Reading is important. It makes you less dumb, it improves your memory and it makes you less dumb. We want to encourage reading so we’ll be posting book reviews here from time to time. Check them out and read, or be stupid.
Review by Alex Kimmell
Before I start on the book reviewingness, I’ve been a big fan of The Mountain Goats for years.
I own nearly every album they’ve made, and have seen them in concert several times screaming my lungs out along with every word from the cheap seats.
For those uninitiated, The Mountain Goats is the intensely literate rock/folk/punk/DYI band of singer/songwriter John Darnielle. Quirky and somewhat nerdy, their songs are catchy, energetic with references ranging around the spectrum from HP Lovecraft to characters from horror movies to holy scripture.
Darnielle is able to take all of his extremely intellectual influences and boil them down to easily accessible imagery all arranged to instantly recognizable melodies with acoustic guitar and usually a hard driving rhythm section. Often time the music might be recorded on nothing more than the built in microphone of a boom box. Whenever my wife or I are having a bad day, we blast our theme song “This Year” at full volume singing along with the chorus, “I am going to make it through this year if it kills me”.
I recently discovered that Darnielle wrote the novel called “Wolf In White Van”. Knowing his music as I do, the title read as if it were ripped directly from one of his songs or album titles. Having experienced the let down of some previous musician attempts at writing, I hoped with all my might that the book would be good. Using his lyrical brilliance with language and constructing uniquely powerful characters, Darnielle surpassed all of my expectations.
Make no mistake. “Wolf In White Van” is not an uplifting story. The plot unfolds like the petals of a black rose entirely coated with thorns. Beautiful and haunting, the intertwining of a make believe game world called the Trace Italian with reality deftly illustrates the inexplicably hurtful isolation and confusion of adolescence.
Giving any more detail might spoil the story which I refuse to do. To read “Wolf In White Van” is to open a dark gift that will haunt your thoughts driving you to enter the Trace over and over again.