Something That May Shock and Discredit You is a memoir that combines transition, pop culture, religion, literature, and generally overthinking everything in a witty way. Known from The Toast and a host of comedic essays on pop culture and literature, Lavery combines this with personal memoir about transition, including internal battles, relating to others, and generally dealing with having a body.
This is a fast-paced collection with short chapters and various interludes on literature and pop culture topics that will be familiar in tone to any of his fans. My personal highlight of these was the reworking of Lord Byron’s reflections on his birthday, because I’m a huge Byron fan and it was hilarious. Another great one was the re-describing of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which is both an accurate retelling and a great look at the sheer confusion Gawain faces. Some of the pieces about literature or the Bible need some knowledge of them (both of my favourites are based around the fact I know about Byron and Gawain, and indeed have studied both), though it doesn’t necessarily stop enjoyment when you don’t have all of the background (I spent two English degrees not understanding most Biblical references and I got by then). The memoir side of things is perhaps even better, written with thought and self-deprecation, as he reflects on deciding to transition, being in your thirties, growing up, and how gender is treated in society as you transition.
This is a charming book which combines a host of references and discussions on culture with self-reflection and humour, showing that memoirs don’t have to be just sincere reflections on a journey or process (as is mocked in the opening chapter). The writing style makes it less focused on the personal detail than the observations, though there are some sweet details (such as the build up on the relationship with his now-wife), and in general it feels very fresh as a memoir, though very in keeping with Lavery’s style from reading his writing online.
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