Goodbye to Sandra Dee
September 12, 2018 9:43 PM   Subscribe

"I've Got Chills": Dream acceleration a week out from top surgery is an essay written by Daniel Mallory Ortberg a week out from having top surgery.
posted by Going To Maine (26 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I am happy that Daniel Mallory Ortberg is so joyous these days and I adore(d) The Toast, but I am afraid I am never going to be well-read and witty enough to appreciate his works.

I feel like a rube when I read things like this because it’s like, I can tell it’s clever but I can’t appreciate it. I say this not to detract from it but to admit that I am looking forward to the discussion here to clue me in! (Apologies if this is a shitty first comment, I am trying to be more engaged with Metafilter instead of passive but I am not trying to derail.)
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 10:45 PM on September 12 [14 favorites]


Damn. I went in with some foolish bravado after reading ttbhr's above comment that I would puzzle my way through whatever was thrown at me.

I really liked it, and I think I understand some of the emotions it's trying to convey, but I must also admit defeat. That's some piece of writing.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 11:46 PM on September 12 [3 favorites]


It's a fever dream innit? Not meant to mnake that much sense as long as you get the feels behind it.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:45 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


It's one of those things that I liked but wouldn't dare casually share on social media because I suspect most people in my life would read my doing so as evidence of my being tedious, self-indulgent or unrelatable.
posted by blerghamot at 1:49 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


That's to say that I know there's a world where people don't think that way, I just don't understand how you guys found it.
posted by blerghamot at 1:57 AM on September 13 [6 favorites]


It reminds me a little bit of Robert Anton Wilson's illustrated and all but unfilmable screenplay Reality Is What You Can Get Away With (excerpt), in that it's a similar kind of sublime pop culture nightmare, with characters from random mid-century films acting as mouthpieces for the author's existential feels. Or maybe it's like James Joyce's Ulysses, but if it was based on Grease instead of The Odyssey. All I know is Ortberg's got a real knack for getting that dream-logic down on paper.
posted by Strange Interlude at 5:34 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]




The actual answer to that, blerghamot, is that most of my social media friends these days are people I found through the Toast comments or the Toast community that developed on Twitter after The Toast went away. Which is to say, I still don't share Ortberg pieces on social media, but only because I know all of my friends have already seen them.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, but then I'm also a fan of dream-logic in general, as well as Ortberg in particular, and "Cool Rider" references as a bonus, so I'm more or less exactly the target audience here.
posted by Stacey at 6:51 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


"A rag and a bone and a hank of hair" might be a reference to this Rudyard Kipling poem, or this Nat King Cole song, or even an old issue of Captain Britain. As for the rest of it, I'd have to know a lot more about Grease than I ever have or will.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:56 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


"A rag and a bone and a hank of hair" might be a reference to this Rudyard Kipling poem, or this Nat King Cole song, or even an old issue of Captain Britain. As for the rest of it, I'd have to know a lot more about Grease than I ever have or will.

It is Kipling (but I've never kippled). It's also referenced in Sophie's Choice. So many layers.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:01 AM on September 13


That's to say that I know there's a world where people don't think that way, I just don't understand how you guys found it.

Ortberg is a known writer, and this piece was published as part of the newsletter he uses to make money While the essay is deliberately obscure and mystical, it was also composed as a performance for an audience. We aren't quite in found art territory here; perhaps I would have been more recalcitrant to have made the post if this something the author had not considered could blow up. (NB: I don't think it has.)
posted by Going To Maine at 7:26 AM on September 13


I'm not familiar with the writer but am I correct to assume "top surgery" is for a transgendered male to female breast augmentation?
posted by ShakeyJake at 7:53 AM on September 13


In Ortberg's case, he's FTM.
posted by lauranesson at 8:07 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


The opposite I think, based on pronoun usage in this thread. (Responding to the earlier question, not the concurrent and definitive answer.)
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 8:07 AM on September 13


I would like to mildly shame the people here who set "too hard I don't get it" as the tone of the thread.

shame. *rings tiny bell*. shame.

okay, now that that's done with: he's in a process of meeting the person he is and saying goodbye to the person he was told to be his entire life. Which on the one hand that is liberating, but on the other hand it's melancholy as all getout. The person he is (Danny) is always going to be mixed up in the role he's been playing all his life (named Sandy, for the sake of the Grease reference), and he's always going to be both of those roles in some way, and some other ones he discovers on the way (SANdy? Dandy? Handy? Uncanny? Daddy? Pansy?) and he's writing about this in a format that's both super public (he's a famous internet writer!) and intimate and private (he's writing for an audience that shares all of his in-jokes and likes his heavily allusive way of writing).

It's a hell of a thing he's going through right now.

Don't think of it as a polished piece of writing, because a polished piece of writing isn't appropriate for documenting the experience. Think of it as a metafilter comment. Imagine yourself favoriting it, then flagging it as fantastic, then going through to read all the other comments by that poster so you can figure out what the deal is with this brilliant person.

tangent: I sort of love the boldness involved in taking the name Daniel. Daniel Mallory Ortberg is maaaaybe the second or third most famous sex-and-stuff advice columnist right now... and he's just going to go ahead and take the same first name as the hands down most famous sex advice columnist of the 21st century.

He's comin' for you, Savage. Watch out.

posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:26 AM on September 13 [25 favorites]


I would like to mildly shame the people here who set "too hard I don't get it" as the tone of the thread.

I believe the "bar" here is related less to the theme and new to the specific keys to the scriptures, Grease, , numerology (repeated sixes) , and other literary references that tie back to Ortberg's own literary interests.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:42 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


It’s lovely. Good luck to him.
posted by Artw at 8:43 AM on September 13 [2 favorites]


I guess you can shame all you want, Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon, but it seems kind of weird to me to assume we all draw upon a background that would give us the references you've put forth in your comment. It's not like if I read it a few more times (I read it twice) suddenly it'd make more sense. I didn't give up because I'm lazy, I gave up because I don't share his in jokes or his allusive way of writing, which is okay, but the way to understand it isn't to try harder, it's to ask for context from others who do share those things.

Basically my comment was exactly this: Think of it as a metafilter comment. Imagine yourself favoriting it, then flagging it as fantastic, then going through to read all the other comments by that poster so you can figure out what the deal is with this brilliant person.

If it makes you feel better to know that you understood it where other people didn't, say that! That's fine, be proud of that! But don't throw shame if someone reads something not in their wheelhouse and doesn't get it and admits it freely, please. Just add the context someone is missing.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:51 AM on September 13 [17 favorites]


Ortberg's style has always been "slightly over-anxious, slightly over-labored reference mostly for the sake of reference," which I think is development from an inheritance from Gen X we can only blame ourselves for if we don't like it. It's the visible acknowledgement of the anxiety that contains it and prevents his pieces from going unbearably pretentious and Whedon-esque. I do think it works a little better in more-grounded pieces like A message from Reformed theologian John Calvin to my dog Murphy, who I suspect is not a member of the elect; in the more free-associational pieces, it has a kind of soured 60s flavor which is not so much for me. But, I mean, at the time of writing he was facing an inscription on his body of a fundamental rewriting of reality as most people still conceive it, so I can't say it's unjustified to take weird flights of fancy.
posted by praemunire at 8:54 AM on September 13 [4 favorites]


ShakeyJake: Speaking of adding context, transgender is used as an adjective, not a verb, so it's okay to say someone is a transgender male!
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 8:55 AM on September 13


Ah, context in the comments. Top surgery threw me for a loop, top of what, just the best surgery, surgery for a toy, first in a series of surgeries? Top-of-the-human-torso it is. I was thinking this was some Grease fanfiction that was above my level, since the songs and names were unfamiliar. Ultimately the best thing for me to take away from this: "Please do not read that last word in Tim Curry’s voice, as he has proved very litigious in the matter of movie-based dreams."

Prior to this I didn't even know I could summon a Tim Curry voice in my head but apparently I can and it's fantastic.
posted by GoblinHoney at 9:21 AM on September 13


I would like to mildly shame the people here who set "too hard I don't get it" as the tone of the thread.

Maybe I should explain my reaction a bit more. I was familiar with Ortberg's work and personal situation before I read this piece. I know Toast readers exist, although I've never encountered one offline. When I come across a work I get but is also referential in a pat-myself-on-the-back way, it triggers a bunch of uncomfortable feelings for me as a reader and writer. Enjoying something that many or most people will find alienating not only because of its references but also because of its laid-bare anxiety makes me uneasy because I know I can't share it with anyone. Then there's the meta-uneasiness of knowing that many people don't have to worry about hiding that they appreciate somewhat inaccessible things.
posted by blerghamot at 9:53 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


When I come across a work I get but is also referential in a pat-myself-on-the-back way, it triggers a bunch of uncomfortable feelings for me as a reader and writer.

The Toast was great, but a lot of The Toast really was for the "I just graduated from college and no one is giving me grades anymore, how am I supposed to know I'm smart?!?!" crowd, Middlebrow Division. It was just by far the funniest possible (and self-aware) version of that writing. I mean, Ortberg breathed new life into the "funny captions on classical art" bit, which you would have thought died ages ago. A lot of great humor has that anxious edge. Ortberg's work doesn't bug me the way that, say, Whedon's "insert a gratuitous reference to something no Western college student or graduate really should be patting themselves on the back for knowing" later style does.
posted by praemunire at 10:08 AM on September 13 [3 favorites]


I loved this.

Of course, I've recently come off a Leonora Carrington bender so . . .
posted by thivaia at 10:50 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]


I may not have gotten all the references (do I ever?), but I’m pretty sure that “Rizzo, who did NOT die,” is supposed to be read in the inflection of Rizzo the rat informing us of Tiny Tim’s fate at the end of A Muppet Christmas Carol.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:49 PM on September 13 [3 favorites]


Looks like he's back in the regular groove: TWO-MOM ENERGY DRINK, with ALL THE ENERGY AND DEEP-SEATED EMOTIONAL SUPPORT OF TWO MOMS. As described, I could use a fifty-five gallon drum of the stuff, just for general catching up purposes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:56 PM on September 13 [3 favorites]


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