At work on Tuesday I received a mysterious letter. Isn't that a great opening line? But it is even greater for that it is true. At work on Tuesday I received a mysterious letter.
The postmark was blurred. There was no return address. The letter came in a buff-colored envelope, my name printed on the outside in a very lovely hand.
Inside, was a second envelope--a white windowed envelope. Showing through the window was what appeared to be a dollar bill. On the outside of the envelope was written, "for you." And, on the other side, "A literary art project from ATL w/♥ "
Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. I opened it, drew out a folded letter, a slip of paper, and the money--which was not a dollar bill at all, but a $10 bill.
The letter read as follows:
"Thank you for opening the envelope. The money is real. We are all parts of each others' stories. Let's create more together. Please join the project! Use the hints. Find me."
And a clue: "a site to see (haiku clue) robotic cranes dance/ in singapore. in taiwan / appears tornadoes!"
There was also a snippet from something--a short story, or a novel. (It turns out to be from a novel by an Atlanta author.) Here it is:
I have spent the better part of two days now trying to figure all this out, trying to piece clues together, trying to find out what it all adds up to. I know a little more than I did on Tuesday when the mail arrived, but only a very little.
I know that these envelopes first started appearing in Atlanta, Georgia, in the spring, and expanded to ten other cities this month. Some were mailed to people, as mine was. Some were scattered around town--tacked to light poles, or tied to park benches, or slipped into books or restaurant menus or left in public bathrooms.
I know that several places have blogged about this, as I did Tuesday and again Wednesday. Creative Loafing, an alt paper in Atlanta, wrote about it, and a few other places. They followed clues (the robotic cranes and the taiwan tornadoes are both ten storeys high--so ten storeys, or perhaps ten stories, seem to be significant). They seemed, like me, enchanted and mystified.
I blogged about it on Tuesday, and then, after poking around a bit, blogged about it again yesterday.
Someone along the way set up a wiki page on the web as a place where people could share clues; I added mine. There are a couple of Facebook pages that appear to be set up by the person (or persons?) who are behind all of this. They are lovely and enigmatic.
Apparently all of this is a quiet, mysterious public art project by someone with a very clever mind (and a stash of $10 bills). The pieces, the pieces...they add up to something, but I am not at all sure what.
It is a puzzle, a literary puzzle, an artistic puzzle.
But it is also more than that. It is a statement of hope, I think, about art and writing bringing people together, enchanting them, rewarding them. At one point, the person (whose facebook page is "narrative urge") said they had hoped that all of the people who found clues would get together, pool their knowledge, become friends, get married, have children. OK, they were being a little silly here, but their point is well taken: they were hoping to help build community.
And certainly they have done that (without the marriage and children). They have sent out fewer than 100 envelopes (mine was No. 56; the Chicago Reader received No. 65 the same day), and yet people all over the Web, all over the country, are poking around, talking about this, thinking about the meaning and power of words on paper.
Even if I can never solve the riddle, I think that alone is a wonderful and lovely thing to stumble into, and I am delighted my name was chosen to receive an envelope.
But truth be told, I would still love to understand the bigger picture, see how these pieces fit together. Are any of you good at puzzles? Will you be as entranced as I am by this? Will you help me solve it?
There's $10 in it for you. And a new community. And a renewed love of art.