Who knows the secrets of anybody’s heart | Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

I feel like even after a week from finishing it, it’s still too early to talk about WOLF IN WHITE VAN. That I might not be able to discuss the full breadth of how and what it means to me because I don’t even know all the ways it has affected me or made me realize things yet. But I’ll still try. (I tried not getting into any spoilers but I just have to discuss some symbolism and shit so there might be spoilers? Not plotwise though. Ack, just tread carefully?)

Title: Wolf in White Van
Author: John Darnielle
Publisher: Picador
Date of Publication: August 1, 2015 (paperback)
Source: Gifted by Jean!

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 17, 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, roleplaying 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.

It took me two chapters to immerse myself into John Darnielle’s WOLF IN WHITE VAN, this dark, self-aware, and existential read. I was quite lost at first but then I realized that the beauty of this book is in not knowing everything right away. You gradually get to know Sean from his thoughts, opinions, and feelings, interspersed with his memories, and what is currently happening in his life. It unfolds like a mystery, the reader thrust into Sean’s mind without a prologue, and we get to our grips and find our footing slowly but surely, helped by Darnielle’s prose that succinctly yet vividly nails depression and feeling lonesome. I didn’t want to put it down as I had questions I needed answers to now now now. But I had to put it down on many occasions just so I can mark all the passages that struck me. Yes, it’s that kind of book.

I thought this book would be more about Trace Italian and as I play Dungeons & Dragons, I was definitely interested in that. While I’m surprised that there wasn’t as much about Trace Italian as I foresaw, instead it was more introspective in nature, focusing on Sean’s psyche, I welcomed the unexpected. I embraced it and I loved how it was completely about Sean. While sure, it made me want more from the book (probably why it didn’t garner all the stars and all the love from me), I also acknowledge that narrative choice by the author so all is well.

It’s so hard for me to discuss this book as it has so many facets that we can mine for endless discussions. In fact, after I read the book, I immediately had to discuss it with Jean and we ended up going at it book-club style, pointing out different events in the novel and probable meanings and symbolism. Aside from tackling depression, having dark thoughts, feeling lonesome, and being isolated and alone, it also showed that our parents and upbringing affect us both in the littlest and the biggest ways. Grown-up Sean paints his parents as kind and understanding but as we go back in time, back to the moment that resulted to his disfigurement (you can probably guess how it happened), we find that his parents were not great. They were present but absent. As Sean tells his friend Kimmy at some point when they were seventeen, cool parents are parents who know nothing. His parents were cool, they let him do whatever, but it might probably because they don’t care much.

And oh gosh, the meaning of the title. I didn’t get it right away but after discussing with Jean, it all came crashing down on me and I had chills. Fucking wolf in white van. Here’s the full quote.

“But at that moment all I could see was the wolf in the white van, so alive, so strong. Hidden from view, unnoticed, concealed. And I thought, maybe he’s real, this wolf, and he’s really out there in a white van somewhere, riding around. Maybe he’s in the far back, pacing back and forth, circling, the pads of his huge paws raw and cracking, his thick, sharp, claws dully clicking against the raised rusty steel track ridges on the floor. Maybe he’s sound asleep, or maybe he’s just pretending. And then the van stops somewhere, maybe, and somebody gets out and walks around the side to the back and grabs hold of the handle and flings the doors open wide. Maybe whoever’s kept him wears a mechanic’s jumpsuit and some sunglasses, and he hasn’t fed the great wolf for weeks, cruising the streets of the city at night, and the wolf’s crazy with hunger now; he can’t even think. Maybe he’s not locked up in the back at all: he could be riding in the passenger seat, like a dog, just sitting and staring out the open window, looking around, checking everybody out. Maybe he’s over in the other seat behind the steering wheel. Maybe he’s driving.”

By my (and Jean’s) understanding, it’s a symbolism on what makes us tick, what pushes us to think dark thoughts and act on them. The reason why we do bad things. It’s hidden or maybe asleep. But then maybe, just maybe, someone lets it out and since the wolf’s crazy with hunger now, he can’t even think and just wreaks havoc in its wake. But maybe it’s not even hidden, it’s riding in the passenger seat, always with us. Or it’s behind us. OR MAYBE IT’S DRIVING US. Chills, man. I had this phase where I researched about psychopaths and sociopaths and that’s what crossed my mind when I reread this passage. Or when we just break and all our bottled up anger or frustrastion blows up and gets the best of us. He can’t even think. GAH. John Darnielle, you are bloody awesome.

I heavily empathized and sympathized with Sean in WOLF IN WHITE VAN because he says these things that I just see myself in him. I knew I’ve been depressed some time ago but reading this makes me question that maybe I’ve been depressed for a long time? I just saw myself a lot in Sean, his being lonesome and that universal need and want for human connection. His difficulty in opening up and expressing, his building of walls around his heart, Sean is just a guy I could completely relate to. Reading this novel was such an immersive experience for me but at the same time, it was difficult too. I mean, this line!

“I didn’t feel like I’d really won anything, but I had come through the day no worse off than I’d come into it, which, as I have been telling myself for many years now, is a victory whether it feels like one or not.”

MY HEART. And this:

“Here and there, alone, reflecting, I’d bump up against what felt like a buffer zone between me and some vast reserve of grief, but its reinforcements were sturdy enough and its construction solid enough to prevent me from really ever smelling its air, feeling its wind on my face.”

And this:

“I didn’t have a whole lot of friends anyway, so I didn’t feel abandoned so much as reminded.”

I JUST CAN’T. MY FEELINGS. Yeah, Sean, you wouldn’t get hurt as much if you didn’t have a lot of people that can hurt you.

But even though this book made me sad and melancholic, it was also hopeful in a way that even though Sean had been suffering from depression, he’s here. He’s living and he feels normal. Who are we to judge that he isn’t in fact living at all, just holed up in his apartment? He’s here and he’s living. And he’s content, in his own way.

Dare I say do read Wolf in White Van if you loved Catcher in the Rye or if you’re in the mood for something like it. I do hope you end up picking up WOLF IN WHITE VAN so we can discuss! And if you’ve already read it, please talk to meeeeeeeeeeeee. I highly recommend this book, with its profound and beautiful prose. I mean, duh, John Darnielle of Mountain Goats wrote it and have you heard the lyrics to their songs? Yeah. Imagine that being a novel. (And Wolf in White Van is yet another proof that I love anything written by musicians!)

Wanna feel that stream of dopamine | Dopamine (2015) by BØRNS

So I haven’t listened to any other song since yesterday aside from the songs in Dopamine, the debut album of BØRNS. Seriously. I’m not even exaggerating about that. This album has been on repeat and rightfully so because every single track is an earworm!

I mean, the level of my obsession is that I’m even learning to play the songs with my ukelele. TO THAT EXTENT. I’m not content with singing them. I have to play them. I’ve been watching live performances on Youtube too. THIS IS AN OBSESSION and it totally deserves my obsession and this post and all the promo it could get because AAAAAAAAAAAAAA indie pop goodnesssssssss.

And it’s Garrett’s birthday today! I know, it feels like my subconscious likes to listen to artists during their birthdays. (See Alex Turner yesterday.)

Admittedly, at first I was confused. I thought BØRNS was a female HAHAHA and I didn’t know if I liked Garrett’s falsetto but gah, the music was SO GOOD AND CATCHY that in the end, I didn’t care and now I love his voice! (I’m usually more into the deeper voices and lower registers.) Plus, honestly, I think it might be that I actually wanna drink Tennessee honey that I got obsessed with American Money (since I’ve already heard Electric Love before and liked it but didn’t reach fangirl levels). HAHAHA #drunkard

Anyway, please do listen to BØRNS! My favorite tracks (AS OF NOW BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE I’LL CYCLE ALL THROUGH THEM) are 10,000 Emerald Pools, Electric Love, American Money, and Dopamine. I can already play American Money and 10,000 Emerald Pools on my ukelele so YAY!

And I spent all night stuck on the puzzle | Happy Birthday, Alex Turner!

I didn’t even know it’s his birthday today! I got stressed at work and I took a break by learning to play Stuck on the Puzzle on the ukelele and I can now play it! And now I learn that it’s his birthday so that’s a cool coincidence.


I think it’s the perfect song for a guy who crushes on an MPDG (manic pixie dream girl). Which basically is the romance aspect on Submarine (one of my fave movies aaaaaaaaaaa)

Contempt prior to investigation


I watched Celeste and Jesse Forever (2012) again a couple of nights ago because:

1) I love Rashida Jones.
2) I love Andy Samberg.
3) I love Chris Messina.
4) I love Emma Roberts.

So, duh, right? If asked whether I want to watch that movie, the answer is always gonna be a resounding yes. And what is better than watching an amazing couple break up? Nothing, folks. (I’m completely kidding. I watch this PRIMARILY for Chris Messina, yo. Can’t get enough of Chris Messina!!!!)

Back to the title of my post. There’s this bit in the movie where Riley (Emma Roberts) call out Celeste (Rashida Jones) on her personality flaw, which is contempt prior to investigation. How Celeste thinks she’s smarter and so above everyone and how she hates everyone who she thinks is stupid (so basically everyone). It was after Celeste was surprised that Riley knew things about art whilst being a pop star.

And it got me thinking that I have this personality flaw too. Not the I-think-everyone-is-stupid-because-I-am-so-smart but more of the actual direct meaning of CONTEMPT PRIOR TO INVESTIGATION. I quickly judge/form a lasting impression (privately!) and I hate on people easily. Hate is such a strong word. Dismiss? Yeah, I dismiss people easily without ever trying to get to know them. But then I really don’t want to get to know people because selectively social, yo!

So what is the point of this post? I was planning on saying that I have to change and be kind and all that but WHO AM I KIDDING? I just have so much hate to give. I need an outlet and it’s not like I’m picking fights with people or spreading nasty rumors about them.

Yeah, the point is I’m mean. That I have a blackened, dead heart when people think I’m so nice and all that. Haha!

Or maybe that subconsciously I do think I’m so much smarter than others?!?!?! Why else am I so judgmental?!?!?!?!?!

The problem with Suits (the TV show because suits are fiiiiiine, in general)

*spoilers ahead YOU’VE BEEN WARNED*

Before I kicked 2015 out of the way and into storage, I was able to catch up on Suits. Ever since senior year of college, I’ve been terrible with my shows. Surprisingly, I never ACTUALLY dropped Suits. Sure, I didn’t follow it week per week, but I’m still here, right? I was the one who introduced it (more like forced it upon them) to my friends but I remember needing to be convinced to continue it. (Senior year was crazy busy.) And I did! I finished S2 so I could get to S3 and follow it real-time. Then I ended up too busy for it again sometime in S4 so I binged the second half prior to S5. And now I just binged the episodes before the midseason break so I can follow it weekly come January 27.

But see, the problem is, I always have the urge to drop the show and be done with it forever. It’s so clunky after the second season that I’d get episodes I couldn’t care less about then a fuckin’ great episode comes on and I’m in love again. I can’t seem to quit it because just as I’m about to, it reels me back in. Dammit, Suits. S3 was j’abore (and don’t get me started on fuckin’ Hardman because I fuckin’ hate how he never leaves) but then it ended with Mike being a banker. COLOR DIANNE EXCITED. Yes, something new! We’ve been going in circles in this will-someone-find-Mike-out charade!

So I was a happy camper during S4, until the banker stint ended too soon for my liking and it’s another round of IS SOMEONE GONNA FIND OUT ABOUT MIKE. I mean, I love Mike, and I don’t want his secret out but I also want it to be out so we can deal with that fallout. WHEN ARE WE GONNA DEAL ABOUT IT? I started this show right from its pilot (and been pining for it since it was announced IMAGINE HOW LONG I WAITED FOR THAT PILOT) and I persevered during midseason breaks that I hate AND I NEEDED TO FEEL SOMETHING NEW. Don’t get me started at how they made Louis a caricature villain in this season.

Color me giddy then when S4 ended with Donna leaving Harvey because THIS IS SOMETHING NEW HALLELUJAH THANK YOU WE’RE GONNA FIND OUT MORE ABOUT HARVEY! And good lord did S5 deliver. I love love love this fifth season, despite Daniel Hardman coming back. I’m willing to forgive that even though I admit to stopping my marathon because I’M SO SICK OF DANIEL HARDMAN. AND NOW HE’S HERE AGAIN.

I love how Mike basically partnered up with everyone for a task or a case. Mike + Robert Zane, Mike + Rachel, Mike + Donna, Mike + Katrina, Mike + Louis, Mike + Jack Soloff, and of course, Mike + Harvey. Love Gretchen, Harvey’s new secretary. Love all the Harvey scenes with his therapist. Jessica losing her shit. Donna and Harvey fighting and making up. Rachel + Donna, Rachel + Louis, Rachel + Harvey, Donna + Louis, Louis + his sister Esther, everyone! And by the end, bawling and drowning in my own tears with Mike and Grandma. And that’s how I realized I COULD NEVER QUIT THIS SHOW.

Because I love the characters too much. I once called Suits my favorite show (that I was currently following) and that was for a reason. It has such amazing characters and not only are they amazing, the relationships are amazing. I could watch Harvey and Mike being bros to each other forever. I could watch Donna sass everyone out for a lifetime. I could never quit this show because while the plot leaves a lot to be desired and I couldn’t care less recently about their cases (I long stopped being excited about them but I do find it awesome how they close cases), I care about the growth of the characters and what’s gonna happen to them in the future. Hello, they’re like my babies. I’ve been watching them for years!

So that’s the problem. I’m on a seesaw with this show. I’m already dizzy from spending too long on it but I enjoy it still. But I won’t worry about it yet (again) because that motherfucking cliffhanger S5 left makes me so excited and yell out with relief that FINALLY MIKE AND THE FALLOUT OF THIS FRAUD. I am beyond ecstatic to see how the ~family~ will get him out of this.

Now, I know S6 is confirmed and I’m bummed about that because I’m afraid that this show is gonna be dragged out to its death. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

(USA Network, you now have Mr. Robot. Don’t force Suits to extend and extend and extend, please. Or else we’re gonna see Patrick J. Adams’ hairline recede even more.)

Happy New Year!


I just love this gif too much. I’ve used it in both of my blogs for my Happy New Year posts and I don’t even care.

So I recently dumped a lot of stuff on Sab (basically everything I overthink about and ya know, things that my anxious brain decides to pile on me and think about at 1AM until 3AM) and I told her my blog is becoming useless with her around. And that’s good, right? To have someone, an actual someone, who listens to me than the ether absorbing all my thoughts?

Still, let’s see what’s gonna end up here.