Strange Fuel for Deb Eleanor’s Writer Brain

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor BrownWe’re bigger movie-watchers in my house than TV-watchers.  This is not generally a problem for us, except when we realize that we’re completely clueless about something that everyone else is buzzing about. A Superbowl commercial, for instance, or The Office. To this day, I have never heard Paris Hilton’s voice. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, but it’s kind of odd, given the hysteria about her a few years ago.

When I was teaching, this was actually a significant handicap. I didn’t know what or who my students were talking about half the time.

So I made an investment. A subscription to People magazine.

(By the way, People has a phenomenal book reviews section. And I’m not just saying that because they called The Weird Sisters “delightful”, or because one of my favorite people and writers, Caroline Leavitt, reviews for them. They’re really good, and I wish the section were five times the size.)

I’ve got lots of conflicted feelings about celebrity culture – both our consumption of it, and the life that stars end up leading because of our consumption of it. And don’t even getting me started on their kids’ inclusion in these magazines.

What was I talking about?

Oh! People. I actually adore magazines, and find that I get so many good ideas from them. I once saw a picture of Jennifer Aniston with her real estate agent, that for some reason just sparked a whole flood of ideas. My image of what the Andreas sisters in The Weird Sisters looked like came from a magazine ad for an investment firm in Marie Claire (they also have great book picks). I love the way writers for The New Yorker encapsulate an entire story in only a few hundred words in their Talk of the Town section.

What are your unlikely sources of inspiration?

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17 thoughts on “Strange Fuel for Deb Eleanor’s Writer Brain

  1. People Magazine – a guilty pleasure! Makes wearing a paper gown worth it. I also love Rolling Stone – amazing writing. And if you want a tasty treat, read Chris Kimball’s opening page in Cook’s Illustated. His narration of, commentary on life in Vermont over the decades is like a warm plate of pancakes covered in maple syrup and butter.

    • I haven’t read Rolling Stone in years, but I do remember their having some really excellent journalism and great writing.

      Mmmm…pancakes. Note to self: eat breakfast before commenting.

  2. People Magazine is my go-to read in waiting rooms (doctor, dentist, and, once upon a time, orthodontist). Gives me a little something to look forward to on appointment days. I love the book review section, too — short, sweet, and typically spot on.

    • Weirdly, I never read the magazines at the doctor’s office! Usually I’ve brought a book and am reading that (or filling out truckloads of forms – fun!).

      People does definitely work as a bribe, though – it’s one of the ways I get myself to the gym. I promise myself I can read it while I work out!

  3. I’m an OMG! addict. I have to minimize my screen quickly if I hear Norm approaching because I would be embarrassed for him to know I’m checking out style.

    Eleanor, I’m LOVING the weird sisters right now!! Cannot wait to finish it.

    • That’s hilarious – I love that you hide the screen!

      And thank you! I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying it!

  4. I’m not really into TV either – so I feel clueless sometimes! I do love magazines, though. Recently I’m loving Anthology magazine, and Real Simple is my all-time fave.

    I’ve never read People’s book reviews. I’ll have to check them out!

    • I’m not familiar with Anthology magazine. You check out People’s book reviews, I’ll check out Anthology!

  5. I too am a magazine junkie. All kinds. Being a Southern gal, i highly recommend “Garden &Gun”. Don’t let the title fool you because it is, as they say, “not your mama’s ‘Southern Living'”. It has an edgy, contemporary vibe with a nod to Southern Americana classics. Also for books I like Oprah’s magazine, great selections.

    • O Magazine does have great book selections!

      I have a subscription to Garden & Gun! I fell in love with it because of the title, but it’s really a beautiful magazine. It should go monthly!

  6. Hey, something else we have in common. I don’t watch TV and rarely watch movies, but I adore celebrity trivia. I usually get my fix online, though I’ve been known to choose the longest line at the grocery store just so I can stand there and read all the smutty headlines.

    • Ha! I have found that one thing that soothes my fear of flying is reading gossip magazines – and not like People, but Star or inTouch. So I’m the person not just reading them in the checkout line, but actually buying them!

  7. We have the very basic cable package now (basically the networks and PBS) and I do all my tv watching on Netflix or dvd. I’m perfectly happy about it, but it is very odd when I watch live tv and see the commercials and realize I have no idea what anyone is trying to sell these days. It is pretty refreshing.

    • I hate it when people bring up commercials in conversation – I always am so lost, and it never translates unless you’ve seen it.

      It’s odd, because I can appreciate that commercials themselves are an art form, but I can’t stand watching a TV program interrupted by commercials. I’ll wait for it on Netflix or iTunes.

  8. The whole celeb thing… very weird. Was picking up Miss M from clay camp the other day and I see this greasy teen taking pictures of some girl also picking up from clay camp. The girl handled it with great aplomb — continued as if there weren’t some random person IN HER FACE as she was going about her business. I had no idea who she was by sight — found out after she’s quite a big-time starlet — but it was so bizarre and creepy to see this girl hounded just going about her daily business.

    That said, I always read People in doctor’s offices… if I don’t have a novel handy.

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