Wolf in White Van: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews


A disfigured narrator engages with the world by running a mail-in adventure game. The story of his life and disfigurement gradually unfolds through the lens of his creation and early 80's pop culture. A haunting exploration of the legacy of adolescent angst and alienation.

— Jacob

Description


Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle's audacious and gripping debut novel Wolf in White Van is a marvel of storytelling and genuine literary delicacy.

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.

His primary creation, Trace Italian, is an intricate text-role playing game that enables participants far and wide to explore a dystopian America, seeking refuge amidst the ruin. However, when two high school players, Lance and Carrie, extend the game into their reality, the consequences are horrifying, leaving Sean to account for it.

Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van invites us to comprehend the depth and intricacy of Sean's life. Told in reverse, the story draws us back to the moment that fundamentally altered Sean’s life as he knows it.

About the Author


John Darnielle’s first novel, Wolf in White Van, was a New York Times bestseller, National Book Award nominee, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction, and widely hailed as one of the best novels of the year. He is the writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and sons.

Praise For…


“A stunning meditation on the power of escape, and on the cat-and-mouse contest the self plays to deflect its own guilt.” —The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

“[Wolf in White Van] will back you onto your heels with its capacity for inventiveness in structure, story, and line-writing.” —GQ

“The prose lives like Sean's imagination: a breathing, glowing thing. In Darnielle's novel, as in his songs, the monstrously true and unbelievably beautiful press up against one another. Together, they begin to dance.” —NPR

“John Darnielle's novel moves through the mind like a dark-windowed car through a sleepy neighborhood: quiet, mysterious, menacing, taking you places you will never, never get out of your head.” —Daniel Handler

Wolf in White Van is utterly magnificent. I was surprised and moved and amazed page after page after page. I am talking about audible gasp type stuff, and also deeper, interior gasps of reflection and astonishment and gratitude. This story is a hard and beautiful human puzzle that will be a pleasure to solve and resolve over many readings. And you can quote me on that. Every day. That is all.” —John Hodgman

“I can't remember the last time I so willingly followed a narrator into a frame of mind this splintered. (It helps that he's mostly wry about it.) As you read you waver between suspicions that the world itself is ill-made, and concern that the fundamental fault lies within our very brains. As for the writing, I'd go for anything else Darnielle writes like a shot.” —Helen Oyeyemi, author of Boy, Snow, Bird

Wolf in White Van is John Darnielle's savage genius gone free range. A meditation on monstrosity, isolation, escape, and transformation, this trance of a novel lures us deep into the labyrinth of one young man's imagination. What we find there is alluring and feral, raw, unflinching and exquisite. Absolutely fucking brilliant.” —Claire Vaye Watkins, author of Battleborn

“I loved everything about this book. Blisteringly authentic--like a garage-made bomb on a slow-burning fuse, or like Darnielle set out to adapt an old Iron Maiden T-shirt as a literary novel and succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams.” —Austin Grossman, author of Soon I Will Be Invincible and You

Wolf in White Van is a testament to the ways in which all of us use imagination to survive, and the ways in which that same imagination can take over our lives until there's little else left. It brings us inside both the reality and the fantasy of day-to-day life in the way that only John Darnielle can. Read this book. You'll never hold another one like it.” —Joseph Fink, creator of Welcome to Night Vale



Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250074713
ISBN-10: 1250074711
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: September 1st, 2015
Pages: 224
Language: English