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Arts & Culture

A World of Secrets Sent via Postcard

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We usually think of secrets as hidden in inaccessible files, or under lock and key, or even repressed in the deepest recesses of our minds.

For Frank Warren, secrets are sent through the mail on postcards, for anyone to read.

And then those secrets end up on the Internet, in books and even displayed in art galleries.

Three years ago, Warren printed up hundreds of self-addressed postcards on which he invited people to send him their secrets anonymously. He stopped passing around the cards a long time ago, but he still finds about a thousand postcards every week in his mailbox.

People confess about their actions, but also about their fears and their thoughts. Many are mundane, like the common admission he receives from people who say they urinate in the shower. But many are also serious, like the people who write about suicide. Or the fireman who wrote on a picture of an American flag that he was scared he would lack courage on the job.

People often recognize themselves and their own problems in the postcards of others, says Warren.

Warren doesn't just get postcards. He's gotten secrets written on fruit (last week on a banana and sweet potato), on Rubik's Cubes (the secret written on each side, scrambled), on parking tickets, naked Polaroid pictures and funeral announcements. "If you can imagine it and it's mailable," he says, "I've probably received it with a secret on it."

Whatever form the secrets come in, they are an endless source of fascination for Warren. He's just published his fourth book about them, A Lifetime of Secrets, and they're on his Web site, PostSecret.com.

"It's a hidden landscape that we share and recognize, but don't talk about," says Warren. "Each day, I get these wonderful 6-inch by 4-inch windows right into that hidden reality." He says the postcards take him on a journey "beneath the surface that really shows us how frail and heroic our everyday lives really are, although they often go unseen."

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