OVERRIDE

Wolf in White Van

A Novel

John Darnielle

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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1

 

My father used to carry me down the hall to my room after I came home from the hospital. By then I could walk if I had to, but the risk of falling was too great, so he carried me like a child. It’s a cluster memory now: it consists of every time it happened and is recalled in a continuous loop. He did it every day, for a long time, from my first day back until what seemed like a hundred years later, and after a while, the scene blurred into innumerable interchangeable identical scenes layered one on top of the other like transparencies. On the wall to the right, as

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REVIEWS

Praise for Wolf in White Van

“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

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • John Darnielle

  • John Darnielle is a writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats; he is widely considered one of the best lyricists of his generation. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and son.
  • John Darnielle © Lalitree Darnielle
    John Darnielle
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Available Formats and Book Details

Wolf in White Van

A Novel

John Darnielle

National Book Awards - Longlist
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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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