[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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Finally, a novel that looks like a 21st-century production

Steven Moore The Washington Post

Steven Moore is a literary critic whose latest book is My Back Pages: Reviews and Essays.

Illustration from the novel theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh. Black-and-white still from the film "Limite" showing a slim, dark-haired man in a cemetery. He is wearing a suit and tie, and reclining against the carved stone steps of a grave.
Matthew McIntosh, theMystery.doc p.1441

Reading theMystery.doc is like wandering through a gigantic art installation: On white walls there are looped filmstrips depicting events in slow-motion and groupings of old family photos; computer monitors are scattered everywhere, most showing message-board postings or cryptic codes; from unseen speakers issue phone conversations or snippets of lectures. You stop for a few minutes to watch actors in the middle of mundane activities. You keep getting ambushed by exhibits on the 9/11 attacks. You pick up various documents, some of which have been redacted in black or look like avant-garde poems. You feel like Alice in Wonderland.

...But everything here is blown up to Imax proportions.

The workings of memory is [a theme], and in this way theMystery.doc resembles [Proust’s] In Search of Lost Time. ... theMystery.doc also resembles In Search of Lost Time in length, but this 1,664-page novel reads quickly. Because of all the illustrations, graphics and sparsely populated pages, it’s like reading a 300-page book.

Illustrations from the novel theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh, seen on e-reading devices. Left: a graphic of an American flag with stripes of zzzzzs. Right: two stills from a video showing the American flag on a flagpole, fluttering in the wind against a beautiful blue sky.
Matthew McIntosh, theMystery.doc p.774 and pp.1610-1611

Art installation, performance piece, vision board: these are odd ways to describe a novel, but McIntosh clearly wants to update that old genre, to give it a postmodern makeover ... At a time when most novels still resemble their Victorian forebears, it’s refreshing to encounter a novel that actually looks like a 21st-century production.

Illustration from the novel theMystery.doc by Matthew McIntosh. Color still from a mid-century film. A night scene: the actress Audrey Hepburn looks to the left, wide-eyed and frightened. A shadowy stone collonade can be seen behind her.
Matthew McIntosh, theMystery.doc p.1021

British writer Alan Moore, author of last fall’s longest new novel, Jerusalem, compares theMystery.doc to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which is apt. Just as Eliot used a disorienting collage form to represent post-World War I angst, McIntosh does likewise for post-9/11 anomie.

...a remarkable achievement.

Read next: Amnesia, mortality, and the limits of language: a 1,660-page “Allbook” from Matthew McIntosh. >

About the Author

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