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Wolf in White Van: A Novel by John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van: A Novel (original 2014; edition 2015)

by John Darnielle (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9525615,090 (3.64)31
Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian--a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail--Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.… (more)
Title:Wolf in White Van: A Novel
Authors:John Darnielle (Author)
Info:Picador (2015), Edition: Reprint, 224 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (2014)

  1. 00
    Universal Harvester: A Novel by John Darnielle (sturlington)
  2. 00
    All the Birds Singing by Evie Wyld (bibliovermis)
    bibliovermis: Another novel that can be read in either direction, exploring a teenage mistake and the moving on from it.
  3. 00
    Remainder by Tom McCarthy (revbean)
    revbean: Though quite different in a number of ways, Darnielle's Wolf in White Van and McCarthy's Remainder are both stories of men scarred by traumatic events who embrace world-creation as a means of coming to terms with their situations and (re)discovering themselves.… (more)

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» See also 31 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
I wanted to like this book. After reading the description and reviews, I thought this would be the book for me. But sadly, not so much. What started with much promise, left me bored.

I re-read the reviews but it seems that what makes this book so great is the world is creates. Perhaps I should have given it more time, but this wasn't quite the book I was expecting... ( )
  cgfaulknerog | May 28, 2020 |
John Darnielle has a very distinctive prose style: long, lyrical sentences that weave paragraphs that gain weight as much from the complex route they travel as from the content they convey.

He narrates the audiobook version of "Wolf In White Van" and brings to the text a calm, almost uninflected, but never boring, tone that speaks of intelligence, imagination, disengagement, patience and hopeless endurance.

The narrative of "Wolf In White Van" is a Möbius Strip of continuous stream of consciousness, punctuated with ellipses in both content and thought that have the effect of making your imagination fill in the gaps and impose a pattern.

The content of "Wolf In White Van" is a walk through the mind Sean Phillips, a broken, scarred, isolated man who spends more time in his head than in the real world and perhaps more time in his imagination than in his memories or his current experiences although he can't be entirely certain of this.

This is a clever book: beautifully designed, skillfully told and deeply original.

It is also a very unsatisfying book, not because the content is unpleasant or because almost nothing happens or even because of the self-consciously intellectual presentation but because the solipsism at the heart of the novel is sterile. When I'd unfurled the plot and understood the path that Sean Phillips had traveled, I really didn't care.

At one point in the novel, the origin of the title is explained: "Wolf In White Van" was alleged to be a Satanic message that could be heard when a Larry Norman song was played backwards. When, as a boy, Sean Phillips hears this allegation, he wonders why the devil would go to all the trouble of writing his message backwards, if he really wanted it to be heard. I felt pretty much the same way about this novel. It is a puzzle that is more interesting than its solution; a game that is about the journey, and how we bring our own lives into that journey when we populate gaps and impose patterns, claiming the narrative and altering the story, rather than being about the revelation of the plot.

If this kind of thing appeals to you, you'll be giving this "Wolf In White Van" five stars. Personally, I gave it three because it reminded me of a Tinguely sculpture: elaborate, ingenious but lacking in emotional impact. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
I really liked reading this book and [b:Dhalgren|85867|Dhalgren|Samuel R. Delany|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320531180s/85867.jpg|873021] at the same time. ( )
  jshttnbm | May 14, 2020 |
As a Mountain Goats fan, probably the main reason why anyone would get their hands on this immediately or immediately as you can when you have few ideas for Christmas presents, I am predisposed to liking this book. That said it is quite a brilliant and look at the world through Darnielle's incisive wit, sharp use of imagery and dealing with the world when everything has seemingly gone to shit.

My only gripe with the narrative, especially compared to Darinelle's 33 1/3 book, is that Sean, the narrator, is almost too witty, clever and this dry, taciturn voice is too controlled and makes the story a bit sterile, like the author is the in the role of game designer himself and you can see the choices and pathways too obviously with each chapter.

Read this book. It's a good one. ( )
  b.masonjudy | Apr 3, 2020 |
I'm putting this behind a spoiler shield, but not going to reveal much. This is the story of a psychologically messed up person, who also ends up in an accident. You may want it to be explained some other way, but it is not. The other thing is that it is written in a style that isn't as poetic or pretty as it needs to be to carry off the conceit the author is trying to carry off. Not a terrible read, but not a great one. ( )
  Skybalon | Mar 19, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 55 (next | show all)
But what drives “Wolf in White Van” is Mr. Darnielle’s uncanny sense of what it’s like to feel marginalized, an outsider, a freak. He has an instinctive understanding of fetid teenage emotional states and the “timelines of meaningless afternoons that ended somewhere big and terrible.”
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, DWIGHT GARNER (Sep 25, 2014)
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