cover image TheMystery.doc


Matthew McIntosh. Grove, $35 (1,664p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2491-3

McIntosh’s second book (after Well) is 14 years in the making, an audacious, sprawling, messy, and aptly titled antinovel that rarely subscribes to a conventional narrative format. The volume is comprised largely of fragments of miscellaneous, seemingly arbitrary exchanges and entries from digital and analog sources, including emails and chats, voice and video recordings, photographs, film stills, lines of computer code, typographical symbols, and plenty of blank spaces. “Themystery.doc” is the title of a file that the (arguably) main character of the book, a man who wakes up with no recollection of his life or identity to discover that he’s at work on a follow-up to his debut novel, finds on his computer. Mixed in are materials that appears nonfictional and undeniably factual biographical snippets from the author’s life (such as an amateur snapshot of McIntosh’s first book). In these portions, readers learn about the main character, his father’s battle with brain cancer, and his process for writing what may or may not be the gigantic book they are reading. This is a strange and unclassifiable work, which brings to mind visually stimulating projects like Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. It will certainly find a following among fans of literary puzzles. (Oct.)