Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week Ryan Callahan is superficial, Jonda Robinson believes in waffles, and David Allison aims for the stars. Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle is a book I judged by its cover. Okay, it wasn't solely the cover; I read the inside flap of the dust jacket and the blurbs on the back. but the half-hypnotizing-half-headache-inducing cover sold me on the book more than anything else. The cover was like a Magic Eye painting. It pulled me in with the promise of worlds hidden in plain sight.
Wolf in White Van delivered on that promise. But. unlike a Magic Eye, which reveals a schooner or Micky Mouse, Wolf in White Van creates a world that, when squinted at, reveals an entire world hidden in plain sight: a desolated wasteland where everyone is alone and the only options are go forward or die, where the game never ends, and where our goals and dreams will forever be out of reach. The book takes place entirely inside the head of Sean Phillips, the creator of a mail-order role-playing game who lives primarily in seclusion due to an accident as a teenager, which left him horribly disfigured.
Wolf in White Van has no plot. Sean's narration jumps between the past and the present, between the game he created and the real world, all a series of overlapping memories. Through the memories, more information is revealed. We learn more about Sean, his game Trace Italian, the terrible accident that led to his creation of Trace Italian, and the terrible accident his game caused. The novel is dark and beautiful, full of evocative sentences and well-observed moments between a young man and his parents.
John Darnielle is apparently a well-known musician, the vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. I knew nothing of his work prior to picking up his book. But now I'll have to listen to all of it. Or buy all of it, listen to one song, tell myself I'll listen to the rest someday, and move on to another interest. - Ryan Callahan
What do you believe in? Yeah, this just got deep. The reason I pose this question to you is because it’s a question I’ve recently asked my eighth grade students. We’ve spent the past week studying up on what others believe and figuring out how to pick and portray an idea that we really believe in. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time checking out what other people believe at www.thisibelieve.org.
The website belongs to This I Believe, Inc, a “not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.” Based on a radio program that ran in the 1950s and was hosted by Edward R. Murrow, it’s a place where individuals can publish essays explaining their beliefs on a topic, with the end goal being to encourage people to have a respect for the beliefs of others. When I was browsing the site, I decided to check out the “humor & laughter” section, because hey, I like humor! I like laughter! I was not disappointed when I stumbled upon an essay entitled “Give Me a Waffle,” because waffles are delicious and a great way to celebrate successes, deal with whatever is going on in life, or distract your friends when needed.
The website features thousands of essays on a variety of topics, ranging from everyday people talking about courage to Albert Einstein explaining his belief that we should put service to others above our own gain. Check it out, and maybe you’ll feel inspired to let the world in on something that you believe. - Jonda Robinson
Most cinematic attention this weekend will be directed toward Interstellar, which seeks to answer the question, “Can Matthew McConaughey fly a spaceship as well as he can drive a Lincoln?” I am very excited for this flick, but I’m sure you can find detailed breakdowns of it from much more qualified people that have a PhD in gaffing or whatever. Because of that, I want to use this space (GET IT??????????????????????) to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum—The Lone Star Film Festival.
Each fall, Fort Worth hosts a showcase for independent filmmakers and movies with very little distribution, known as The Lone Star Film Festival. It’s a five-day event that not only includes full-length films and shorts, but also gives us local yokels a chance to interact with real-life famous people! For example, 2013 saw Billy Bob Thornton and Robert Duvall participate in a Q&A (which is movie insider slang for Question and Answer) about their motion picture, Jayne Mansfield’s Car. I’m most excited for the short films, a medium that is a great opportunity for emerging artists on a tight budget to create something fantastic.
You can find out more about The Lone Star Film Festival by looking it up on the Internet. - David Allison