Cider, baking, and death metal. 

John Darnielle’s debut novel, Wolf in White Van, was published in October by Granta Books. Here, he shares five links of what he’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.


1. Aubrey’s Brief Lives
Whenever I notice that my reading has gotten stuck in mid-twentieth-century-and-laterland, I hear the voice of my college self launching jeremiads at the dullard he’s become. There’s a world back there! yells my skinnier self. After I finished Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven (excellent), I made ready to grab something else from 2014, and then thought again. This 1972 edition from the paperback Penguin English Library boasts an informative introduction that runs for a full one-hundred-and-sixty-one pages. The thing people forget about the past is how weird it was. This, as it happens, was also Aubrey’s position. Wonderful.

2. Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
Thomas Gabriel Fischer, né Tom G. Warrior, of all-time greats Celtic Frost, continues his remarkable second act. His first band blazed a mighty trail with one legendarily ill-informed cul-de-sac (the infamous Cold Lake); he spent much of the nineties in the wilderness. The Celtic Frost reunion produced great music, but Triptykon is the real story. Bringing together several of Fischer’s musical voices into one dark, gloomy, enraged expression, Melana Chasmata is vital and focused in a way that few rock albums by people who’ve been at it for thirty years are.

3. Lemon custard pie
My older son and I got up at six yesterday, which is actually late for him. I noticed that I hadn’t gotten to that big bag of lemons in the fridge that I bought a few days before his younger brother was born, a few weeks ago. I got out Dolores Casella’s A World of Baking and turned to the lemon pies. A couple of hours later, we enjoyed the satisfaction of an early morning well spent. Baking! Never gets old!

4. Earl Grey tea
Back at my high school in California, anybody who took up tea drinking instead of coffee was making a cultural statement of some kind. I am a person who orders tea instead of coffee is the only iteration of the sentiment I can really nail down, but there was never any mistaking it. I took up coffee drinking when I was twelve and never looked back, but in Seattle, on the reading tour for Wolf in White Van, somebody gave me a nice bag of organic Earl Grey, and I have been having one of those holidays-in-somebody-else’s-habits you have from time to time. It’s like secretly wearing different clothes. Nobody even notices I’m doing it, but I’m living a whole different life, one in which I have a cup of delicately scented tea in the afternoon and think about, you know, dragons and stuff.

5. Bull City Ciderworks
I can’t imagine anybody over there in the UK will believe me when I tell you we have really good fresh local cider here in Durham, but we do. Both dry and sweet! Durham is paradise!


Cover Image © Dominico Del Pino, Apple (Malus Species), 1825

S.J. Naudé and Ivan Vladislavić In Conversation