[theMystery.doc hardcover book cover art.]

Matthew McIntosh, theMystery.doc
October, 2017, Grove Press

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[ilMistero.doc hardcover book cover art.]

Matthew McIntosh, ilMistero.doc
Dicembre, 2019, ilSaggiatore

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“The solution to literary mystery is always mystery itself”

Lee Klein litfunforever.com

Lee Klein is the author of Neutral Evil ))) and Chaotic Good.

The novel-est novel I've read in a while. Its formal fragmentation seemed to mirror the formal fragmentation of life so often spent looking at phones, switching between apps, unexpected text-message incursions of images from friends or concerns from Mom, and then you look up and see something and fall into a dream before returning to a memory of being on the phone with tech support at work while reading an article about the inevitable end of the world or scrolling through endless tweets of doom. Formally, the quick, addictive, effortless, aerated movement through the box-like book (when it arrived at my office I wondered what it could be, what had I ordered that was so damn heavy?) becomes... a sort of flip book, a shifting foundation for readerly associations.

Readers who come to this with their Associative Intelligence (holy ghost in the sacred trinity of Emotional Intelligence and old-fashioned IQ) revved up as though reading a poem or watching an abstract film will be more than pleased since the novel presents a system of associations.

Illustration from the novel theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh. A man is walking home through the snow - snow made up of asterisks and colons typeset on the page.

There are pages throughout or sometimes only paragraphs of asterisks and colons that shift in significance from stars after being knocked out to digital code to radiation to a sense of oblivion after learning crushing news of a loved one's death to snow etc. My reading experience was novel, too, in that I read maybe half of this 1600+ page book in print on my phone thanks to the free download that comes with the book… The ebook had 13K+ "locations" and the format isn't quite the same as in the print book, but when I read the ebook I sensed the physical print book somehow in my palm, invisible, extending down through my hand and to the floor of the subway or the concrete of the sidewalk below as I walked to work — more fragmentation, more of a sense of verticality, an unseen tower of text like the fallen World Trade Center towers. The overall sense, the single lingering impression, is internal collapse, implosion, the way the Twin Towers fell straight down with their innards burned out instead of tipping over, a sort of anguish like that, straight down inside instead of falling over.

For all the fragmentation and formal unconventionality, the effect toward the end, ultimately, is overwhelmingly emotional.

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Matthew McIntosh, theMystery.doc (print) pp.1089–1091

On the ebook, soon after the author's father with cancer dies and then a premature infant dies, there are images of her burial and then old stills from a film of a woman in white diving into an open grave, and then single rows of asterisks and colons, with slight variations, across what felt like hundreds of ebook swipes to the right (like a very literary dating app on which books try to hook up with their ideal readers), creating a progression of downward flushing typography over a few minutes as I leaned against the subway doors on the way to my kid's daycare on a dark early November day a year and a day after Trump's election -- the effect approached catharsis when finally there appeared an image of a barn door cracked open letting in light….

It's not really a 1600-page book — the estimated overall word count probably doesn't exceed 100K, my guess. But none of that really matters when you're reading on your phone, swiping along, engaged, associative intelligence doing some light pleasurable lifting, even scrolling through Instagram and refreshing Twitter, feeling like what you see on the socials is intended to be part of it too (the best art charges perception so everything seen seems like art too), before returning to the proper massive print book to read 100+ pages in less than an hour in bed at home, coming away with a soulful sense of loss and anguish but also hope…

Illustration from the novel theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh. Sepia-toned photograph of a row of five smiling female cheerleaders jumping in the air. They are wearing long-sleeved sweaters, knee-length skirts, and bobby socks. A young man in a dark suit and fedora looks out from behind them.
Matthew McIntosh, theMystery.doc p.1562

… highly recommended to readers who like to make connections and realize from the start that the solution to literary mystery is always mystery itself…

Read next: McIntosh, una trama alla deriva tra relitti dell’era digitale >

About the Author

Matthew McIntosh is the author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller Well. He lives with his wife on the West Coast.