wolfHaving completed Catch 22 a month ago, it was time to pick up a new book. I’d asked for a Wolf In White Van during Christmas. John Darnielle is one of my all time favorite writers, but only as a singer songwriter in the Mountain Goats.  His song writing is truly exceptional, taking on all kinds of subject matter and doing so in an eloquent and memorable manner continually.  They have an album coming out in a few months, which is a concept around the stories involved in professional writing.

John is always creating new challenges for himself.  So many of his albums are conceptual, with stories following folks of all kind.  If you haven’t listened to his music, I’d recommend All Hail West Texas for lower fidelity and The Sunset Tree for a more polished sound.  Half of the appeal for me comes from imperfection, but all of his albums are interesting.

Wolf In White Van is a 200 page book that should take a relatively short amount of time to read.  It’s the story of a young man who has had an accident, if you can call it that, where he has a disfigured visage.  He maintains financial buoyancy through a mail in game called Trace Italian.  Players are given the opportunity to make their way through a post apocalyptic  world for $5 per month and self addressed envelopes which transmit their choices in the game.  An ongoing correspondence continues their decision making throughout the world.

The book picks up where one set of players decide to live out their decision making in the real world and trouble stirs up.

Details of what actually happens in the plot and how it affects the protagonist are less important here than his thought process.  There are many philosophical questions at play that strike me as the main reason for the story.  There are multiple instances of searching for meaning, or reasons, for things that happen which simply aren’t there.  The book is interesting in that it made me think of reasons as a concept.  It’s an existential exposition which some would appreciate, and many would lament.

I don’t know that I’d recommend the book to a lot of people as I’m not sure they’d appreciate it.  I doubt I’ll read it again.  Darnielle’s ability to write is not in question though.  He is talented and puts words and sentences together beautifully–it’s always been difficult for me to describe the purity of some writers such as Hemingway or Hesse.  Darnielle has clarity to his writing which conveys truth, or a meaningful search of what truth means, extremely well.  If you’re a fan of his work already, I’d read it.  If you don’t know who he is, start with his music.