg’s playful takes on pop culture as he explores everything from House Hunters to Golden Girls to Lord Byron, Lacan, and Rilke … Ortberg’s writing is vulnerable but confident, specific but never narrow, literal and lyrical. The author is refreshingly unafraid of his own uncertainty, but he’s always definitive where it counts … You’ll laugh, you'll cry, often both at once. Everyone should read this extraordinary book. STARRED REVIEW Kirkus Reviews Slate advice columnist Ortberg (Texts from Ortberg’s playful takes on pop culture as he explores everything from House Hunters to Golden Girls to Lord Byron, Lacan, and Rilke … Ortberg’s writing is vulnerable but confident, specific but never narrow, literal and lyrical. The author is refreshingly unafraid of his own uncertainty, but he’s always definitive where it counts … You’ll laugh, you'll cry, often both at once. Everyone should read this extraordinary book. STARRED REVIEW Kirkus Reviews Slate advice columnist Ortberg (Texts from Jane Eyre) brings the full force of his wit and literary depth to this genre-bending essay collection. Describing it as ‘memoir-adjacent,’ Ortberg intersperses searingly honest passages about his journey as a transgender man with laugh-out-loud funny literary pastiche ... Ortberg provides an often hilarious, sometimes discomfiting, but invariably honest account of one man’s becoming. Publishers Weekly Like all of his work, Something That May Shock and Discredit You is a stand-alone pillar in Ortberg’s remarkable canon, one in which the lines typically drawn around topic and genre are obliterated, resulting in a wide-open field of possibility. Electric Literature This book is clever and strange and lovely and sad and hysterical and poignant. These are the qualities that make up most of my favourite people and all of my favourite books. You really need to read this now.Jenny Lawson, New York Times bestselling author of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously HappyDeeply honest and often sidesplittingly funny.Michelle Hart, O: The Oprah MagazineAt last, we have the work of transgender bathos we didn’t know we needed, but very much do … Ortberg’s narrative is anything but linear: It skips back in time to mythic Greece, traipses across the landscape of contemporary pop culture and, in one wonderfully fabulist entry that would make Carmen Maria Machado proud, slips outside of time altogether … One of our smartest, most inventive humour writers, Ortberg combines bathos and the devotional into a revelation … By broadening what transgender memoir can do, the author is in good company with Viviane Namaste, who decades ago diagnosed autobiography as ‘the only discourse in which transsexuals are permitted to speak.’ Ortberg partakes of neither the damaging trope of tragic transness nor the sentimental sanctimony that we are “permitted,” offering instead the comic and the transcendent.Jordy Rosenberg, The New York Times[A] memoir comprised of the humorous essays that have become his trademark … Some are essays and some are scripts or imagined conversations; at first the chapters and interludes are distinct, but at a certain point they start to blend together. All are hilarious, infused with the type of magical thinking Lavery excels at. They weave Lavery’s life experiences together with his historical and pop-cultural obsessions.Claire Landsbaum, Vanity Fair[A] a hybrid of incisive cultural criticism and heartfelt rumination on transitioning and queer identity.Erin Keane, Ashlie D. Stevens, and Hanh Nguyen, SalonDaniel Mallory Ortberg’s Something That May Shock And Discredit You is three eloquent books in one: memoir, essay collection, and treasure trove of cultural analysis, all coming in under 250 pages. Ortberg is as nimble a storyteller as they come, so the shifts from painful personal revelations to pithy observations about Lord Byron turn on a dime while still mostly feeling part of the same whole … The details are all Ortberg, as is the ability to turn eschatology into something more accessible and less judgmental.Danette Chavez, The A.V ClubWith this collection of essays, he will make you laugh and cry with stories of transition, family, culture and William Shatner.Karla Strand, Ms.[Ortberg] puts his dazzling wit and humour on display in a ‘memoir-adjacent’ collection of essays that touches on topics as wide-ranging as Lord Byron, the Bible and House Hunters in his exploration of self as a transgender man.Barbara VanDenburgh, USA TodayThe ‘Dear Prudence’ columnist and expert culture commentator returns with his sharpest, wittiest collection yet, a survey of pop culture ranging from scathing to plain weird.David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
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  • Sercalunna Pautasso
    January 1, 1970
    This book didn't keep my attention and it fell flat. I think it's well written but the humor is not right for me.Not my cup of tea.I received this ARC from the publisher in exchange of a honest review.
  • Marissa
    January 1, 1970
    Like many Very Online Millennials, I came to Daniel Mallory Ortberg* through his humor writing, which is weird and erudite and loopy and allusive and unlike anyone else’s. The same adjectives apply to his new memoir Something That May Shock and Discredit You, in which he turns to a much more personal and raw subject: his coming out as a trans man. But techniques that work so well in short pieces can be frustrating in a full-length book; and in our voyeuristic tell-all culture, it’s a bit Like many Very Online Millennials, I came to Daniel Mallory Ortberg* through his humor writing, which is weird and erudite and loopy and allusive and unlike anyone else’s. The same adjectives apply to his new memoir Something That May Shock and Discredit You, in which he turns to a much more personal and raw subject: his coming out as a trans man. But techniques that work so well in short pieces can be frustrating in a full-length book; and in our voyeuristic tell-all culture, it’s a bit disconcerting to read a memoir that approaches its central topic in oblique and metaphorical ways.Ortberg clearly recognizes that his unique voice is his strength. He begins the book with a (hilarious) list of “Chapter Titles from the On-the-Nose, Po-Faced Transmasculine Memoir I Am Trying Not To Write,” and then steers away from them at every turn. The trouble is that it often feels like Ortberg is so busy trying not to fall into trans-memoir clichés that he doesn’t know what story he actually wants to tell. Something That May Shock and Discredit You skips around in time, spinning out on inscrutable tangents and then circling back to a few major themes. Notable recurring motifs include 1) the dread and terror of acknowledging your desires and becoming who you were truly meant to be, 2) Biblical quotes, and the way that Ortberg’s evangelical upbringing continues to shape him, 3) the ways in which masculinity can be wholesome and inspiring instead of toxic and destructive.Interspersed with the more personal essays are short “interludes” that riff on literature and pop culture in Ortberg’s trademark style. But it can be unclear how they fit into the book as a whole. Are they “merely” funny pieces for the fans who love Ortberg’s sense of humor—or do all of them somehow relate to his transition? Why is there an 8-page-long Mean Girls riff where the characters are only identified by their initials? What are we supposed to get from the interlude that mashes up Rilke and Looney Toons? Rather than feeling like the interludes were lighthearted palate-cleansers, I often felt they were the most frustrating parts of the book.Even though I am a cis woman with an uncomplicated relationship to my own gender, I found one aspect of this memoir shockingly relatable. Better than anything I’ve ever read before, Ortberg captures what it’s like to be in your early 30s, with a life that is objectively pretty good, and yet feel like everything is wrong, and fantasize about making huge changes, while fearing that it’s already too late to make such changes. Because if you were meant to be something else, wouldn’t it have happened already? Of course I don’t mean to imply that my early 30s career transition was as sweeping and stressful as Ortberg’s early 30s gender transition; still, it meant that I understood some of his broader anxieties. I can relate to coming up with neurotic, self-torturing excuses about why it would be impossible for you to make a change (“I could not trust my own happiness, such that if transition were to produce a new kind of peace or serenity within me, it would merely be further evidence of my capacity for self-deception, just another setup before an increasingly long fall”) and the relief that comes when you finally take action. “Doubt and uncertainty seemed to leave me the day I exchanged imagination for experience,” Ortberg writes. “Having tested one uncertain theory, I flinch less at the prospect of others.” I received an ARC of this book from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.*I am referring to the author as “Ortberg” in this review because it is the name this book is published under, but in the months preceding its release, he has gotten married, become estranged from his parents, and taken his wife’s name to become “Daniel Lavery.” In light of his estrangement, he has also revised the book, so I also acknowledge that the contents of my ARC differ somewhat from the version that will be available for purchase starting February 11.
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  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    I feel deeply grateful whenever Daniel Lavery chooses to share his mind and heart with the rest of us. This book is by turns laugh out loud hilarious, uncomfortably incisive, and formally pretty brilliant. It is also just deeply pleasurable to read. Recommended if you like: The Toast (RIP), pop culture reimagined in ways you couldn't have dreamed of, Sappho, literary exegesis of Biblical texts, authors who make an art form out of introspection and self-disclosure.
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  • Casey the Reader
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Atria Books for the free advance copy of this book.Part memoir and part reimaginings of classic works, SOMETHING THAT MAY SHOCK AND DISCREDIT YOU is Daniel Lavery's exploration of his experience before, during, and after transitioning (note: the author has changed his name since I received this galley). The book ranges from straightforward (pardon the pun) pontificating on the mental stress of gender dysphoria to drawing on lessons from the Bible to imagining Sappho as a dirtbag Thanks to Atria Books for the free advance copy of this book.Part memoir and part reimaginings of classic works, SOMETHING THAT MAY SHOCK AND DISCREDIT YOU is Daniel Lavery's exploration of his experience before, during, and after transitioning (note: the author has changed his name since I received this galley). The book ranges from straightforward (pardon the pun) pontificating on the mental stress of gender dysphoria to drawing on lessons from the Bible to imagining Sappho as a dirtbag teenager. I've been following this author's writing for years and this, I think, is easily his best work yet. It's whip-smart and wildly funny, while also delving into deep, complex emotions. I think the most important thing about this book is all the digging into his mental state, particularly about the years he fought his desire to transition. As a culture, we by now have a pretty standard framework for what we understand the physical process of transitioning to be like for many binary trans people, but I can't think of any other work that looks so closely at the mental process. I imagine it will be a real gift for some readers to see themselves on the page here. Many of the essays map a transmasculine experience onto the classics - Bible parables, Greek myths, The Golden Girls. Queer people search for themselves everywhere, in my experience. I also particularly appreciated the examination of not just the trauma a religious upbringing can inflict on a queer person, but also the comfort those stories can bring as well. I did find by the second half of the book that things began to get repetitive, but each essay was still a delight, especially the ones that felt like classic-era Toast posts - I'll be laughing about the Lord Byron essay for months!
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  • Cait McKay
    January 1, 1970
    While explaining to a group of medievalists his feelings on reading pieces that are older than a hundred years old, Daniel states' I feel a profound sense of triumph and superiority over the author' I said, 'because they are foolish enough to be dead, while I am young and gloriously alive. Not because I think their ideas are outdated or anything like that. It has nothing to do with how they think, or how we see the world differently. It is visceral, it is personal, it is gleeful, and it is While explaining to a group of medievalists his feelings on reading pieces that are older than a hundred years old, Daniel states' I feel a profound sense of triumph and superiority over the author' I said, 'because they are foolish enough to be dead, while I am young and gloriously alive. Not because I think their ideas are outdated or anything like that. It has nothing to do with how they think, or how we see the world differently. It is visceral, it is personal, it is gleeful, and it is triumphant. I have the good sense to still be living, while they have very foolishly died, and it always takes me at least ten minutes to stop crowing over my own victory and pay attention to what I am reading.' No one else at the table, it turned out, felt quite the same way when reading something by a dead author, but that does not mean that I am alone.That was when I flung my hand into the air and yelled "yes, me too!", startling the cats in the living room. It wasn't my first outburst while reading Something That May Shock and Discredit You, nor was it my last. It was also a feeling that hit me several times throughout the essay collection; Daniel is absolutely brilliant and pulls so thoroughly and thoughtfully from mythology, scripture, medieval poetry that I frequently had to get out of my own way and pay true attention to the many excerpts of antiquity. I had to stop being excited about outliving Dante and you know, carefully read the Dante specifically chosen by Daniel to illustrate one of his many time, genre, and gender-busting essays.Daniel speaks openly and candidly about his transition in a way that allows you to share his joys, fears, questions, and celebrations. He is, beyond all other things, honest with himself and others in a way that I find truly admirable. While I cannot, as a cis-gendered person, truly comment on his personal transitioning experiences, I can comment on how wonderful, brilliant, and hilarious I think that he is. This collection illustrates his journey, and the pieces that he illustrates with include Sappho as a Dirtbag, a pleasant retelling of Oedipus, Jacob wrestling with angels, and the "weird castle sex-games" of the Green Knight, his wife, and Sir Gawain.My favorite piece centers on worries of accidental time travel. A worry that I am sure many of us share, and something that seemed while growing up (much like John Mulaney's Quicksand fears) like a fairly probable occurrence. He usually worries about traveling to the time of Henry VIII- what a terrifying time to be a person- but don't worry, he's thought it all out:The really nice thing about imagining yourself as a wife of Henry VIII is that you got to deal with every single male authority figure imaginable all at once, because he was everybody's god and pope and dad and husband and boss, so if you wanted to fight or resent or betray or fuck or suck up to any one of them you could get it all done at once with the same very tall person. Moreover, I had the benefit of hindsight and knew that his daughter Elizabeth would later invent feminism, so I didn't need to feel guilty about abandoning mine for her father, or for never imagining myself accidentally time-traveled to her court.I came to be a fan of Daniel's through his work in The Hairpin (RIP), which then led me to the site of his own creation, The Toast (even more RIP). All of his classic hallmarks are present in Something That May Shock and Discredit You, and some of the pieces within were already posted on his current project, The Shatner Chatner (which I cannot recommend enough).  Yes, that Shatner. As Daniel puts it:It should perhaps go without saying that unless you are Kevin Pollak, I do not want to hear your William Shatner impression, but I will say it nonetheless, in case you are ever tempted. You might practice your Shatner in the privacy of your own home until your speaking voice becomes indistinguishable from his and you baffle your own ears, and find strange new depths in your own throat. Call me then, but not before.Since the publication of this book Daniel has taken the last name of his wife and now goes by Daniel M. Lavery
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  • Nathan
    January 1, 1970
    A "memoir-adjacent" work, as Ortberg calls it, that's likely going to pull your heart strings, make you laugh, and usher you in to some self-reflection and contemplation. Ortberg uses various passages from The Bible (as well as other works, but predominantly biblical verses) to serve as the bedrock for at least the following: Recounting moments up and to the point wherein he realized that transitioning from a female to a male was something that had to happen, various thoughts on religion whilst A "memoir-adjacent" work, as Ortberg calls it, that's likely going to pull your heart strings, make you laugh, and usher you in to some self-reflection and contemplation. Ortberg uses various passages from The Bible (as well as other works, but predominantly biblical verses) to serve as the bedrock for at least the following: Recounting moments up and to the point wherein he realized that transitioning from a female to a male was something that had to happen, various thoughts on religion whilst growing up (that first chapter about the rapture hit home--Ortberg's not the only one that lived almost day-to-day as a kid being convinced by adults that the end was nigh), and interpreting moments through the lens of a trans person (which I imagined would be very insightful, and I was happy to be right). As is unfortunately the case with stories about transitioning, there are some not-so-happy tales of Ortberg adjusting and being awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin, but there's also a sunnier side--there's plenty to laugh at here, too. While delivered via poetry/stream-of-consciousness or conversational exchange, you get plenty of opportunities to see Ortberg poke fun, daydream and riff on pop culture, classic literature, Bible stories, and a section on House Hunters, without question the book's funniest moment. Walking a mile in another person's shoes is always a good thing to do, and, as a reader, I'm thankful to Ortberg for sharing his experience here, and in his own way. It's a unique book, and by no means sacrilegious (for the conservative Christian reader); to the contrary, I think this is a fantastic exhibit in how religion (The Bible/Christianity in this instance) can help to usher us through impossibly tough situations. Is it the main thing that brings us through? Maybe, maybe not. The author, through this not-quite-memoir, clearly is able to divine meaning, hope, humor, wisdom, and dignity through various resources. Many thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for the advance read.
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  • Eilonwy
    January 1, 1970
    If you ever read the late, lamented website The Toast, then you’re familiar with Daniel Lavery’s love of literary parody. If you weren’t familiar with that site, then this collection of essays will seem even more all over the map than they already are. Don’t get me wrong -- I mostly enjoyed this book. But it is very, very uneven, and I’ll confess that I skimmed a number of literarily-inspired essays where I wasn’t familiar with the source material and didn’t feel that I was grasping whatever If you ever read the late, lamented website The Toast, then you’re familiar with Daniel Lavery’s love of literary parody. If you weren’t familiar with that site, then this collection of essays will seem even more all over the map than they already are. Don’t get me wrong -- I mostly enjoyed this book. But it is very, very uneven, and I’ll confess that I skimmed a number of literarily-inspired essays where I wasn’t familiar with the source material and didn’t feel that I was grasping whatever they were trying to say because I couldn’t see the inspiration or satire. On the other hand, a good number of essays are about Daniel’s realization in his late 20’s that he isn’t a cis woman, but is actually a transman; his resistance to that realization; and his eventual embracing of it, from starting T to finally using a men’s bathroom. Those essays are written with a wry humor that almost manages to hide the pain and struggle, but also effectively highlights the difficulty of making that choice and really committing to a completely different future than the one he’d spent his life anticipating. They’re brilliant and insightful, and I found them completely relatable even though I’m pretty cis. (My favorite was the aspirational “When I Have Abs.”) This book is probably going to be most appreciated by people who are trans. But I would recommend it if you know anyone who is trans, or if you’re interested in understanding trans experience. I really hope Daniel writes another book after he’s been socially male for a few years to follow up on these “getting there” experiences. He has a great voice and a very entertaining mind, and I would love to spend more time inside his head and his world.
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  • SR
    January 1, 1970
    1) I feel like I need an English degree.2) Transnesses are not the same.3) Religion, question mark, Christianity, interrobang.4) As an essay collection making up a nonlinear memoir, the main thing I came away with was a sense of a very eloquent shrug, accompanied by a thoroughly cited "Only speaking for myself, of course." Which is - of course. I don't know if the kind of transition memoir Lavery says he DIDN'T want to write, full of sea allegories, actually exists, and hypervisibility is nearly 1) I feel like I need an English degree.2) Transnesses are not the same.3) Religion, question mark, Christianity, interrobang.4) As an essay collection making up a nonlinear memoir, the main thing I came away with was a sense of a very eloquent shrug, accompanied by a thoroughly cited "Only speaking for myself, of course." Which is - of course. I don't know if the kind of transition memoir Lavery says he DIDN'T want to write, full of sea allegories, actually exists, and hypervisibility is nearly as misleading as invisibility when it comes to the representation of marginal experiences. It's reductive to read Something That May Shock and think one understands the narrative of transition; Lavery is talking about HIS and his alone, with occasional reference to trans friends, mainly in the context of am-I-doing-this-right anxiety (which, by the way, is extremely relatable). It's going to be cool when we/I reach the point where a double handful of personal narratives in trans-space doesn't define the bauplan for The Trans Experience. (I'm nonbinary, for instance; my cohort isn't in mainstream awareness except as curiosities, hyperbole, and the occasional atavistic outburst about grammar.)5) I love the interludes. Dirtbag Sappho and Lord Byron are my favorites.
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  • Logan Hughes
    January 1, 1970
    Danny Lavery's third book is an essay collection that mixes transition memoir, literary criticism, and parody of a wide range of highbrow/lowbrow cultural subjects including the Bible, Lord Byron, Anne of Green Gables, and Columbo. If you've read his Substack, The Shatner Chatner, it's like that (some of the pieces debuted there). As a trans man myself, I found Lavery's writing about his transition difficult to read. It has a raw, unresolved feeling, probably because he wrote it in the middle of Danny Lavery's third book is an essay collection that mixes transition memoir, literary criticism, and parody of a wide range of highbrow/lowbrow cultural subjects including the Bible, Lord Byron, Anne of Green Gables, and Columbo. If you've read his Substack, The Shatner Chatner, it's like that (some of the pieces debuted there). As a trans man myself, I found Lavery's writing about his transition difficult to read. It has a raw, unresolved feeling, probably because he wrote it in the middle of everything. It evokes a very specific confused, embarrassed, disbelieving early-transition feeling that I went through almost exactly, so I relate, but it's also not a super pleasant place to wallow! I'm an old school Toast fan, so the parody stuff was more up my alley. The thing about Lavery's literary pastiche is that if you don't get it, it's pretty confusing, but if you do get it, if you're in the 2% that this particular joke is FOR, it's so unbelievably good! Some of the Bible and poetry parts were over my head, but, like, the bit of fan fiction at the end where Marilla and Rachel Lynde react as if Anne of Green Gables transitioned to male was like the most perfect and healing thing for me to read, ever.
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  • Nadia
    January 1, 1970
    Ortberg's self-described "memoir-adjacent" work is smart, amusingly deprecating, and not overly concerned with interrogating Ortberg's sense of self, purpose, or his decision (or eventual reluctant side-step) to transition. While not every one of his chapters resonated with me, the ones that hit the mark, Really hit the mark, and had me working to stifle my laughter at work. He pokes fun at the traditional trans memoir, while not altogether ignoring the fact that this work is partially that. You Ortberg's self-described "memoir-adjacent" work is smart, amusingly deprecating, and not overly concerned with interrogating Ortberg's sense of self, purpose, or his decision (or eventual reluctant side-step) to transition. While not every one of his chapters resonated with me, the ones that hit the mark, Really hit the mark, and had me working to stifle my laughter at work. He pokes fun at the traditional trans memoir, while not altogether ignoring the fact that this work is partially that. You will not find the metaphor of "Mermaids/Centaurs/Sirens/Sphinxes/Butterflies/Snakes/Werewolves/Any Other Cryptid" applied to being trans, but you will have his experience compares to biblical stories, Mythology, The Golden Girls, Pretty in Pink, Existential philosophy, and Cosmopolitan Magazine. The references are numerous and varied, and many (I admit) went over my head. Even though I left feeling like I was in dire need of a complete reading list to be at least as well-versed as Ortberg, I also finished the book glad to have read something so un-genre-able and still enjoyable.
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  • Abby
    January 1, 1970
    Ortberg is one of my favorite “internet writers” and humorists, and I was looking forward to reading this book, which is a predictably funny collection of essays in his characteristic style (conversations between literary figures, short asides, meditations on a single captivating phrase). This book, however, brings some new gravitas, as Ortberg writes frankly about his transition. As much as I love his writing, I did not feel like the book held together as a whole and should have been a more Ortberg is one of my favorite “internet writers” and humorists, and I was looking forward to reading this book, which is a predictably funny collection of essays in his characteristic style (conversations between literary figures, short asides, meditations on a single captivating phrase). This book, however, brings some new gravitas, as Ortberg writes frankly about his transition. As much as I love his writing, I did not feel like the book held together as a whole and should have been a more straightforward memoir. I was most interested in the essays about his transition (and riveted by his particularly beautiful meditations on scripture) and felt jarred when I was interrupted by a lighthearted dialogue between mythological characters or people on House Hunters. I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a more cohesive book, but there is still a lot of thoughtfulness and levity here, as ever.I was provided with a review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Danielle
    January 1, 1970
    This review is only based on about 3/4 of this book, which is the point where I finally admitted to myself that I hated this book and quit it. It's a book of essays and have enjoyed this author's writing elsewhere and his podcast appearances on podcasts I listen to, so I kept hoping that the essays would get better and I would find something to enjoy. I never did. Many of the essays focus on the author's decision to transition from female to male. A lot of them seem to be somewhat stream of This review is only based on about 3/4 of this book, which is the point where I finally admitted to myself that I hated this book and quit it. It's a book of essays and have enjoyed this author's writing elsewhere and his podcast appearances on podcasts I listen to, so I kept hoping that the essays would get better and I would find something to enjoy. I never did. Many of the essays focus on the author's decision to transition from female to male. A lot of them seem to be somewhat stream of consciousness and they became very repetitive. I get that this was a long process for the author and I don't mean to diminish it, but I also didn't need to relive every moment of it along with the author. The essays were also rather esoteric and I found very little to latch onto. I imagine that this book could be a great read for other trans people who are wrestling with their identity, but as this is not my experience I grew bored with the repetitiveness of these essays, and don't find the Goodreads description of this book to match what I read at all.
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