The Unger Review Interview: 5 Questions with Andrew Unger

Creator of The Unger Review (formerly The Daily Bonnet), Andrew Unger is also the author of the award-winning novel Once Removed and the collection The Best of the Bonnet, both published by Turnstone Press. 

1) I guess everyone wants to know, why did you change the name of The Daily Bonnet?

Because I know how much Mennonites love change. Ha, that’s the answer I’ve been giving up until now. The fuller answer is more complex with a lot of factors.

This was obviously not a change that I took lightly. The website is more-or-less a one-person operation and I’ve sometimes wondered just how long I could keep it going. I knew that if I was going to continue, I had to make a change … to recharge and reinvigorate myself, you know? Even just a small change like a name change can help with that. That was one reason.

I also kind of felt like the project and name culminated with the book The Best of the Bonnet. I’ve always treasured books above websites. (I know, I know, I run a website, but still …) So, to me, there was nowhere else to go with the name “The Daily Bonnet.” I’m really proud (in a humble Mennonite way) of the book and believe it’s the best representation of the entire Daily Bonnet project. I hope folks have a chance to pick it up if they haven’t already. The articles are revised and updated and truly at their very best.

Then, of course, there was the fact that the Daily Bonnet name doesn’t necessarily fully represent what the website is all about. Maybe it never did. I like the name. I know a lot of people do. I’m attached to it, too, so, as I said, I didn’t make this decision lightly, but the fact is the website has always been about a lot more than just plain dress bonnet-wearing Mennonites.

By removing the word “daily,” I also free myself up to take a vacation every once in a while.

2)Why did you select the new name The Unger Review?

I haven’t discussed this with him, so I can’t speak to his intentions, but I was inspired by how novelist David Bergen speaks of his work. I recall an interview about Here the Dark, where he introduced the book by describing the character Lily Isaac, without ever saying the word “Mennonite.” To Russian Mennonites in the audience, the surname would immediately be familiar and we would know, “this is a story about Mennonites,” while to the rest of the audience that detail might not be necessary. Similarly, with the new website name, I was thinking about ways of signalling “Mennonite” while at the same time, inviting as wide an audience as possible to enjoy the satire.

What kind of satire am I writing? What is the content? Of course, much of it is about Mennonites, and will continue to be, but really the only unifying factor is it’s “whatever I feel like writing about.” That’s why I figured my name should somehow be in the name of the website. I contemplated The Unger Report, like other satires such as The Mercer Report, The Borowitz Report, and The Colbert Report. But then I thought that would not be entirely original. I scoured the web for any puns or titles that play off the word Under or Hunger and figured that The Unger Review (ie. “under review”) suggested a newspaper, while containing a pun for those who appreciate that sort of thing.

As for the logo, I wanted to keep the same colour scheme so that there would be continuity with The Daily Bonnet. But what would I replace the bonnet with? The only identifiable feature about myself–something that could be turned into a logo–were my thick black glasses. I now can never change my frames.

3)What changes can we expect on the new website?

The content will be about as Menno as it’s always been. Not 100%, but it never was. I’ve also changed the names of the categories to fun puns like Unger & Thirst rather than the old Food & Drink category. I’ve also added a new sports section called The Unger Games and a politics/government section called Unger the Influence. There are also some new interactive features like the new headline contest that I’m excited about.

And, remember, The Daily Bonnet has not gone away. It is now a section under (or unger) the umbrella of The Unger Review. All the old articles are still there and I will continue to post classics on social media.

4) What has been the response to change so far?

Well, I knew some folks were going to prefer the old name. I remember when the Canadian Football League changed their logo and people were absolutely furious. At least on social media. Within a short while, however, people settled down and got used to the new logo. I think this happens whenever a brand/company changes a logo or name. So, to be honest, I was expecting a negative reaction and I’m happy to see it hasn’t been all that negative. Of course, folks are asking me why I changed it. These are legitimate and sincere questions, which I’ve tried to answer in this interview.

Unfortunately, there were also a small handful of (since deleted) mean-spirited comments as well, but I’m used to that from running a website. Maybe with the name change more people will realize there’s a real human being behind the website and not just a logo they can use as a punching bag.

As I said, though, people have been curious but supportive. I think that best sums up the general response. I totally sympathize with folks who were attached to the Daily Bonnet name. Believe me, it’s my website, I’m attached to it, too. But it was time for a change.

5)Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Well, in addition to continuing to write satire, I’m also working on another novel. I’m not sure when it will be finished, but I’m going to keep at it. I’ve also noticed, since we’re all gathering in public again, an increase in requests for public speaking. I’m a busy person, so I can’t always be at every event, but when I can I’m excited to speak, read my work, and interact with readers.