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The Austin American-Statesman Selects.....
BookPeople is proud to partner with the Austin American-Statesman for their monthly Statesman Selects program. Each month, BookPeople will highlight the Statesman’s top recommended read for Austin. February's pick is Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. Darnielle will join us here at BookPeople Saturday, February 25th at 6PM to speak and sign his book. Pick up a copy of the Statesman on Sunday, February 19th to read their review of the book!
Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
ABOUT 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.
ABOUT UNIVERSAL HARVESTER
Life in a small town takes a dark turn when mysterious footage begins appearing on VHS cassettes at the local Video Hut
Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa a small town in the center of the state, the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and while the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It's good enough for Jeremy: It's a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.
But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of "Targets" an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store she has an odd complaint: There's something on it, she says, but doesn't elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns "She's All That," a new release, and complains that there's something wrong with it: There's another movie on this tape.
Jeremy doesn't want to be curious. But he takes a look and, indeed, in the middle of the movie the screen blinks dark for a moment and "She's All That" is replaced by a black-and-white scene, shot in a barn, with only the faint sounds of someone breathing. Four minutes later, "She's All That" is back. But there is something profoundly unsettling about that scene; Jeremy's compelled to watch it three or four times. The scenes recorded onto "Targets" are similar, undoubtedly created by the same hand. Creepy. And the barn looks much like a barn just outside of town.
There will be no ignoring the disturbing scenes on the videos. And all of a sudden, what had once been the placid, regular old Iowa fields and farmhouses now feels haunted and threatening, imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. For Jeremy, and all those around him, life will never be the same
Praise for Wolf in White Van
“A stunning meditation on the power of escape, and on the cat-and-mouse contest the self plays to deflect its own guilt.” —The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
“[Wolf in White Van] will back you onto your heels with its capacity for inventiveness in structure, story, and line writing.” —GQ
“The prose lives like Sean's imagination: a breathing, glowing thing. In Darnielle’s novel, as in his songs, the monstrously true and unbelievably beautiful press up against one another. Together, they begin to dance.” —NPR
“An electric debut novel.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Possibly the best novel of the year.” —Chicagoist