Esquire did a little experiment. Even gave it a name – The Napkin Project. It went like this:
It’s an old story, we figured. Someone, in a bar somewhere, scribbling on a napkin in the failing afternoon light; the kind of story or list or note that might be crammed in a pocket and pulled out years later to tell something deep and forgotten — perhaps life’s most intimate first chapter, nearly lost forever. So we gave this spontaneous medium a shot. We put 250 napkins in the mail to writers from all over the country — some with a half dozen books to their name, others just finishing their first. In return, we got nearly a hundred stories. We present a sampling here — from lush to spare, hilarious to terrifying.
If you follow the link (click on “Esquire” above), you’ll see the list of authors who participated. Click on each name and you’ll see the actual napkin with the story written by that author. If you can’t read all the writing – and you’re not alone on that – the good folks at Esquire were nice enough to print out what the napkins say at the bottom.
The whole idea is pretty clever in my view. What I was most amazed by was the amount of crap people could fit on a napkin. There’s one by Unknown (I’m guessing that’s not the author’s real name) that is longer than my first novella. Here’s the link – see for yourself. Others are short. Take, for example, Aimee Bender’s napkin which played off the “Esquire” printed on the white napkin and went like this:
To J. Smith [Esquire],
Please accept my resignation. The printer is broken. The stationery is gone. Malty is angry, angry, angry.
I could waste hours of time reading these…