Author Daniel Mallory Ortberg’s career is a tale of internet stardom – not in the viral, clickbait, Kardashian sense, but in the smarter-than-thou, tongue-in-cheek kind of way; a millennial take on Oscar Wilde, some might say. Described as “a multi-faceted, spinning-top type of genius — flexible, lightning-quick, complicated, unfathomable,” by New York Magazine’s The Cut, Ortberg has made a mark with a writing style and persona that is hard to pin down. With razor sharp wit and idiosyncrasy, he has engendered the kind of loyal following that is rare in a time of short attention spans and fleeting interests.
Ortberg began honing his writing chops at websites and blogs like The Hairpin, where he served up acerbic pieces on offbeat topics. In 2013, he founded feminist website The Toast together with Canadian author Nicole Cliffe. The site soon reached cult status for its parodic reworkings of classic literature and art; Ortberg once drolly described the target audience as “librarians.” He then released his first book, Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters,” in 2014, in which he reimagined characters of classic literature communicating with cellphones. In 2015, Ortberg was included in Forbes’ “30 under 30″ list in the media category while, in the same year, Slate announced he would take over the magazine’s “Dear Prudence” advice column from Emily Yoffe.
Ortberg’s latest book, The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horrors, is one of the most anticipated books this spring, according to NPR. The book recasts classic folk and fairy tales, like The Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and The Little Mermaid, “to make them resonate with new takes on romantic love, property rights, abusive relationships, gender roles and the stuffed animals we hold dear – and their unsparing lack of sentimentality.” As in Texts from Jane Eyre, the adaptations are boisterous and playful, but this time the writing shades toward the darker. In Ortberg’s version, Cinderella is named Paul, Belle’s mother is a “high-powered executive with investment woes,” and The Little Mermaid, after morphing into a girl, discovers the disadvantages of being human by experiencing “a sudden and profound sense of isolation.”
On Friday, April 20, at 8 p.m., Ortberg will be reading from The Merry Spinster in Santa Rosa. The reading will be held at an intimate event space within The Astro, the newly reborn midcentury motor lodge just south of downtown Santa Rosa. The event is hosted and organized by local resident Chelsea Rose Kurnick in partnership with The Astro. Visiting poet Nicole Connolly will open the reading and a Q&A with Ortberg will follow.
“I’m thrilled to bring Ortberg to Santa Rosa and equally excited to be working with The Astro, whose commitment to Santa Rosa’s Arts District is inspiring,” says Kurnick. “There’s space to create more arts events in Sonoma County; I am particularly eager to plan more programming that will welcome and appeal to young folks and LGBTQ-identified people in our community.”
Tickets are free and required, as the event is expected to reach capacity. To redeem your ticket, click here. Anyone who wishes to book a room at The Astro on April 20 and/or 21 will receive a 15% discount if they call the front desk to reserve (707-200-4655) and mention the name “Ortberg.” For more information about The Merry Spinster, please visit us.macmillan.com. Books will be available onsite for purchase through Copperfield’s Books.
What: Daniel Mallory Ortberg reads from The Merry Spinster
When: Friday, April 20, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: The Astro Lounge at The Astro Motel, 323 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa 95404
About The Merry Spinster: A collection of darkly playful stories based on classic folk and fairy tales (but with a feminist spin) that find the sinister in the familiar and the familiar in the alien—from Daniel Mallory Ortberg.
Readers of The Toast will instantly recognize Ortberg’s boisterous good humor and uber-nerd swagger: those new to Ortberg’s oeuvre will delight in this collection’s unique spin on fiction, where something a bit mischievous and unsettling is always at work just beneath the surface.
Unfalteringly faithful to its beloved source material, The Merry Spinster also illuminates the unsuspected, and frequently, alarming emotional complexities at play in the stories we tell ourselves, and each other, as we tuck ourselves in for the night. Bedtime will never be the same.