Just wanted to say thanks.
In case you’re unfamiliar with him/her/them?, Narrative Urge is the anonymous presence behind Atlanta’s $10 Art Mystery letter, the first of which was originally sent to news weekly Creative Loafing’s Arts & Entertainment editor, Debbie Michaud.
Each letter contained a ten-dollar bill, a note urging the recipient to “find me,” and a strip of paper with a sentence or two typed on it.
When the sentences were published, Atlanta writers recognized them as excerpts from longer stories and essays they’d written.
There were other clues: a drawing of a UFO, references to French stuntman Henri Rechatin, and to the Biltmore Estate, and to Horace Burgess, who built a 10-story treehouse inspired by a divine vision.
In June, Michaud and CL Events editor Wyatt Williams went in search of answers.
They didn’t solve the mystery, but they did smoke out an entity called Narrative Urge, who thanked them—and everyone—for taking part so far. At about the same time, an interested puzzle solver cracked the “code,” leading to a web page that, in turn, launched two Facebook pages: Narrative Urge and 10 Stories High. In all the excitement, the letters made the news and now the project has its own Wiki page.
The story fragments must be from Atlanta writers, except for the Leonard Cohen lines (envelope #10), which I used because they fit the other criterion: they go well with story I’m shaping around the fragments. There are a few lines (envelope #35, mailed to John Lemley at WABE) from Gone with the Wind, a story that some people believed significant to the project; otherwise, all writers are local. Obviously the “drops,” as I call them, can be found by anyone. Drop locations … are chosen somewhat randomly: inside restaurant menus (the Graveyard, the Majestic, Manuel’s Tavern); Midway Restaurant (under an eraser near the dartboard); Videodrome (near the Frida Kahlo movie starring Salma Hayek); Junkman’s Daughter (inside Tara McPherson’s book, Lost Constellations); in the information box outside that yoga studio on Estoria in Cabbagetown.
Notes on Narrative Urge’s Facebook page added some memorable personal facts I’ve squirreled away for after-midnight wild goose chases on Google.
At first local, the project has now spread to Minneapolis and Chicago. Fierce debate has ensued about who this secret sender could be, with several local literary lights denying it just as fiercely. Maybe a little too fiercely.
And then, days ago, another letter wended its way to Kate Sweeney, writer, radio producer/host (listen to her on John Lemley’s “City Café”) and co-founder of the Atlanta’s bimonthly (and my favorite) non-fiction reading series “True Story.”
Inside was an excerpt from a post at 8 Hamilton Ave.
I’m thrilled. I have always wanted to be part of a puzzle, and I don’t mean the kind I can’t figure out, like, well, areas of my personal life or why I can’t remember whole chunks of my high school years.
I’ve been toying with the 10 Stories High clues for months now. Picking up more here and there. I’m certain there’s something in the names Biltmore House and Horace Burgess—as in take away the shared letters and unscramble what’s left. But I’m terrible with anagrams. I wonder if we’re supposed to add the stories of the structures (the Biltmore, the treehouse, etc.), or if the excerpts—if they all turned up—would make another story when pieced together.
One big story from all of us.
Speaking of becoming part of something bigger, the Decatur Book Festival swings into life today, tomorrow and Sunday, and there is so much going on that no matter which of your favorite authors you decide to see, it means you’ll miss someone else just as great. In its sixth year, the DBF expects to draw about 70,000 people, some from as far away as Australia.
I’m looking forward to readings by Tayari Jones (Silver Sparrow), John Milliken Thompson (The Reservoir), and Clyde Edgerton (The Night Train).
Chris Adrian (The Great Night, The Children’s Hospital), Ned Stuckey-French (The American Essay in the American Century) and Holly Tucker (Bloodwork) are also on my must-see list. Too bad they are all speaking at the same time. A mere cloning issue.
It’ll be my first time seeing Write Club in action. When I first heard about it, WC sounded kinda belligerant and competitive, like a literary Jerry Springer show. But come to find out, it doesn’t involve any actual blood, and the proceeds go to charity! Decatur High School Auditorium, 5 p.m. Saturday: I’m there.
Write Club is the tenderest bloodsport. Write Club is a lit-kick to the back of the skull. Write Club does good without getting all self-righteous.
2 Opposing Writers.
2 Opposing Ideas.
7 Minutes Apiece.
Audience Picks A Winner.
Writers compete for cash going to a charity of their choosing.
Find out more here and listen to some pugnacious podcasts.
I’m also long-overdue for a night at Carapace, née MothUp. This oral storytelling series takes place once a month at Manuel’s Tavern on a Tuesday, my deadline night (on which you may find me at roughly the same time Carapace is in full swing, trying not to panic and ask my editor for another 24 hours) . But this weekend, it’s on Sunday evening at Eddie’s Attic at 5 p.m.
Read more and listen here as participant Howard Chiou tells what happened when he went to his grandmother’s funeral in Taiwan: “It was at the funeral that I learned that one of my uncles had the ability to see ghosts.”
More info about Write Club, Carapace and Kill Your Darlings (yet another trending community of Atlanta writers) can all be found on Facebook.
Or maybe a bacon, lettuce and sliced plum sandwich with basil mayo (that’s a BLP). Or chicken salad with mango chutney … A recent NYT story by Melissa Clark featured some unexpected sandwich combos that could be just what I need to take with me tomorrow. Don’t miss the slide show, which has about 25 more incredible ideas (and recipes).