The great tragedy of the story of the beggar woman who sleeps and sings among the lepers on the banks of the Ganges is that, because it is told by a colonial voice, we believe it to be true.
This mystery book lives inside Marguerite Duras’s The Vice-Consul (1966).
The author Milorad Pavic, in Landscape Painted with Tea (Knopf, 1990; trans. Pribicevic-Zoric; p. 67), wrote that a novel can never truly be read until done so while older and younger than the text’s protagonist. Pavic’s claim is eccentric, but it nods to a dilemma with which all media must reckon: that the artist’s work will rarely be experienced according to their preferred circumstances. Hugh Vereker complains broadly about his work and specifically about this unnamed novel that reader and critic alike consistently fail to grasp his “general intention”. Of course, by Pavic’s rule, it is forever too late to read some books—Vereker will carry his oeuvre’s discreet aspect with him to his grave.
This mystery book lives inside Henry James’s The Figure in the Carpet (1896).
We can only describe the major plot points—colonial life in Africa, the native revolt, the tornado, the club incidents—of the narrative. The nuances of the protagonist’s personality—his profession, his social standing, his fidelity—are entirely open for speculation.
This mystery book lives inside Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Jealousy (1957).
ONANite Film and Cartridge Studies Annual, vol. 8
Year of Dairy Products from the American Heartland
Various authors (incl. Comstock, Posner, and Duquette)
This volume of the Annual contains a comprehensive filmography of the influential filmmaker James O. Incandenza.
This mystery book lives inside David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest (1996).
Unnamed blank books
Unnamed famous poet
Today is a unique holiday, remembered as the day that all text disappeared from a famous poet’s published works.
These mystery books live inside Jennifer Karmin’s and Bernadette Mayer’s The Sexual Organs of the IRS and Other Poems (2016).
Paradox: a father imagines a comprehensive book of advice for his only son and spends the son’s adolescence writing it.
This mystery book lives inside Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759–67).
An alleged golden phallos filled with rarefied jewels, here made real by the stories of the bandits pursuing it, here the root of explicitly-described orgies, here bookended by images of the glittering sea.
This mystery book lives inside Samuel R. Delany’s Phallos (2004).
Pocket History of the Universe
Its value lies in its digressive passages, particularly those that have been poorly translated. History is more about style than events, anyway. We love reading about the mirrors of languages, the decomposing flowers, and the people who change by seeing.
This mystery book lives inside Laura Moriarty’s Ultravioleta (2006).
The League of the Divine Wind
By Tsunanori Yamao
There is an old samurai song that goes “I look upon the moon/Beyond my upright spear, wondering when its rays/Will fall upon my corpse”. It is a sobering thought, but a welcome one among the youth in the League of the Divine Wind. If it is a given that one day death will come, how does one make it a meaningful gesture? For the League, tradition is key, and they move forward in an attack on the globalizing powers that threaten it. When they fail, the surviving members methodically and enthusiastically carve open their stomachs and slit their own throats as they envision a white swan soaring to heaven.
This mystery book lives inside Yukio Mishima’s Runaway Horses (1970).
By Renee Gladman
If a three-pound ghost book flowing from the farthest left margin to the farthest right margin and existing as one continuous draft of a true person moving through space and time is actually written but never published and so never finished can it be considered a book mysterious enough for this library?
This mystery book lives inside Renee Gladman’s To After That (Toaf) (2012).
The Book of Interfering Bodies
We all know it can be hard to travel with a book whose words are connected by an electrical current running from page to page. This charge animates a long succession of atrocities, starting with a body wiggling in a grave on page one. Some of the characters have televisions for eyes, and these televisions can be homes to readers and writers who are longing to make love to one another but are blocked by, amongst other things, a dog carcass, a disembodied arm, a baby lifting her head from the sand, cities, clocks, forests, an emigrant, and religious institutions. All of this is made more confusing when you finish the book and return to its epigraph: “every body that is not my body is a foreign country.”
This mystery book lives inside Daniel Borzutzky’s poem “The Book of Interfering Bodies”, published in The Book of Interfering Bodies (2011).
By the National Library of Belgrade staff
In a world torn by the fires of war, all books were destroyed. Over two centuries later, a new National Library of Belgrade has been constructed, and before its opening the library staff decided that the building needed a symbol, an object that would garner respect for their heritage. They invented an accelerating aging machine called NOBODY and used it to age a book 250 years, making the book a survivor of the war. The book now sits in a vitrine in the center of the library, next to a covered piano.
This mystery book lives inside Mariana Castillo Deball’s short story Nobody was Tomorrow, published in the “A is for ‘Orses” issue of FR David (2008).
Morelli’s untitled novel
Little is volunteered about the narrative construction of the novel on which the character Morelli is working, but he makes clear that it can be read in any order. His research for the novel cites the Swedish neurobiologist Holger Hyden and suggests that he [Morelli] is influenced by Hyden’s studies of the chemical construction that leads to diversity in mental processes. Morelli’s ultimate desire is to write a work in which the reader is a true co-conspirator.
This mystery book lives inside Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch (1963).
The Book of Sand
The Book of Sand is a book of infinite pages. It contains no first page or last page, and grows as the reader approaches the end or beginning. It is written in an unknown language and, every two thousand pages, is punctuated by small and inscrutable illustrations. The Book of Sand has a reputation for driving its researchers into mania and isolation.
This mystery book lives inside Jorge Luis Borges’s collection of short stories The Book of Sand (1977).
By Vestrand Books Co.
Vestrand’s Extelopedia is the latest in a string of books that attempt to solve the problem of the traditional encyclopedia: the moment it is printed its information is out of date. Extelopedia is an abbreviation of the words Extrapolational Teleonomic Encyclopedia. It relies on a computer process that can foresee what will happen over a vast field of knowledge (eight hundred gigatrillion Sema-Numerical computations, to be precise) and can update its information when necessary. The Extelopedia comes in forty-four “magnetomes” bound in “pseudoskin” and is voice and movement responsive. Vestrand Books Co. is currently at work making the Extelopedia consumable for non-English speakers as well as the blind.
This mystery book lives inside Stanislaw Lem’s Imaginary Magnitude (1981).
A History of Bitic Literature
By Juan Rambellais, Jean-Marie Annax, Eino Illmainen, Stewart Allporte, Giuseppe Savarini, Yves Bonnecourt, Hermann Pöckelein, Alois Kuentrich, and Roger Gatzky
This book is an extremely thorough monograph outlining bitic literature, a fictional area of study around literary works of nonhuman origin, or computer-generated literature. The exhaustive rate at which new bitic works are created (sometimes meriting the employment of a machine to interpret the writing of a machine), unorthodox use of words, neologisms, and other variables make bitistics (as the study of bitic literature is formally called) a troubling academic pursuit. The researchers involved with the publication have difficulty organizing and keeping up with bitic output, leading them to publish an updated version only three years later in which they apologize for the “relatively few” errors of the first edition.
This mystery book lives inside Stanislaw Lem’s Imaginary Magnitude (1981).