City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

$10 Art Mystery continues

Narrative Urge. That’s right, I’m talking to you.

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 tree house 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.

Scoutmob even interviewed Narrative Urge, who agreeably revealed some of the details behind the project:

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 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 my blog, 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.

Originally posted on Gina Webb’s blog 8 Hamilton Ave.

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