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What Novelist Jami Attenberg Can’t Live Without

Photo: Melissa Hom

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked novelist Jami Attenberg, author of All This Could Be Yours — about the red pens, hot sauce, and weed whacker she can’t live without.

Pilot Juice 1.0mm Gel Ink Ballpoint Pen, Dark Red Ink, Value Set

My friend Sarah Thyre sent me one of these pens as a gift and described them as being “menstrual-blood red” and thus, I was sold. I use them to journal with, and I’ve been signing my books with them — red is an unconventional color to sign with, most people just use Sharpies. But I just enjoy knowing that it is menstrual-blood red. It entertains me and I feel it adds a certain depth to my signature even if I’m the only one who knows it.

Birkenstock Lola by Papillio in Coral Nubuck

I am a new arrival to Birks and now I want to own as many pairs as possible and live in them. These are very simple and relatively inexpensive for Birks but that little pop of color makes them feel special. I’ve been wearing them on book tour, and people are like, “Aren’t you cold?” but I love them. I actually just did a photo shoot where I was wearing them and when it came out everyone was like, “Tell me about those shoes.” They make me happy.

Elizabeth Suzann Florence Short

I live in these shorts and often sleep in them too. There’s no glamour in the daily 100-degree heat that we live through in New Orleans, and I always end up feeling very stripped down and basic. But these shorts are very silky and cool and chic — the cut is a little bit 1940s style — and my life feels a little easier in them. I go up and down in my weight, and sometimes I am plus size; Elizabeth Suzann is great about doing stuff in plus sizes and using plus-size models. Companies that don’t use plus-size models, I can’t even look at their websites anymore. It doesn’t feel like a pleasant place to spend time.

Black+Decker 20V MAX Lithium Ion String Trimmer/Edger, 10"

I have a backyard for the first time in my life, but it’s small enough that I don’t need to get a real lawn mower, and I can just whack the hell out of it with this sucker. Weed whacking is an excellent break from the internet, if one might need a break from the internet. Which I do. Some people wash dishes, some people do laundry — when I want to avoid doing work, my weed whacker gets me outside. And it feels productive.

Neogen Bio-Peel

I think I learned about this exfoliator on the Strategist. [Ed. It was in Rio’s original Google Doc.] Let’s just say I enjoy visual results in my skin-care products. I want to know what we’ve accomplished together. And these wonderful lemony smelling heavily exfoliating things do the trick. There’s a little pad that you put your fingers in, and you scrub your face with one side, and then wipe it off with the cotton on the other side. I don’t want to be gross about it, but you can see what it exfoliates. Like weed whacking, this is another little thing that I do to feel productive. And it smells really nice. I had a facialist once who told me if you like the way something smells that’s reason enough to get it. I use it after I’ve been outside sweating, a couple times a week. I use a Klairs vitamin-C serum everyday and Aveeno Positively Radiant with SPF 30. And then I do use Good Genes sometimes. I kind of took a break from it — I thought maybe I had developed a resistance, but then I started using it again. But you know, the best thing I did for my skin was that I didn’t drink for two months.

Hi Wildflower Mojave 8 ML Rollerball Perfume

Tanwi Nandini Islam is this wildly talented human who writes brilliant novels and essays but then also has this incredible beauty and fragrance company. I’m always interested in people who can do more than just write. I own a few products of theirs, but this particular scent is the one that always makes people lean in and sniff my neck and linger — one time I was standing at a party and there were three women sniffing my neck at once. I’m not really a floral person, and I like how it’s kind of earthy. I bring it with me when I travel, and it always makes me feel so heavenly and sexy.

Crystal Hot Sauce, Louisiana's Pure Hot Sauce (Pack of 2)

This hot sauce is a New Orleans staple, and a little bit of a cliché for me to include it here, but I really do use it all the time. I think of it as like a punctuation mark at the end of a sentence, if the sentence were my dinner.

WRBH is the only full-time reading station for the blind and print impaired in America, and it’s a real treasure. The readers are wonderful, and so is the content. They read from all kinds of things, national publications and local papers and books, and I have learned so much by listening to it. It’s incredibly soothing and rewarding and I just feel better knowing it exists. I usually have it on when I’m in the car, and I like the disjointed experience of starting to listen to something halfway through, and then trying to figure out the beginning. My novel is set in New Orleans, and I’ve gotten information about New Orleans and Louisiana from listening — they had a whole section on nutria, a local scourge that’s destroying all the wetlands, and they had someone reading from a book about it. I ended up using some of what I learned in my own book.

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What Novelist Jami Attenberg Can’t Live Without