It should come as no surprise that Lena Dunham and Judy Blume are admirers of one another’s work. Dunham grew up reading Blume’s coming-of-age books like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Summer Sisters—the latter of which helped to inspire Dunham’s wildly popular HBO show, Girls. Blume says she loves Dunham’s show because she “never had that experience of being a young woman living on her own,” and watching Girls means getting “to live it vicariously.” What does surprise, though, in this 80-page book chronicling the pair’s first meeting and a conversation that touches on writing, celebrity, sex, censorship, and favorite breakfasts, is just how naturally the two get along. The generation gap doesn’t stand a chance—perhaps because Dunham and Blume have reading in common. “When we, as young women, are given the space to read, the act becomes a happy, private corner we can return to for the rest of our lives,” Dunham explains in her introduction. “We develop this love of reading by turning to stories that speak to the most special, secret parts of us. And here comes Judy Blume.”
The limited-edition book is exclusive to new Believer subscribers and current subscribers who renew their subscriptions in 2013. The interview will also be excerpted in the January issue of the Believer. Here, Blume recalls writing and presenting book reports on imaginary series about a horse named Dobbin. Subscribe now and get the book in time for stuffing stockings, plus nine issues of the Believer in the new year, for just $45.
LENA DUNHAM: As a kid, what was popular? What were the books people read at school? Was it the Bobbsey Twins and Boxcar Children?
JUDY BLUME: I never read the Bobbsey Twins or Boxcar Children, but—
LD: Both boring.
JB: My first favorite books were the ones in the Betsy-Tacy series. But they weren’t popular in school. I didn’t know anyone else who was reading them. I liked Nancy Drew, used my allowance to buy one every week at the Ritz Bookstore. In sixth grade I made up books to give book reports on.
LD: You invented them?
JB: I did.
LD: You would report on a book that had never existed?
JB: I did.
LD: Were you ever caught?
JB: Nope. I always got an A on those.
LD: That’s incredible.
JB: I just wasn’t interested in the kinds of books I thought I was meant to be reading. I wasn’t that interested in stories about prairie girls or horse stories. I never read a horse book in my life, but I thought that’s what my friends were reading and that’s what I should be reading—Dobbin does this and Dobbin does that.
LD: That was the name of your series?
JB: It was about a horse named Dobbin, yes. I made up the characters and the theme and I stood up in front of the class and I gave my report.
LD: On the books you made up in your mind?
LD: That’s a literary hoax, basically.
JB: I had never heard of a literary hoax then. Still, I knew it wasn’t right. The thing is, I was reading. I was reading from the bookshelves at home, but how could I report on those books? I tell teachers now, when I tell this story, I say, “How about just once during the school year, give your students the chance to invent books? See what they come up with.”
LD: Did you ever say in the book report that you didn’t like it—that it wasn’t good?
JB: I don’t think so.
LD: That would be a whole other meta-layer.
Subscribe today and begin with the January 2014 issue, which kicks off the year with a look back at the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan skating scandal of 1994, as well as an interview with author Anne Enright. Later in the year, Neko Case interviews Richard Adams and Lydia Millet talks about her tenure at Hustler. There will be interviews with Bill Cosby, Jesse Eisenberg, Gordon Willis, and Seth MacFarlane. Featured essays will include Leslie Jamison’s “The Empathy Exams,” the Hairpin’s Anne Helen Peterson on celebrity tabloid culture, and the story of OK Cola, which attempted to steal Gen-X hearts with slogans like “What’s the point of OK? Well, what’s the point of anything?” Subscribers will also receive our film and art issue bonus items, as well as this year’s Believer music compilation, which will feature unreleased music, demos, and field recordings from the likes of Typhoon, La Luz, Willy Vlautin, Andy Shauf, and many more! Nine issues plus the Judy Blume and Lena Dunham interview book are yours—just in time for the holidays—when you subscribe today.