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Wild and wacky, so 'True' to read

By PETER CARLSON, WASHINGTON POST
Published December 11, 2006


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Go ahead and snicker at True Romance, True Story, True Experience, True Confessions and Black Confessions, but you've got to admit that these cheesy, weepy magazines publish some of the best cover lines in the business.

Here's one from this month's issue of True Story: "The Night Jesus Was Born - THEY MURDERED MY SON."

And one from the new True Experience: "I CAN'T STOP DECORATING . . . And My Obsession Almost Killed Me."

And this one, from the new Black Confessions: "One Night With an Italian Stallion - And I Am Hooked for Life!"

Those are worthy of the Cover Line Hall of Fame. But somehow the new True Confessions managed to top them, twice:

"SIBLING RIVALRY - EVEN AS ADULTS: My Brother Would Rather Die Than Accept My Kidney."

And my personal favorite: "RUNAWAY WIFE: I Found Love in an Amish Man's Arms!"

It doesn't get much better.

But the greatness of these magazines goes deeper than their cover lines. They also publish some of the word's best "pull quotes," brief passages taken from a story and blown up into big type. And the ads are fabulous, too. But what about the articles?

Well, the articles are best described as . . . long. "Catfight on Christmas Eve," a True Story story about squabbling sisters-in-law, goes on for nine pages, despite the fact that nothing really happens except that the author's brother's obnoxious new wife starts crying when she gets a Christmas present she doesn't like. Which causes the author to lose her temper and . . . never mind. The point is this: American culture has apparently reached the state where readers of confessions magazines have a longer attention span than readers of, say, Time and Newsweek, which never publish stories that long.

How true are these stories? It depends on whom you ask.

"They're true stories," insists John C. Prebich, CEO of Dorchester Media, which publishes True Story, True Confessions, True Romance, True Experience and Black Confessions. "It may not have happened to (the writers), but it was relayed to them."

"Writers write based on their own experience or the experience of people they know or based on something they read in the newspaper," says Nell Miller, who edits True Romance and True Experience.

In other words, these stories are fiction, although there may be some factual material buried in there somewhere.

[Last modified December 11, 2006, 06:39:45]


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