Mysterious manuscript arrives on couple's doorstep with message: 'Please understand'
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) -- After the chaos of Hurricane Katrina, a package arrived on the Lower Garden District doorstep of New Orleans-based editor Timothy Alan Weeks and artist Lala Rascic. Inside the package, sent from All Souls, England, was a manuscript and a handwritten message that read simply, "Please understand."
Over the following seven years, Weeks edited the manuscript down to 100,000 words and Rascic brilliantly illustrated the characters and their environs to create "The Beauty Fools", a sprawling "Southern Baroque" tale that follows its protagonists through celebration and collapse in 1990's New Orleans.
"When I first read the manuscript, I felt that this was quite possibly the greatest literary find since A Confederacy of Dunces," said Weeks.
When Weeks first got the mysterious manuscript, he didn't quite understand!
"I came very close to not even having a look at it," he said.
One day after Carnival he decided to take a look at the manuscript which arrived with the cryptic note from an anonymous author who called themselves, "King Author". What Weeks found enticed him.
"It's a charming little story about New Orleans, about four friends learning to have a great time through the ups and downs of life. I fell for the story. I'm a sucker for a nostalgic New Orleans," Weeks said.
He said the manuscript talks about famous New Orleans landmarks The Palace Cafe and The Orpheum Theater and even a forgotten New Orleans with places that are no longer here like K&B Drugs, Maison Blanche, and Funky Butt.
"I think New Orleans is changing a lot. This story is a glimpse of pre-Katrina New Orleans," he said.
A team for Croatia designed the book, while his wife, Lala Rascic illustrated the book, "The Beauty Fools" and came up with the accompanying exhibit.
"I think it was important to make the characters come to life and in general make this book come to life from this anonymous author. We took on the role of an interpreter to bring this book to life," Rascic said.
"The Beauty Fools" team produced a limited pre-edition run of 300 copies designed in collaboration with the award-winning Hamper Studio in Zagreb, Croatia. This exquisite volume is shaped and proportioned as an oversized box of tarot cards, placed in an embossed and gold foiled box. In addition to the book, each box contains a small deck of colorized illustrations from the book, expanding on the tarot card theme. The pre-edition run will be available exclusively at Coup d'oeil Art Consortium at a price of $36.00 per book.
To accompany the launch of the book, Coup d'oeil Art Consortium (2033 Magazine Street) in New Orleans will host a month-long exhibition featuring multimedia installations inspired by The Beauty Fools, a series of limited edition intaglio prints based on the book's illustrations, and a series of events and readings. The Beauty Fools exhibition will open to the public on Saturday, March 5th from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM and run through Saturday April, 9th on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM. Copies of the pre-edition and limited-edition intaglio prints can be reserved by calling the gallery at (504) 722-0876.
"The Beauty Fools" team will also launch a Kickstarter campaign to take pre-orders for the first edition and paperback edition of the volume.
This whole story has been a mystery. They've tried to find out who sent the manuscript in the first place.
"I originally tracked the return address to the William Morris House, which is a small museum in north London. William Morris was a Victorian craftsman and tile designer, according to the website. That didn't offer any clues and I never received any other correspondence at our Lower Garden District address, or at least none that was forwarded after we moved," Weeks said.
Although they still don't know who the author is they hope that the author will come forward now that this book is published.
"We're hoping that launching a website and Facebook page and having the book launch might lure this author in the open. It's been a source of speculation for us," he said.
For more information go to their website.
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