Joseph Matheny lives in Los Angeles, California, and he is the executive director and producer of the Santa Barbara and the Los Angeles Film Festival podcasts. He has created numerous transmedia works that experiment with storytelling over multiple platforms. Matheny’s The Last Book: A MediaKaos Work in Progress is a collaborative work that invites readers to partake in its composition. Contributors to The Last Book are requested to edit the text of the previous entry by adding or subtracting individual words or phrases. The online content of the project, which includes the first two chapters of the work itself and an invitation to participate, is presented on a blank page in a plain font, without any graphic embellishment.
The first two chapters of The Last Book were submitted by Rob Breszny in 1993; both chapters are titled “An Invitation to Dance.” Breszny’s entries seem to be random strings of thoughts. The first entry begins by describing the project, referring to it as an infinite game that has no clear winner because it lacks boundaries. He negates the validity of the author by including a statement that was written by a cat. In the second chapter, Breszny retains the basic structure of the text but changes the context of it; for example, he changes the statement made by the cat to one spat by a seahorse. By positing the involvement of a cat and a seahorse, Breszny is gently critiquing the concept of open contribution and communal authorship.
The Last Book is an experiment in flexible narrative. The narrative changes with each author’s alteration, thus producing many texts that stem from the same original entry. While each entry may seem like a separate, individual work, it should be considered in the context of the previous entries. The intratextual connections—repeated words, developed plot lines—trace the interactions of multiple authoring minds.
Since there is no established time span for the creation of The Last Book, the work is still open to contributions. Submissions are accepted by email or through the postal system. MediaKaos will eventually publish the entire collection of edited works. While contributors will not be paid for their work, they will be credited in the publication for their participation, and they will receive a copy of the collection. At the time of writing this entry, the online content of The Last Book is limited to Matheny’s invitation to collaborate and the first two chapters by Breszny.
Lori Petite was a student of Dr. Kiki Benzon for a course in Contemporary Fiction taught at the University of Lethbridge, Canada during the Winter term of 2011.