Success was a long time in coming to John Darnielle as a musician. Before his folk-rock project The Mountain Goats started edging toward household name (or at least major cult) status, he spent the 1990s releasing lo-fi cassettes and records for a small group of dedicated fans.
But it looks like literary success will prove less elusive, as Darnielle’s first proper novel, Wolf in White Van (which is discussed with the author and reviewed in this week’s INDY), has just landed on the longlist for the 2014 National Book Awards for Fiction.
About that “proper”—Wolf in White Van, which elliptically tells the dark story of a disfigured loner who runs a role-playing game by mail, is actually Darnielle’s second book and arguably his second work of fiction.
It follows 2008’s Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, which was part of Continuum Press’ 33 1/3 series of short nonfiction books on important albums. Darnielle chose to write it through the imagined perspective of a teenager in a psychiatric center, making it something between fiction and creative nonfiction.
In any case, Wolf in White Van is his first full-fledged novel.
First established in 1936, the prestigious National Book Awards are currently administered by the nonprofit National Book Foundation, which convenes a panel of writer judges to sort through the nominations submitted by publishers. The winner receives a $10,000 prize and a firm foothold in the modern literary canon.
Darnielle faces some stiff competition for the award from the established, highly respected likes of