John Darnielle: Wolf in White Van (Farrar, Straus And Giroux) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Thursday, December 7th, 2023  

John Darnielle

Wolf in White Van

Published by Farrar, Straus And Giroux

Oct 08, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J Bookmark and Share

John Darnielle is the songwriter/guitarist/vocalist for the band The Mountain Goats. Wolf in White Van is his first novel. The book traces protagonist Sean as he copes with life after a self-inflicted “accident” has rendered him with a deformed face. Part of they way he copes is to invent The Trace Italian, a fantasy game set in a post-apocalyptic America whereby subscribers send their next moves to Sean and he responds with text that continues the game forward for each subscriber. Things become more real when two players take the idea of Trace Italian too far, with deadly consequences.

Darnielle’s narrative tells Sean’s story in reverse, replete with flashbacks that flesh out his youth, his state just subsequent to the accident, and his mindset in creating Trace Italian to find a place for himself in a world that now looks upon him as a monster. While we are left to infer Sean’s motivation for his near-fatal misdeed, Darnielle’s text pulls you in and does not let go. The story is woven in transfixing fashion, until the climax finds Sean at the precipice of his disturbing act. A masterful debut. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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