In the spirit of a literary tradition that harkens back to Charles Dickens and George Eliot, Lena Dunham, the award-winning creator of Girls and the writer/director of Tiny Furniture, will be writing a serial novel for the Vogue.com website, with new chapters published Monday through Friday. The first installment of Verified Strangers, a modern-day romance novel set in Los Angeles and London, appears today.
It seemed the perfect time to launch this project. In this unsettling period of isolation and anxiety, the act of communal reading can provide enormous solace. Lena Dunham is one of the most gifted writers we have today, and I am thrilled that she came to Vogue with this idea and thought we were the best partner for this ambitious and inspiring project.
The plot of “Verified Strangers” revolves around Ally, who, as Dunham describes, is “32, single and nursing the kind of heartbreak that has taken years to mend (and may take a few more.)” She’s also addicted to dating. (“Harder to quit then drugs,” she argues.) But when LA proves to have a shortage of eligible men and she can’t take the mundane humiliation any longer, her roommate Caz suggests she limit her search to “verified strangers.” You know, a friend of a friend. Someone new (to you) but who comes with a resounding recommendation.
“But where are they?” Ally wonders. “Turns out,” says Dunham, “they’re everywhere. Suddenly, Ally goes from tragic dry spell to juggling relationships like she’s Don Draper, ignoring the job she needs and pissing off the friends she loves. And are any of these dudes even worth it? Will she find someone to build a home with, or even someone to make a hot memory with in Cabo (well, it’s too late, cuz she’s driving there…) What does a wealth of men mean if you have no idea what you really want, and no sense of your own worth?”
The twist to this novel, in addition to its daily frequency, is that Vogue readers will get to play a key role in the plot’s development. Every second chapter will end with a cliffhanger: Ally is faced with two options for her next move. Which will she choose? That’s where the readers will come in. Once that chapter is published — the first one will be tomorrow — readers will be able to vote on the Vogue Instagram account on where the story should go next, a decision that Dunham will abide by. (They can also follow the novel’s progress through the hashtag #VerifiedStrangersonVogue.)
As Dunham says, “Find out what Ally does when it rains men (and one woman) and vote on where you want this story to go, in a modern choose-your-own-adventure romance novel, written exclusively for quarantined singletons and the people who love them.”
Dunham, who is currently living in London in preparation for her next movie, said she was inspired to tackle this project by her own reading over the years, as well as the literary tradition of Vogue, particularly under its editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.