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

by John Darnielle (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,3808113,585 (3.69)42
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. Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean's life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle's audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.… (more)
Member:selfnoise
Title:Wolf in White Van: A Novel
Authors:John Darnielle (Author)
Info:Picador (2015), Edition: Reprint, 224 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

Work Information

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (2014)

  1. 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)
  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
    Universal Harvester by John Darnielle (sturlington)
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
3.5 — I’m a fan of John Darnielle and his work with The Mountain Goats, so I’ve had this book on my list for a few years. He’s a great lyricist, so it was interesting to see how that translated to a novel. The structural concept is absolutely brilliant, and I liked the story despite some initial slower pockets. This book tackled some tough subject matter in a really interesting way, and it also opened up a whole pre-internet gaming world I had never thought of or heard about. ( )
  feralcreature | Oct 31, 2023 |
I am not entirely sure were to begin with this novel. It’s a relatively quick read despite the lush and elegant prose, but ends up feeling like you have been sunk into its pages for far longer than you actually have. Endless and timeless, like the imagined plains of Kansas it describes.
Some reviewers have suggested that the novel progresses backwards in time, the same way the back-masking the title is a reference to moves backwards through music, but the novel’s relationship with time is more complicated than that. While it generally moves backwards, it starts with a bright spot in the distant past, and its progression backwards through the life of the narrator after that progresses in fits and starts, rarely feeling entirely linear...perhaps to simulate the barely coherent sound of back-masking, but perhaps more because time has ceased to be an entirely linear experience for the narrator. Not in a mystical sense, but in the way that one becomes lost, a man who lives in memories which are not even always clear from fragments of fantasy and dream, scattered through the endless numbered days that remain as one goes on and on and on.
This isn’t a narrative, so much as it is a slice of life, of a man who partially by consequence of his choices and partially by the world, has decided that this is all he will ever be. Do not look for resolution, solution, or lessons here. And while some will undoubtedly empathize with the narrator, i’m Sure others will judge him...I feel like too strong a reaction in either direction is missing the point though. We all have stories, that follow an internal logic of sorts, and is possible to both accept our logic and that of others even where they collide in sometimes disastrous ways. It is possible to both accept and regret our actions simulateously, to wish things were different but know they can’t be.
I wonder how much Darnielle’s background working with adolescents in a mental hospital figured into the narrator, it’s something I hope to ask him about at an upcoming book signing, because I can potentially see a lot of that experience worming it’s way in. Similarly, the role religion plays here, both overtly and more subtly (in the form of nigh religious role some of the narrators constructs play in his life) is interesting given the author’s relative strong beliefs.
I am probably of precisely the right age and demographic to have fallen for this book, as many of the time sensitive cultural touch stones that are so important to the narrator were also things that played large roles in my life during similar developmental periods. I’m not sure that it would resonate as well with someone too far outside Darnielle’s generation, and from too different of a background. There are clear that could be drawn to experiences in today’s world, but I wonder still how that would effect the connection. ( )
  jdavidhacker | Aug 4, 2023 |
I'm not quite sure as to what to think about this novel. The writing is interesting and the story is compelling enough to keep turning pages, but it doesn't really have a plot or a destination on the journey. ( )
  EZLivin | Jul 4, 2023 |
A first-person non-linear tale of an adolescent tragedy with physical deformity and chronic illness told in a background of rock and roll music (the author is a musician), an escapist text-based adventure game, and an underlying palpable creepy angst. Most of the dramatic tension is generated artificially by the slow revelation of the nature of an initial past event. Is there anything here when you are all done? Not for me, but it is well written. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
What a brilliant and very different book and story.

This is one book that I'll read again and again... ( )
  SimonLarsen | Jun 18, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (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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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. Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean's life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle's audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.

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