Pivoting, Softly: Welcome To The Chatner

Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Chatner ( The Shatner Chatner), a newsletter about rejiggered literary classics, the transmasculine underpinnings of the plucky heroine, and the failures of graciousness, from table manners to family estrangement. Having served as Slate’s latest iteration of the advice-giving personality Dear Prudence since 2016, I’ve advised my last letter-writer this month (although I’ll continue to host a similarly-themed podcast with Slate, so watch the skies for further updates there) and have accepted a Substack Pro deal that will enable me to write this newsletter full-time. Hence the slightly-tweaked title, as I’ve attempted to balance caution (as the newsletter’s erstwhile namesake is lightly litigious) with continuity (since I’ve changed my own name every single time I publish a book, which is very confusing for bookstores’ cataloging software as well as casual readers).

Last week I joined a panel on NPR’s 1A with Ann Friedman and Darian Harvin to discuss newsletters in general and Substack more particularly, if you’re interested in hearing my thoughts for so doing in greater detail, as well as a reminder that Graham Linehan’s account ought to be removed from the site for violating Substack’s Terms of Use.

You’re not out of a job. We’re putting you in as head of the new music department. // Thanks, R.F. At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony.

I’m very excited at the prospect of having (mostly) one job, which has been so rarely the case for me. You can expect more of the same of the Chatner’s bread-and-butter posts like forced-masculinization pornography in the works of Georgette Heyer, the ongoing animalization of speech project, a taxonomy of lady cooks with “historically significant and socially-dominant breasts” in period dramas, considerations of transitioning without capitulating to adolescence, Nicole Kidman needing a minute because she has a question for you, no, wait a minute, I need to think, I’m your wife.

With more time and attention to spare to the Chatner, I’ll be starting an ongoing fiction series, beginning this Friday with an adaptation of (no points for guessing correctly) Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Each Friday until the end of the summer will see a new chapter in this series, Hotel Dull, Food Indifferent, and each chapter will be set entirely and excruciatingly during mealtime. Each chapter will be available in both text and audio form. I’ll also update the intermittent Boxcar Children series more regularly, review forgotten bestsellers like Nat Ferber’s I Found Out: A Confidential Chronicle of the ‘Twenties, and write more extensively on the history of dining etiquette and popular social relationships to food, Biblical exegesis and American evangelicalism, the liturgical seasons of family estrangement (“You know, Mother’s Day is hard for some people…”), specifically-transmasculine forms of abjection, and the surprising popularity of the idea of an FBI run on empathy and psychic impulses.

Finally, a bit of housekeeping:

I’ll begin with what’s not changing – the full archive of the newsletter will remain available under the new domain, so you’re free to revisit “Things Italian Men of a Certain Age Have Said To Me About My Dog” and “I am the horrible creeping bag of sound that is the most worst to you! I will use my beak to mischief you and I will press B” repeatedly and at leisure. If you currently subscribe to the Chatner, whether as a paid or unpaid member, you do not have to do anything! All posts in the first two weeks will be free, so new readers can get a sense of the scope of things before subscribing. The upcoming fiction series will be updated for paid subscribers every Friday in both text and audio formats. Paid subscribers will also be able to join ongoing open threads, submit requests for future series and essay subjects, .

I’ll be increasing the cost of new subscriptions only for the first time since 2017; new subscriptions will now cost $6 a month or $65 a year. If you’ve already started your subscription at the earlier $5/50 level, you’ll continue to pay that amount and no more in perpetuity. As always, if you’d like to subscribe, but you’re a student or find the cost otherwise prohibitive, please email support@substack.com and I’ll set you up with a free one-year subscription. 

Thanks very much for reading – I’m very excited. Let’s bear that banner with the strange device ‘mid some ice and snow together a while more.