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Episode 252: John Darnielle

BY MEGAN LABRISE • January 25, 2022

Enter John Darnielle’s blazingly original third novel at your own risk.

On this week’s episode, John Darnielle discusses Devil House (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Jan. 25), a cleverly constructed puzzle box of a story, with the power to change how you regard true crime—and the novel, for that matter. From the New York Times–bestselling author of Wolf in White Van and Universal Harvester, Devil House is Darnielle’s best yet, Kirkus avers.

Here’s a bit from our starred review of Devil House:“Darnielle has an affection for the dark side of pop culture and the way fans of supposedly gloom-and-doom genres like heavy metal and horror are more sophisticated than they get credit for. So this smart, twisty novel about true-crime books and the 1980s ‘Satanic panic’ is a fine fit for him and his best so far. The center and main narrator of the novel is Gage, an author who’s moved to Milpitas, California, as a kind of stunt: He plans to live on the site of an unsolved double murder that took place on Halloween 1986 in an abandoned porn shop that was defaced with occult imagery. Experience has taught Gage how to write about a case like this: His first book, about a teacher who killed two students in self-defense, became a modestly successful film. But that past begins to gnaw at Gage as he becomes more aware of how the genre demands archetypes that cheapen human loss.…An impressively meta work that delivers the pleasures of true-crime while skewering it.”

Darnielle and host Megan Labrise discuss reading in a fugue state and the mania of artistic creation; how he regards the novel as a form; idioms including “the devil’s in the details”; whether the details of Devil House are purposefully slippery; true-crime writer and Devil House narrator Gage Chandler; the purpose of including scenes of invigorating gore; the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover, Vermont; and much more.

Then editors Laura Simeon, Summer Edward, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick offer their top picks in books for the week.

 

Editorspicks:

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp (Sourcebooks Fire)

Wutaryoo by Nilah Magruder (Versify/HarperCollins)

Taste: My Life Through Food by Stanley Tucci (Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster)

A Dream Life by Claire Messud (Tablo Tales)

 

Also mentioned on this episode:

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith (Text)

The Plague Cycle: The Unending War Between Humanity and Infectious Disease by Charles Kenny (Scribner)

The Pot and How to Use It: The Mystery and Romance of the Rice Cooker by Roger Ebert (Andrews McMeel)

Kant’s Little Prussian Head & Other Reasons Why I Write by Claire Messud (Norton)

 

And thanks to our advertisers:

Still the Night Call by Joshua Senter

God 4.0: On the Nature of Higher Consciousness and the Experience Called "God" by Robert Ornstein

Shepherd's Warning by Cailyn Lloyd

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

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