Universal Harvester is John Darnielle’s third book. I am not sure calling it a book is right, I mean, sure, it’s a book, bound paper with words spilled everywhere. But it is something else too. I like to listen to the audio versions of his books as John narrates them himself. This really adds to the experience, like a friend reading to you when you are a long road trip.
Universal Harvester is a memory wrapped in a warm sweater. It’s a cup is warm coffee, just right, it won’t burn your tongue but there is still enough heat to warm you up. The novel tells the story of some video store clerks who investigate some mysterious footage that starts to appear on some tapes. It is important to me that you know something before going in to the book. There are some disparaging words about She’s All That. I don’t think the author maliciously chose one of my “shut out the world and allow the love of giggles and of love to refill my happiness” flicks, but it was chose so it needs to be mentioned.
As the clerks investigate the tape vandalism the little bits and pieces of this snapshot of their life adds to the complexity of the story. Enough to keep you interested but not too much that you will feel too bad if something happens. A friends out-of-state cousin, maybe.
John has a special voice in his writing. He has been a story teller for decades now and many of his two minute songs tell better stories than a lot of the books I have read growing up and that’s saying something. I know this is a movie site and not a book site but one of the hook is old tapes, and one of my favorite creators birthed it so I think it is special enough to sit here on my shelf.
I was thinking, while listening, about which director I would equate the story too. While the story is wildly Midwestern the feel and narrative mystery reminded me of some mid-career Bergman films where he shows you everything he thinks you you should need. Like Winter Lite, or Through a Glass Darkly.