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Universal Harvester (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa a small town in the center of the state, the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and while the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It s good enough for Jeremy: It s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.
But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of "Targets" an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store, she has an odd complaint: There's something on it, she says, but doesn t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns "She's All That," a new release, and complains that there s something wrong with it: There's another movie on this tape.
Jeremy doesn't want to be curious. But he takes a look and, indeed, in the middle of the movie the screen blinks dark for a moment and "She's All That" is replaced by a black-and-white scene, shot in a barn, with only the faint sounds of someone breathing. Four minutes later, "She's All That" is back. But there is something profoundly unsettling about that scene; Jeremy's compelled to watch it three or four times. The scenes recorded onto "Targets" are similar, undoubtedly created by the same hand. Creepy. And the barn looks much like a barn just outside of town.
There will be no ignoring the disturbing scenes on the videos. And all of a sudden, what had once been the placid, regular old Iowa fields and farmhouses now feels haunted and threatening, imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. For Jeremy, and all those around him, life will never be the same.
NOTE: As with all Skylight Books in-store events, this reading is free and open to the public (first come, first served). But because we're expecting a large crowd at this event, we'll be giving out numbered tickets to the signing line to keep things organized:
- To get a ticket to the signing line, you must purchase a copy of Universarl Harvester here at Skylight Books. Tickets will be available beginning February 7, 2017, the book's publication date.
- For all website orders for this event, be sure to leave a note in the Order Comments field that you would like a ticket and plan to attend the event.
- Can't attend? If you would like a signed book but will not be able to attend, click Signed Copy after adding the book to your cart and we'll do our best to get it signed for you. You may pick up this book in the store after the event, or have it shipped to you.
- Skylight's Friends with Benefits members get priority signing line tickets (and 20% off this and all other event books each month), so be sure to mention your membership (or join) when you order the book.
John Darnielle’s first novel, Wolf in White Van, was a New York Times bestseller, a National Book Award nominee, and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for first fiction, and was widely hailed as one of the best novels of the year. He is the writer, composer, guitarist, and vocalist for the band the Mountain Goats. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife and sons.
John Darnielle photo by Brandon Eggleston