A Lifetime of Secrets:
A PostSecret Book
By Frank Warren
Hardcover. 288 pages.
William Morrow. $27.95.
The idea behind PostSecret is simple. Write a secret on a postcard and mail it to creator Frank Warren. Warren started the project in 2004 as an art gallery, and then created the PostSecret Web site, postsecret.com, January 2005. The Web site has made PostSecret a global phenomenon. Warren’s original goal was to receive 360 secrets a year. He now receives 200 a day.
Every Sunday, Warren posts 10 to 20 secrets on the Web site. The weekly postings are so consistent that the Wikipedia entry for PostSecret lists the two dates when secrets were not posted.
Warren has also published PostSecret postcards in book-form. “A Lifetime of Secrets: A PostSecret Book,” the fourth in a series of themed PostSecret collections, was released Tuesday, October 9. It offers the greatest diversity of secrets, in part due to its length. The fourth book notably includes secrets from both younger and older secret-sharers. While one secret is written in crayon, another is typed: “I wrote my will today, not because it was the sensible thing to do—but because I am worried about what would happen to my purse collection.”
PostSecret is a two-way therapy session. By mailing in your secret, you free yourself of your own responsibility to an unfortunate memory. By reading other people’s secrets, you find a connection between yourself and other secret-sharers.
Warren has a simple criterion to select secrets featured in the book or Web site: he must like it. He usually chooses secrets that are unique in some way, either because of the message they carry or how they are decorated.
The secrets are often funny. On one postcard, the words “I lie to make stories funnier. And I can’t stop” are scribbled in permanent marker over a smiling dog. On another revealing postcard, on a background of grocery store coupons is the message: “I look at you, I look at your cart, and then I Judge you.”
Other secrets are poignant and direct. “I told my depressed ex-girlfriend that I didn’t care anymore. That she might as well jump off a bridge. And she did,” one postcard admitted. “I can’t have a cat because of your allergies and I kinda resent you for it,” said another.
One of the most powerful aspects of PostSecret is its timelessness, which allows the project to be continuously self-aware. Warren often updates each week’s secrets with e-mail responses and follow-ups. Sometimes loyal readers respond with a simple “Me too!”
Unlike the Web site, on which new secrets are posted and old secrets are taken down every week, the book is a static collection of secrets. The immediacy of the Internet and the physical act of dropping your postcard into a mailbox make PostSecret a project that straddles the digital divide into the future.