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Friday, October 29, 2010

Writing Lessons from J. Peterman

I’m sure many of you remember the J. Peterman character on Seinfeld; tall, brooding actor John O’Hurley played the man behind the catalogue. He was known for giving little speeches about exotic locales he visited to obtain the latest items for sale (the jungles of Burma factored largely into his travels).

The catalogue isn’t that different. Each item for sale (ranging from clothing to antique coffee grinders) is described in a literary blurb designed to create atmosphere. Instead of just saying, “Comes in blue and green, sizes S, M, and L,” they try to take you on a little journey so that you’ll gasp and say, “Not only do I want that hat…I AM that hat. Give it to me now. $345? No problem.” Many of the blurbs are over the top and make for highly entertaining reading, especially if you add a British accent (don’t ask me why—the company is based in Lexington, KY, but an accent makes everything more fun, so pick your favorite one and have at it).

That said, there’s something pretty clever about the whole idea, and if you can keep from laughing out loud, you might just learn something about setting a scene.

If you’ve never read a J. Peterman catalog, get your booty over to the website and fill out the easy form so they can send you a FREE one. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee it.

Click HERE….come on, just do it.

Back yet? Okay, I got Owner’s Manual No. 82 in the mail yesterday, and have to share a couple of items with you:

You’ve Been Elevated to Dangerous Woman Status.

Is that “The CEO of the Year” making a beeline toward you at the annual office party? None other.
“You know Margaret, I never told you how insightful your cost analysis study asking the question do we need a cost analysis study itself.”
“Some didn’t think so.”
Balancing two flutes of champagne and a stuffed mushroom, he suggests discussing it in a more private setting.
You may never know if it’s you.
Or your daring cutaway blazer you’ve chosen to wear with a lacy cami underneath.
But as you’ve documented: who cares about analysis?
Cutaway Tuxedo Blazer (No. 2857). Exceptional fully lined take on men’s formal wear in fine Italian wool. Single button is where it all cuts away. Notch collar. Deep center back vent. Simple slits at cuffs. Boutonniére on lapel just right to affix a small phalænopsis orchid, once considered an aphrodisiac. Imported.
Women’s sizes: 2 through 18.


The J. Peterman Shirt.
99% Thomas Jefferson. 1% Peterman.

Thomas Jefferson disliked stuffy people, stuffy houses, stuffy societies. So he changed a few things. Law. Gardening. Government. Architecture.
Of the thousand castles, mansions, chateaux you can walk through today, only Monticello, only Jefferson's own mansion, makes you feel so comfortable you want to live in it.
I think you will feel the same about his 18th-century shirt. Classic. Simple. Livable.
The J. Peterman Shirt (No. 1012) for men and women, in pioneer muslin and pure cotton. Non-silly 18th-century collar. No collar stays to lose. No points to button down. Authentic dropped seams at shoulders. Wooden buttons, beautifully detailed. Mid-length placket.
Sizes: S, M, L, XL, XXL. Imported.
(Generous cut.)


Dominica Bay Rum.

The Small Island of Dominica. Columbus discovered it, named it, and left it alone. It's north of Martinique. And it is the home, since 1907, of a very good West Indian Bay Rum manufactured under the Dominica brand-name.
Bay Rum has a fairly quiet scent, less strong than anything called perfume, less strong than anything called aftershave, but not so quiet as to be boring. It is, in fact, quite sexy.
It is sexy the way skin begins to smell from strong sun, salt water, steel drums, breaking waves, moving palm branches and giggling coming from somewhere.
Men liked Bay Rum long before 1907, when the Dominica brand started. Men have liked Bay Rum since Spanish Main days. They like it for the least complicated reason in the world: it smells good.
A decent gift which often turns into a lifetime habit.
Dominica Bay Rum (No. 1044), 10 fl. oz. Imported.


Baker Street. Dense fog.
A man passes, his profile silhouetted in the mist.
The all-too-familiar shape of his pipe prominent.
The smell of sweet smoke wafting in the air.
Could it be?
Of course it is.
(Can you believe some people think Sherlock Holmes was merely fiction?)
Then how can you explain his remarkable pipe?
The Sherlock Holmes Pipe (No. 2931). Made from a specially selected briar with a smooth, polished finish and an extra-large bowl. A Peterson of Dublin exclusive with Holmes’ iconic profile etched into the sterling silver band on the pipe’s shank.
And that curiously cool smoke?
Simple deduction points to the small hole at the mouthpiece.
Or “P”-Lip to be exact.

I provided some links to other people who feel that J. Peterman has something to offer the writing world :)

Have a great weekend.
PS~ Seriously, get the free catalogue sent to you. It's fun to read.


  1. Wonderful descriptions. They all transported me somewhere else. I can see why you love the catalogue!

  2. This is great! Now if I could write a query letter with the same technique, I might make a sale:)

  3. Dude, I am so signing up for that. I didn't know it was REAL!

  4. The original REI catalog was like that, but now they've gone all ordinary. I miss it. I'll have to sign up for this one.

    I followed your link from Janice Hardy's blog. I love the sound of your books, especially Regina Brinkwell and the Truth Brigade!

  5. Hilarious! I thought it was a company they made up for the show and not a real retailer. Great, distinct descriptions.

    Thanks for sharing, Jess! They made me smile.

  6. Oh I am afraid I would be too tempted by the combination of fine items and little stories! I best resist the temptation. But thanks for sharing, I love little tidbits like this.

    You beat me to my award announcement! Cool!

  7. Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us, I like it and we can communicate. Do you need buy app ratings and reviews. To boost app ranking and double app downloads now.