Author Interview: Daniel Mallory Ortberg

From the New York Times bestselling author of Texts From Jane Eyre and Merry Spinster, writer of Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column, and cofounder of The Toast comes a hilarious and stirring collection of essays and cultural observations spanning pop culture—from the endearingly popular to the staggeringly obscure.

Daniel Mallory Ortberg is known for blending genres, forms, and sources to develop fascinating new hybrids—from lyric rants to horror recipes to pornographic scripture. In his most personal work to date, he turns his attention to the essay, offering vigorous and laugh-out-loud funny accounts of both popular and highbrow culture while mixing in meditations on gender transition, family dynamics, and the many meanings of faith.

From a thoughtful analysis of the beauty of William Shatner to a sinister reimagining of HGTV’s House Hunters, and featuring figures as varied as Anne of Green Gables, Columbo, Nora Ephron, Apollo, and the cast of Mean Girls, Something That May Shock and Discredit You is a hilarious and emotionally exhilarating compendium that combines personal history with cultural history to make you see yourself and those around you entirely anew. It further establishes Ortberg as one of the most innovative and engaging voices of his generation—and it may just change the way you think about Lord Byron forever.

“A delightful hybrid of a book… You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, often both at once. Everyone should read this extraordinary book.”

Kirkus Reviews

Author Daniel Mallory Ortberg spoke with us about his inspiration for his book Something That May Shock and Discredit You, his favorite audiobook listens, and the importance of independent bookstores to our communities.

Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.

I was inspired to write the book after a series of essays for my newsletter, The Shatner Chatner, ended up revolving around the same series of significant literary/cultural/religious figures, and I thought they’d be interesting to reexamine in the light of my transition.

In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise listeners about your audiobook?

It’s the first time I’ve read my own audiobook—I had a fabulous time doing it and made myself laugh a couple of times.

Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?

I have! I wouldn’t have guessed I’d be able to make it through the book without hating it, since reading my own work is sometimes difficult for me, but I found it quite lovely.

Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?

Occasionally. I listen to memoir on audio most often, but occasionally historical fiction too. Last I listened to, I think, was Georgette Heyer, a perennial favorite.

The Grand Sophy

By Georgette Heyer • Narrated by Clare Wille

What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?

I’ve had all my book events at independent bookstores—I can’t imagine having them anywhere else. It’s where I have the most exciting and surprising run-ins, where I get to explore new styles of interpreting my work, where I make new friends and get book recommendations I can’t get anywhere else.

Explore Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s favorite audiobooks in this playlist.

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