Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008
It’s no secret that writing thoughtful, emotionally-affecting fiction comes from the writer’s ability to draw on real life experiences and turn them into something great. Whether these experiences actually happened, or are anecdotes that were told to the writer by friends or strangers, the details and events that eventually make their way into the story must first pass through the filter of the author. This is just the way that it happens.
Ben Greenman, New Yorker editor and author of several acclaimed books of fiction, has decided to go another route with Correspondences, his latest story collection that focuses on the lost art of letter writing. Greenman’s cutting out the middle man (himself) and inviting his readers to help complete one of his stories. In what he dubs The Postcard Project, Greenman provides an except from the book on the project’s website (as well as a hardcover version of the book) and asks the reader to fill in the intentional holes in the narrative. The story, titled “What He’s Poised to Do,” is the story of a man who abandons his wife and child in order to reconsider his choices in life.
“The Man is staying in a hotel. While he is there, he writes and receives a number of postcards. Some carry messages of love, others messages of regret, others still are confessions or rationalizations. There are nine postcard messages in all, not a single one of which is actually reprinted in the text of the story. That’s where you come in.”
The gaps in the story where postcards are mentioned are numbered. Readers are asked to choose one of these gaps, write an actual postcard from one character to another, number it according to it’s place in the story and mail it to an address in Brooklyn where it will be read by Greenman—and possibly selected to be printed in future editions of Correspondences.
Like SMITH’s own six-word memoir book series, the Postcard Project offers people from all walks of life the chance to share their stories on the printed page. In this case however, people are asked to take their personal experiences and contribute them to a collaborative piece of fiction, creating a new way for readers to react to the fiction they’ve read-by expanding on it.