“Something That May Shock and Discredit You” by Daniel Mallory Ortberg— Observations

Ortberg, Daniel Mallory. “Something That May Shock and Discredit You”, Simon and Schuster, 2020.


Amos Lassen

Daniel Mallory Ortberg (Daniel Lavery) is known for bringing genres, forms, and sources together to develop fascinating new hybrids. “Something That May Shock and Discredit You” is his most personal work to date. In it, he turns his attention to the essay, offering vigorous and laugh-out-loud funny accounts of both popular and highbrow culture while adding meditations on gender transition, family dynamics, and the many meanings of faith.

He gives us a thoughtful analysis of the beauty of William Shatner and a scary reimagining of HGTV’s “House Hunters”, and looks at characters such as Anne of Green Gables, Columbo, Nora Ephron, Apollo, and the cast of “Mean Girls”. This is a hilarious and emotionally exhilarating compendium that combines personal history with cultural history so that we see ourselves and those around you in a new way. The book establishes Ortberg as an innovative and engaging voice of his generation.

 “This book is clever and strange and lovely and sad and hysterical and poignant.”  The writing is “vulnerable but confident, specific but never narrow, literal and lyrical.” Lavery came to the realization of his gender identity at age 30 and decided to begin his transition. His essays here bring in pop culture, classic literature, and  Christian scripture. They reflect conscientious engagement of being trans, transitioning, and transforming. He uses the Bible to talk about his transition and to also integrate his childhood growing up in a Midwestern, evangelical home.

Filled with humor and absurdism, the essays are a kind of a memoir that come across as poignant and they reflect his transition and show how it affected him. Daniel Mallory Ortberg is a frank and gifted writer.

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