If you’ve been paying attention to the Mountain Goats, you’ve known for many years that frontman John Darnielle is a great, great writer. But the literary world learned it for themselves in 2014, when Darnielle published his excellent novel Wolf In White Van; among other great things, it was nominated for a National Book Award. (In 2008, he’d also published a novella as the 33 1/3 book about Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality, and that was fucking great, but not enough people read it.) Last week, Darnielle announced plans to follow up Wolf In White Van with a new novel called Universal Harvester, and we now know a little more about it.
On his Tumblr, Darnielle has revealed that Universal Harvester is set in Iowa, a state where he lived for many years, and he reflects a bit about the process of becoming a novelist. He also says this about the book:
I had this idea to tell a horror story that would also function as a cartography of grief set within that world I’d lived in for a long spell… I am really super proud of this book; I think it hits that sad/frightening axis that I’ve always found most inspiring in the writers I like best and in the work I seek out, and that I’m often aiming for in my stuff. The whole discipline of not talking about it while writing it has been both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, and I absolutely cannot wait to share it with you all.
And on its website, Darnielle’s publishers Farrar, Straus And Giroux reveal a bit more about the book’s plot:
Fans of Wolf in White Van will be glad to hear that John’s new novel, Universal Harvester, is not exactly what one might call “a normal novel.” The book opens at the Video Hut in late-’90s, small-town Iowa, where twentysomething Jeremy rides out his days manning the counter, blissfully unaware of the forces (Hollywood Video, DVDs, the Internet) conspiring to make his job representative of a very specific cultural moment. What Jeremy is aware of is a series of customers returning video tapes with complaints that something’s wrong with them—that, for instance, She’s All That is interrupted by four minutes of grainy, homemade, black-and-white footage that is distinctly creepy-as-hell—there’s a darkness there, an overwhelming sadness. She’s All That is the most popular tape affected, but not the only one. Jeremy would prefer not to have to get to the bottom of the disturbing videos, but that, of course, was never a real possibility…
As a fan of both Darnielle and She’s All That, I can’t fucking wait for this. Universal Harvester is out 2/7/17.