After reading the book, a few blog posts and a couple drafts my analysis of Wolf in White Van has reached its end. The culmination of my breakdown on this novel can be read here. My essay Wolf in White Van: Lost in the Details reflects on the idea that Sean Phillips, the main character, uses fantasies to cope with the reality that he lives in after he attempts suicide.
I can’t say that I particularly liked this book or enjoyed writing the essay–because then I would be lying–but the novel did introduce a new way of looking at things. Details were not just details, a memory may not be just a memory: Wolf in White Van made me scrutinize the way I function in reality and what my coping mechanisms are.
Though I did not love this assignment I did find the insight it provided interesting and the ideas conveyed thought provoking.
I believe that Wolf in White Van is about trauma and healing. It taught me that trauma can stop by at anytime, anywhere and it can be really frustrating. Sometimes when facing trauma, we become so undeniably obsessed with it, that we regard our whole life and existence as traumatic based on that one sense. In my essay on Wolf in White Van and trauma, I talk about how people often turn to the world in their minds when going through traumatic phases. These “worlds inside the mind” could be formed through video games, music, films, or some kind of artistic process that requires attention. And what happens when we put our minds to art? We forget about trauma in that short run and heal ourselves through time and art.
When writing my first draft of my Wolf in White Vanassignment, I was extremely lost– there were so many things I wanted to say, so many arguments I could make, and thus my first draft ended up being disastrous. But after reading Brian’s first draft and having Kiara read mine, I had a better sense of what to write about. There was some comfort in writing a “normal” intro-body-conclusion essay, but somehow after all the crazy writing assignments we’ve done, I found this to be less enjoyable. Approaching a complex book filled with metaphors and plot holes with a basic high school essay outline didn’t seem to do it justice.
That was surprisingly easy? Was the main thrust of my thoughts upon finishing the first, and only recording session, for Ian Heaven and me’s episode of the podcast. We had come to the main idea of our episode, that the fiendishly difficult Dark Souls was best analyzed with the term community building, after a number of conversations about the game. Evidently, that was enough time for quite a few ideas about the game to germinate into full fledged analysis and thus we didn’t have much trouble speaking rather off the cuff about our subject, using only a brief outline with an intro, conclusion, and bullet points for everything in the middle. It ended up being just enough structure to keep us on task without stymying creative ideas.
I definitely felt strongly that the work being done was not collaborative merely in the sense of two people working together, but that Ian and I actually built off another and were able to inspire different modes of thinking about the subject. For example, I had come to the idea mainly through the lens of the mechanics of Dark Souls while Ian was able to point out that the lore was just as impenetrable and therefore an equal unifier in the Dark Souls community. We were able to take that a step further and see some parallels and ultimately come up with the idea of Community Building as a term after kicking around ideas like responsibility and accessibility that were important, but as we later realized only really interesting because they led the players to form a community.
In terms of other podcasts, and especially ones in this class, ours was different because we recorded almost entirely in one take and combined with the conversational nature of the script created a, hopefully natural, feeling that one was listening in on two people having a conversation about the subject. We were trying to avoid excess formality and focus more on the content of the episode and expressing our opinion and ideas about the nature of Dark Souls.
Overall, I thought we did a fine job with the podcast though always given infinite time I would’ve preferred to map out all the ideas covered in the initial session, see how they fit together best and if we expressed them as well as possible (or if there was something else to them) and re-record as a smoother finished project. Given the constraints though, I am happy with the result.
Reading and discussing about Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle opened me to new perspectives that people may have about how they view their lives and the world around them. Imagination and creativity has always been a great ability to have, even more so in today’s ever computerized and digitized information age, however, Sean Phillip’s situation argues that the latter may not be so bad. Having the ability to imagine and envision a world which is not shared by everyone is a great aspect to hold, as long as it does not consume oneself and distort their life, as what happened to Sean.
In reading, writing, and discussing about Wolf in White Van, I reflected and gained insight to my own perception of reality. I must say though, this book brought to me more questions than answers as to what one may perceive reality to be, if their perception to reality can be considered either true or false, and what one should hold as their acceptable reality.
The final version of my full argument can be found here.
Photo by R Pollard, titled “tex playing video games”
Wolf in White Van is a very unique novel that is hard to talk about much less write about. It was hard to decide what I should focus in on when writing this essay since the novel is so complicated and there are so many different ways to look at it. Once I decided on what I wanted to talk about, the essay wasn’t too terribly difficult to write considering it’s a very relatable book. I appreciated the comfort I got from this assignment honestly. It resembled a more traditional English class writing assignment, making me a little more confident in my abilities than I am when writing about video games and things I don’t feel very familiar with. I definitely put this at one of my favorite assignments from the semester. Visit my final draft here!
In the end, I’m pretty happy with my essay. I did a good job analyzing and used that as a platform to think more deeply about the work and its ultimate meaning. Having finished the first draft at a rather late, or one could call it early, hour I did not immediately take a critical look and thus was a little reticent to agree with the criticism of my peer editor Nick Reyes when I read it. Of course, it turned out to be pretty spot-on in the end. One thing I did manage to learn by the end of high school was how much I can strengthen my writing when I get perspective from outside my own head, because I’m likely to miss the same spots as a reader that I missed as a writer. Still, it can still take me a moment to get get over my initial defensiveness so I called the person who taught me that lesson, my best friend and writing partner, and demanded she read my essay and tell me the peer editor’s criticism was off-base. Much to my chagrin, though not unexpectedly after years of exchanging work, she concurred with my peer editor and offered additional criticism in tow. Talking to her though, I was able to get a much clearer idea of what I really wanted to say and how to weave that in to my essay and make it a much less jarring experience for the reader. I had left too many assumptions for the reader to make and my conclusion was more of a surprise, as Nick had said, than the natural endpoint of my logic and evidence. In the end I feel as if I understood Wolf in White Van better, wrote a compelling argument, and had a productive writing process with myself and peers.
In the final version of my essay on Wolf In White Van, I felt stuck on what to edit at first. After reading some of my fellow students papers and the review of my paper by the student who read it, I knew I needed more quotes to back up my claims and I needed to assert my thesis earlier in the paper. Through writing this paper I became much more comfortable with writing more of a formal essay. I know that my writing style thrives on a relaxed topics and formats of writing, but I was able to apply the skills I have learned in writing blog posts to an actual essay.
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle is a novel that details Sean Phillips’ journey before and after attempting suicide to deal with his own psychological problems. Writing my “Wolf in White Van: Loneliness, Trauma, and Coping” essay allowed me to explore, reflect, and rethink my understanding of Sean’s suicide attempt not as an attempted escape but a definite cure to the struggle Sean endured alone with his own destructive and disturbing thoughts.