Lenny comes for a visit
Rebecca Sapp/ Getty Images
It’s the end of summer – what are you reading? Are you transitioning to your heavier fall reads? I’m suffering from indecision. I can’t decide what to start next.
This morning, a new preview for Lenny Letter (a preview of Lena Dunham’s new email newsletter – click here for a refresher on that) was released, with a book excerpt and two short stories. For deadline’s sake, I only read Lena’s story, because she’s the one all the headlines are going to grab onto today. She knows this, and chose to include two other female authors who will share that attention, Jenny Zhang and a book excerpt from Rebecca Dinerstein. (And this is not Lenny’s first preview: in mid-August the first preview was issued, an interview with Sandra Bland’s friend and work partner, Chenai, about Woman4Woman. Read it here)
So Lenny’s first two previews are not exactly the style/beauty/hosting/travel/décor elements we expect from lifestyle. Talking about social justice and publishing original fiction is actually quite a detour from fall shopping guides and “lunch hacks.”
When Lena and her partner Jenni announced Lenny, there wasn’t an emphasis on lifestyle buzzwords: different, curated, exclusive. Instead, they talked about radical politics and feminism and tube tops. But there is an element of advice-giving that is inherent in lifestyle – we haven’t seen that yet with Lenny. So far, Lena and Jenni just want us to read. It’s a simple request, but actually asks quite a lot of the audience. You don’t have to buy into Lena’s taste in cardigans (but I do, she has great cardigans) yet you have to trust that where she is leading you with your time and mental energy.
Because they have faith in the reader; instead of leaning on lifestyle tidbits – Lena’s favourite recipe for poached eggs! – or famous (Hollywood famous, not literary famous) friends – see Taylor’s backstage tour diary! – Lena is saying what she really wants to say and not Trojan horsing it with a denim guide. How would you even do that? 10 Ways to Not Get Illegally Stopped by the Police in This Season’s Hottest Culottes.
Lena just spent quite a bit of time in Tokyo filming Girls – she could have easily done a story on travel – and tacked on some cross-promotion for her show while she was at it. She could write her guide to Brooklyn, curate an office playlist, offer tips on meditation. All of that readily falls under lifestyle. And it would generate traffic and new subscriptions.
But that doesn’t seem to be the path Lenny is interested in. If they continue this way– not going for the easy click, the easy share, the easy email subject line – what will Lenny be? I don’t think even they quite know yet, which makes it interesting and risky. The idea of surprise, of discovery, is what makes me want to open it right now. It’s going to grow into something, but what? It’s like watching a newsletter go through puberty.
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