Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
You know, there’s a lot to be said for the pre-Internet era. You know, the time before streaming services, when people had to rent videotapes, and what was known was limited by hard-copy research, or – more often than not – relied on hearsay and rumour, at least as far as local history was concerned.
John Darnielle’s second novel is a little bit of a love story to the period, while also managing to be a ghost story, a thriller, a tribute to the boredom and joy of a life lived small, as well as a meditation on movement by spirit. It’s a consideration of how history is made, and how those same records can be viewed differently in the light of a little information.
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The short review? Songwriter writes book. Book digs a bit deeper into some of songwriter’s peccadilloes. People who like songwriter’s work will like book. EXEUNT.
I have to admit I was predisposed towards liking this book given that I am a fan of Darnielle’s music. Knowing how good the writing is in The Mountain Goats – an eclectic, honest and nerdily funny combo who’ve produced some of the best songs about a) peanuts, b) relationship decline, c) abusive adolescence and d) insurance fraud ever (I’m not covering goths, road trips, wrestling, Michael Myers or religion here, but take my word for it, they’re there) – I expected good things.
No matter where you live.
Today I’ve been listening to a fair bit of the Mountain Goats. Namely, The Sunset Tree, which is perhaps the most overtly autobiographical thing Goat chief John Darnielle has done. I guess you could argue that his life has provided grist for the lyrical mill all along – they are a deeply personal band (even when it’s just John) but The Sunset Tree was forthright in the handling of its author’s time as an abused kid. It’s also a more fulsome recording, benefiting from the expansions extra instrumentations introduce to a body of work more usually recorded on a boombox.
The first video in this post is what I’d pick as my go-to song on the album, though there’s really an embarrassment of lyrical riches on the bloody thing. Recently featured in an episode of The Walking Dead, the song ‘Up The Wolves’ is deeply sad and ebullient at the same time. It’s pugnacious sadness, and it gets me every time. (more…)