hello hello! I just want to say up front that this is going to be a fairly abbreviated post this week for a number of reasons, chief among them being that I have the GRE Literature Subject Test coming up in a week and a half so my pastimes at the moment include mostly a) Studying For An Impossible Test and b) Cleaning To Sublimate My Guilt Over Not Studying For An Impossible Test.
ALSO later this week (hopefully Friday but could be the weekend) I will finally be doing the guest post with my dear friend Taylor in which we will shout with abandon about Villette. Spoilers will be encouraged!!
now on to the shrieking…
The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror — Daniel Mallory Ortberg*
friends, I have been waiting for this book for a loooooooooooong time. My first introduction to his writing was through his first book, Texts From Jane Eyre
which is delightful and funny and really really good for tipsy dramatic readings at writer’s group meetings [as my friends and I have done MANY times]. I then found out that he was the author of the “Two Monks” series on the website The Toast, which he co-founded with Nicole Cliffe and which I frustratingly can’t link to at the moment as the site is temporarily down while some technolegal stuff gets figured out. [Ed. July 2018 — THE TOAST IS BACK AND I HAVE LINKED TO ALL THE THINGS NOW.] He is also Dear Prudence at Slate, where he gives some of the most thoughtful, insightful, and entertaining advice I have ever read. PLUS 2 years ago he was at the Festival of Faith and Writing and during his 2 seminars I was basically in a whirlwind of trying to listen attentively while also trying to write down every word and having the way I think about God, time, and prayer be shook in a lovely, powerful way.
So that’s my gushing about Ortberg himself. (OH have I mentioned that his relentless Twitter promotion of the Netflix original American Vandal is what drove me to watch one of my FAVORITE shows of the last year??)
One of Ortberg’s other series via The Toast and now via his newsletter The Shatner Chatner (give yourself the gift of a subscription, I SWEAR TO YOU THAT IT’S WORTH IT) is called “Children’s Stories Made Horrific”, which are some of my FAVORITE THINGS TO READ, and have also scarred several of the friends that I have read them to. He is particularly skilled at lighting on an aspect of a story or narrative that often goes un-thought-of and twisting it into something weird and intense and eye-opening. You’ll never think of Curious George the same way, I promise you. [once The Toast is live again I’ll come back and link these.]
In this vein, The Merry Spinster proceeds as a collection of fairy tales and children’s stories that have been reworked to comment on gender, ask questions about belonging [do people belong to each other? what does that entail?], and just tell some fun and fucked-up stories. They are weird and wonderful and I highly doubt that I understood everything in them. Ortberg is just so damn smart and witty and I can’t wait to come back to these stories again and again and take something new away from them every time, all the while drawing a lot of exclamation marks in the margins, along with variations of “oh my god” “oh GOD” and “OH MY GOD” as the story gets more and more horrifying.
So yeah I guess this has been more about my deep admiration for Ortberg than about the book itself, but I quote and reference him a lot SO IT’S PROBABLY TIME YOU ALL KNEW ANYWAY.
*for readers unaware of his transition, might I give you the gift of this BEAUTIFUL interview with The Cut in which my love and respect for him grew even more than I thought possible.