Book Review: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
A disfigured man remembers the events leading up to his current state. (don’t worry – there is no literal wolf driving around in a white van)
Wolf in White Van shows Seanâ€™s downward trajectory. It works in dual time, showing both his present state as disfigured man, and flashing further and further back to the events that brought him there.
Backmasking is at the core of this book. The concept of backmasking is you play a record backwards and hear a hidden or satanic message.
It was prevalent in the 80s and 90s when nervous mothers were finding evil around every corner (wonâ€™t someone pleeeease think about the children??) People played records backwards with fervor, looking under every proverbial rock for new ways evil doers could be hiding subliminal messages.
The main character, Sean, talks about backmasking in the book when heâ€™s obsessively watching the God channel on TV. Heâ€™s looking for the wolf, the devil whoâ€™s leading him astray.
Moving through the flashes back to Seanâ€™s undoing, the story grows progressively darker.
His obsession with imaginary worlds interferes with his identity; as if the imaginary world is more valid than the real one. As he loses his grip on reality, he becomes a victim to it.
This imaginary world is pre-fated. Just like the real world, where no matter what he does or how well he tries to live, thereâ€™s that wolf in the white van, ready to plow him down with glee. Or thereâ€™s that evil music, turning people satanic while they boogie to Mmm Bop. Thereâ€™s no escape. Heâ€™s a victim to the world.
Or is he?
Thinking about this book in terms of backmasking, it becomes a lot less dark.
Letâ€™s reverse Wolf in White Van and put it in its rightful order. The hidden evil is a lot less…evil.
You might even say it becomes an uplifting story of hope.