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Something That May Shock and Discredit You

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  153 ratings  ·  54 reviews
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 “
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Atria
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Emily Vanderwerff
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jessica Woodbury
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Books on Stereo
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
Isaac R. Fellman
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbt
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
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
Katie Mac
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
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Melinda Worfolk
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Scribe Publications
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
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 ...more
Cait McKay
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 30, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Feb 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 11, 2019 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Jan 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: physical-owned, arc
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 ...more
Amanda Morgan
Dec 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: first-reads
Have to admit I'm not quite halfway through and I'm giving up on this book. Life is too short for this nonsense.
This review is based on the first 100 pages.
First, I commend the author on choosing to live as his true self. It's evident in this book that's a decision he did not come to easily or lightly.
That said, while I empathize with your struggle, I thought the copious amount of essays regarding this struggle could have been whittled down and perhaps other topics addressed to offer variety to
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Incredible, lovely. It's hard to tell what in this book resonated because of Lavery's skill as a writer, and what felt like someone speaking a language I could understand. As he says in the book, "...while I dismissed relatively quickly the idea of my childhood as a source of guidance, I returned over and over again to the scriptures of my youth, to ground and locate myself in the stories of transformation that were already familiar to me. Not because I thought I needed religious permission to ...more
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. It’s funny, witty, and deeply interesting. Is it going to be everyone’s cup of tea to reimagine Apollo and Hyacinthus in the context of ultimate frisbee? No. Is it very much mine? Yes. I was also pleasantly surprised by how interwoven and connected the book is, I think of Lavery as being a discrete short story style author. Overall, a joy. Also, a really beautiful articulation of gender. The ways Lavery described certain alienating and disembodying aspects of being a woman (and ...more
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
(Review note: The author is credited as Daniel Mallory Ortberg, but recently changed his name to Danny M. Lavery. For the sake of clarity, I'm using his pre-marital name in this review.)

I'm not sure exactly how I felt about this. I loved Ortberg's writing at the Toast. This ranges across formats and genres, and some of it is more successful than others. I enjoy memoirs in general, and that worked well. The literary experimentation was a mixed bag but that may depend on personal taste. I don't
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-review
A compact essay/memoir/humor collection that focuses on Ortberg's philosophy of transition - many essays touch on the physical and mental aspects of transitioning from one gender to another, with commentary from Ortberg's religious upbringing that often references Jacob wrestling with the Angel (apt, since Jacob is physically changed and renamed by the Angel at the end of their match). Interspersed among them are "interludes" that range from rejected chapter titles for this book to rewritten ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
I honestly have no idea what this is trying to be. Part of it is a memoir of the author’s transition. I was onboard for that, but at 46% we haven’t moved past the idea of his being unsure of his desire to transition. Interspersed with that is a series of jarring interludes, some of of which thematically connect to the memoir, many of which don’t. I have found this jarring, heavily obscure quality to be true of the author’s work in everything after Texts from Jane Eyre, and I find this mishmash, ...more
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I could not wait to get my hands on this collection, and I'm so grateful to Edelweiss, the publisher, and the author for an early copy!

I love Daniel Mallory Ortberg's work in general, especially Dear Prudence. This is totally different from his other work, but I absolutely loved it. Along with observations about his transition, Ortberg covers lots of new ground here, with poetry, prose, and reflections on William Shatner (my favorite essay). This is a bingeable collection. I am sad to wait until
Lynn Wilson
I tried so hard to get into this book, but it just didn’t happen. The writer’s style is very different from those styles I seem to sink my teeth into. However, that does not mean that the next reader won’t love it! Some people like jazz. Others like country music. Others like rap. It’s just a matter of personal preference.

I don’t feel that I can do justice to this review as I only read the first few chapters. If the summary of the book appeals to you, then I suggest that you give it a try.
Dec 30, 2019 rated it liked it
In an unlikely mix of pop culture references, Bible passages, and winking introspection, Ortberg creates a work that is neither memoir nor straightforward essay collection. Mostly centered around his recent transition, Ortberg uses cultural touchstones, both contemporary and obscure, to search for a through line that resonates across time and gender. Despite the intimate subject matter, I was left feeling like I did not have a good grasp on Ortberg, which is a shame because what I was able to ...more
Diane Hernandez
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: netgalley
I think I’m missing something here. Despite thinking the Mensa test was easy, I just don’t understand the stories within Something that may Shock and Discredit You. That may mean I am discredited, when I wanted to be shocked. I feel that there is probably a brilliantly funny undertow running through the stories that just didn’t reach my consciousness. A miss for me, unfortunately. 2 stars.

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Nelda Brangwin
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
I read this after reading Becoming a Man by P. Carl. These chapters about a gay lifestyle doesn’t have the power that P. Carl’s memoir has. But it does have lots of humor along with the serious stuff. I think I made a mistake reading it when I did, because a week after reading it I want to reread it rather than making an expectation like I did. Lavery’s look at all the things that made him who his is, stayed with me.
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Also see Mallory Ortberg and Daniel M. Lavery.

Daniel Mallory Ortberg is the “Dear Prudence” advice columnist at Slate, the cofounder of The Toast, and the New York Times bestselling author of Texts From Jane Eyre and The Merry Spinster.

(source: Amazon)