Recent Work By Brett Ortler

IMG_9879-300x225Always a cauldron of some fleeting controversy or another, the literary world roiled with a genuinely serious scandal over the past two weeks. A number of well-known writers and editors, including Stephen Tully Dierks and Tao Lin, were accused of sexual or emotional abuse.

One of the flashpoints in the resulting fracas was an essay posted to Hobart  by Elizabeth Ellen. In the piece, Ellen offers her opinion on the ongoing reaction to the scandal.

The essay is difficult and troubling, but well-worth reading.

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If you don’t know where you are, it’s almost a pretty place.

On my first visit there, I was on a whirlwind bus tour. My itinerary long since misplaced, our bus wended its way past fields punctuated by hay bales and scattered copses of oak and poplar. It was open country, and the scenery didn’t look all that different from what I might have seen back home in the Midwest.

Your Excellency,

First, congratulations. As the Administrator for the Vatican Secret Archives, you have one of the best job titles imaginable. Seriously, that is a comic book name.

Now I know that the Vatican’s Secret Archives aren’t secret in the common sense of the word, but almost no one knows that, so you might as well run with it. I mean, you’re already subject to so many horrible rumors and conspiracy theories anyway, what with the Illuminati and Dan Brown and the Knights Templar. So you might as well have some fun with it.

I knew we weren’t going to get good news, so I turned away. Technically, we hadn’t received any news at all—the ultrasound technician had said perhaps ten words the whole time—but that was its own evidence.

When previous scans had been normal, it had been apparent fairly quickly. Because of liability issues, technicians aren’t supposed to say much, but body language and demeanor say enough. When the technician cheerily points out the baby’s head, its chin, its heartbeat, fears are quickly alleviated.

Our technician didn’t speak and hardly looked at us. She stared straight ahead at the monitor. One hand operated the machine’s controls, and with her other arm, she somehow manipulated the ultrasound’s transducer without looking, almost as if she were an extension of the machine.

Dear Mr. Sheik,

I’m writing for a couple of reasons. First of all, I recently bought this amazing tumbler with your likeness on it. I think you’ll agree that this is the best beer mug in all of existence. So in your honor, I’m having a giant beer.

I also have a few questions if that’s OK.

Have you ever considered competing on Iron Chef? It’s a cooking show where contestants try to make better food than the “iron chefs.” Whenever I hear someone refer to that show, I think of you on accident. (I’m a child of the ‘80s, so this makes sense.) And whenever I happen to catch an episode of Iron Chef, I’m inevitably disappointed because there are no suplexes or Boston Crabs; instead, it’s usually just a bunch of cooks hurriedly cutting up vegetables.

Dear Mr. Brown,

First of all, congratulations. Your discovery of Eris in 2005 led directly to the reclassification of Pluto, profoundly altering our conception of the solar system. More importantly, in the process, you simultaneously broke the hearts of sentimental saps and/or third graders everywhere.

I should know: I used to be one of those saps. I have to admit, when Pluto was demoted in 2006, I was pretty depressed. Let me explain: I’ve always felt a certain kinship with Pluto. Like Pluto, I live in a far-flung, cold area that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. It is called Minnesota. At 5’6” and one-hundred-and-something pounds, I am also pretty small. You could say that I was the Pluto of my high school football team. Everyone publicly admired me for my pluck, but in private, my teammates rolled their eyes at my feeble attempts to fit in where I so obviously did not belong.