Downtown Owl

( 60 )

Overview

New York Times bestselling author and “oneofAmerica’stop cultural critics” (Entertainment Weekly) Chuck Klosterman’s debut novel brilliantly captures the charm and dread of small town life—now available in trade paperback. Somewhere in rural North Dakota, there is a fictional town called Owl. They don’t have cable. They don’t really have pop culture, but they do have grain prices and alcoholism. People work hard and then they die. But that’s not nearly as awful as it sounds; in fact, sometimes it’s perfect. Mitch...

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Overview

New York Times bestselling author and “oneofAmerica’stop cultural critics” (Entertainment Weekly) Chuck Klosterman’s debut novel brilliantly captures the charm and dread of small town life—now available in trade paperback. Somewhere in rural North Dakota, there is a fictional town called Owl. They don’t have cable. They don’t really have pop culture, but they do have grain prices and alcoholism. People work hard and then they die. But that’s not nearly as awful as it sounds; in fact, sometimes it’s perfect. Mitch Hrlicka lives in Owl. He plays high school football and worries about his weirdness, or lack thereof. Julia Rabia just moved to Owl. A history teacher, she gets free booze and falls in love with a self-loathing bison farmer. Widower and local conversationalist Horace Jones has resided in Owl for seventy-three years. They all know each other completely, except that they’ve never met. But when a deadly blizzard— based on an actual storm that occurred in 1984—hits the area, their lives are derailed in unex- pected and powerful ways. An unpretentious, darkly comedic story of how it feels to exist in a community where local mythology and violent reality are pretty much the same thing, Downtown Owl is “a satisfying character study and strikes a perfect balance between the funny and the pro- found” (Publishers Weekly).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An astonishingly moving book, a minor masterpiece in the genre we might call small-town quirkiana." — The Boston Globe

"It's tempting to compare this novel with Sherwood Anderson's classic portrait of small-town American life, Winesburg, Ohio. But no one in Winesburg listened to Ozzy Osbourne. And Klosterman is much funnier than Anderson." — The Washington Post

Edward Schwarzschild
[Klosterman] leads us back to North Dakota in this thoroughly engaging novel…Given such appealing locals and the way Owl itself emerges as a memorable character, it's tempting to compare this novel with Sherwood Anderson's classic portrait of small-town American life, Winesburg, Ohio. But no one in Winesburg listened to Ozzy Osbourne. And Klosterman is much funnier than Anderson.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Four books of nonfiction (Fargo Rock City; Klosterman IV; etc.) and a steady magazine presence have established Klosterman as a pop culture writer known for his air-quotes wit. There's plenty of that sensibility in his first novel, and fans and detractors alike may be pleasantly surprised to find Klosterman delving beneath the quirky surfaces of Owl, N. Dak., the "overtly idyllic" but "paradoxically menacing" town that provides a perfect backdrop for the author's sense of humor. (The time in which the novel takes place-1983, an era of Def Leppard and feathered hair-tickles the author's love of the vapid.) The book shifts perspective among three Owl residents: Mitch, a smart teenager who's "not clutch" on the football field or with girls; Julia, a teacher fresh out of college and discovering an affinity for booze and beaus; and Horace, a widower whose life revolves around coffee and bull sessions. Though no single narrative line binds the three-the event that ultimately unites them is a creaking deus ex machina-Klosterman creates a satisfying character study and strikes a perfect balance between the funny and the profound. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Welcome to Owl, ND, circa 1984, a town of some 800-plus souls located somewhere between Winesburg, OH, and Twin Peaks, WA. Folks feel rooted here. Most of us know one another so well, we're sort of like a big family. Here, in Owl, dating involves a lot of desperation, and serious drinking is still considered a productive avocation. Of course, the high school, which sometimes attracts teachers who've been educated abroad, in places like Minot or even St. Paul, is a big deal: the time the Owl Lobos got covered on the national news ranks right up there with Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Angie Dickinson in the North Dakota pantheon. Oh, and there's also that "Gordon Kahl incident," in which a protestor killed two federal marshals over a tax dispute-but we figure every town has its problems. We're not so much bitter, really, as dazed and confused. Klosterman (Fargo Rock City), who has previously written mainly about bands with names like OutKast, devotes his first novel to us. You'll want to check it out from your local public library. Owl's may be not so different from where you live. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/1/08.]
—Bob Lunn

Kirkus Reviews
A debut novel that works better as cultural criticism than it does as fiction. Popular journalist Klosterman built his reputation with a musical memoir (Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota, 2001) that established him as the anti-rock-critic rock critic, a writer who could explain why things that rock critics dismiss as dumb are really significant and things that rock critics celebrate are often dumb. For his first novel, he returns to his native North Dakota, while making sure to assert: "This story is a non-autobiographical work of fiction." It also isn't much of a story, encompassing as it does the narrative perspectives of three characters who are more generic than fully fleshed and whose interaction with each other is minimal. Mitch is a regular guy and underappreciated football player (by his coach, who has a history of impregnating students), who can't really understand the appeal of some of the music his friends have started to embrace (Van Halen, ZZ Top, Def Leppard). Julia is the new history teacher who becomes the unlikely femme fatale in a small town that doesn't attract many young, single females. Horace is an old guy who drinks coffee and swaps gossip with other old guys at the coffee shop in what the title ironically terms "downtown Owl." The short chapters are chronologically dated from late summer 1983 until the climactic blizzard of winter 1984. There is some exegesis of the George Orwell novel and the Van Halen album that both take their title from the latter year. Klosterman has a feel for how kids find fun, meaning and purpose (or don't) in small-town Dakota, but the fact that the movie theater is closing invites unfortunate comparisons withLarry McMurtry's far superior The Last Picture Show. This will likely find a wider readership with those who love Klosterman (from his nonfiction books and magazine work for Esquire, ESPN, Spin et al.) than those who love novels. Agent: Daniel Greenberg/Levine Greenberg Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416544197
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 6/23/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 593,829
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman is the author of Chuck Klosterman IV; Fargo Rock City; Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs; and Killing Yourself to Live. He was until recently a columnist for Esquire, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and has also written for GQ, Spin, The Washington Post, ESPN, and The Believer. He lives in New York City.

Good To Know

In our interview, Klosterman shared some fun and fascinating facts about himself:

"I think I love onion rings, but I actually don't. Very often, I will purchase onion rings and throw them in the oven, and I'll be very excited about the premise of consuming them. However, when I finally start to eat supper, I realize they're only okay. Somehow, this situation has happened to me at least five times in my lifetime: For some reason, I keep unconsciously convincing myself that onion rings are delicious."

"The original title for Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs was American Minotaur, but everybody turned against me."

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 5, 1972
    2. Place of Birth:
      Wyndmere, North Dakota
    1. Education:
      Degree in Journalism, University of North Dakota, 1994

Read an Excerpt

AUGUST 15, 1983
(Mitch)

When Mitch Hrlicka heard that his high school football coach had gotten another teenage girl pregnant, he was forty bushels beyond bamboozled. He could not understand what so many females saw in Mr. Laidlaw. He was inhumane, and also sarcastic. Whenever Mitch made the slightest mental error, Laidlaw would rhetorically scream, “Vanna? Vanna? Are you drowsy, Vanna? Wake up! You can sleep when you are dead, Vanna!” Mr. Laidlaw seemed unnaturally proud that he had nicknamed Mitch “Vanna White” last winter, solely based on one semifunny joke about how the surname “Hrlicka” needed more vowels. Mitch did not mind when other kids called him Vanna, because almost everyone he knew had a nickname; as far as he could tell, there was nothing remotely humiliating about being called “Vanna,” assuming everyone understood that the name had been assigned arbitrarily. It symbolized nothing. But Mitch hated when John Laidlaw called him “Vanna,” because Laidlaw assumed it was humiliating. And that, clearly, was his goal.

Christ, it was humid. When Mitch and his teenage associates had practiced that morning at 7:30 a.m., it was almost cool; the ground had been wet with dew and the clouds hovered fourteen feet off the ground. But now—eleven hours later—the sun was burning and falling like the Hindenburg. The air was damp wool. Mitch limped toward the practice field for the evening’s upcoming death session; he could already feel sweat forming on his back and above his nose and under his crotch. His quadriceps stored enough lactic acid to turn a triceratops into limestone. “God damn,” he thought. “Why do I want this?” In two days the team would begin practicing in full pads. It would feel like being wrapped in cellophane while hauling bricks in a backpack. “God damn,” he thought again. “This must be what it’s like to live in Africa.” Football was not designed for the summer, even if Herschel Walker believed otherwise.

When Mitch made it to the field, the other two Owl quarterbacks were already there, facing each other twelve yards apart, each standing next to a freshman. They were playing catch, but not directly; one QB would rifle the ball to the opposite freshman, who would (in theory) catch it and immediately flip it over to the second QB who was waiting at his side. The other quarterback would then throw the ball back to the other freshman, and the process would continue. This was how NFL quarterbacks warmed up on NFL sidelines. The process would have looked impressive to most objective onlookers, except for the fact that both freshman receivers dropped 30 percent of the passes that struck them in the hands. This detracted from the fake professionalism.

Mitch had no one to throw to, so he served as the holder while the kickers practiced field goals. This duty required him to crouch on one knee and remain motionless, which (of course) is not an ideal way to get one’s throwing arm loose and relaxed. Which (of course) did not really matter, since Coach Laidlaw did not view Mitch’s attempts at quarterbacking with any degree of seriousness. Mitch was not clutch. Nobody said this, but everybody knew. It was the biggest problem in his life.

At 7:01, John Laidlaw blew into a steel whistle and instructed everyone to bring it in. They did so posthaste.

“Okay,” Laidlaw began. “This is the situation. The situation is this: We will not waste any light tonight, because we have a beautiful evening with not many mosquitoes and a first-class opportunity to start implementing some of the offense. I realize this is only the fourth practice, but we’re already way behind on everything. It’s obvious that most of you didn’t put five goddamn minutes into thinking about football all goddamn summer, so now we’re all behind. And I don’t like being behind. I’ve never been a follower. I’m not that kind of person. Maybe you are, but I am not.

“Classes start in two weeks. Our first game is in three weeks. We need to have the entire offense ready by the day we begin classes, and we need to have all of the defensive sets memorized before we begin classes. And right now, I must be honest: I don’t even know who the hell is going to play for us. So this is the situation. The situation is this: Right now, everybody here is equally useless. This is going to be an important, crucial, important, critical, important two weeks for everyone here, and it’s going to be a real kick in the face to any of you who still want to be home watching The Price Is Right. And I know there’s going to be a lot of people in this town talking about a lot of bull crap that doesn’t have anything to do with football, and you’re going to hear about certain things that happened or didn’t happen or that supposedly happened or that supposedly allegedly didn’t happen to somebody that probably doesn’t even exist. These are what we call distractions. These distractions will come from all the people who don’t want you to think about Owl Lobo football. So if I hear anyone on this team perpetuating those kinds of bullshit stories, everyone is going to pay for those distractions. Everyone. Because we are here to think about Owl Lobo football. And if you are not thinking exclusively—exclusively—about Owl Lobo football, go home and turn on The Price Is Right. Try to win yourself a washing machine.”

It remains unclear why John Laidlaw carried such a specific, all-encompassing hatred for viewers of The Price Is Right. No one will ever know why this was. Almost as confusing was the explanation as to why Owl High School was nicknamed the Lobos, particularly since they had been the Owl Owls up until 1964. During the summer of ’64, the citizens of Owl suddenly concluded that being called the Owl Owls was somewhat embarrassing, urging the school board to change the nickname to something “less repetitive.” This proposal was deeply polarizing to much of the community. The motion didn’t pass until the third vote. And because most of the existing Owl High School athletic gear still featured its long-standing logo of a feathered wing, it was decided that the new nickname should remain ornithological. As such, the program was known as the Owl Eagles for all of the 1964–1965 school year. Contrary to community hopes, this change dramatically increased the degree to which its sports teams were mocked by opposing schools. During the especially oppressive summer of 1969, they decided to change the nickname again, this time becoming the Owl High Screaming Satans. (New uniforms were immediately purchased.) Two games into the ’69 football season, the local Lutheran and Methodist churches jointly petitioned the school board, arguing that the nickname “Satan” glorified the occult and needed to be changed on religious grounds; oddly (or perhaps predictably), the local Catholic church responded by aggressively supporting the new moniker, thereby initiating a bitter feud among the various congregations. (This was punctuated by a now infamous street fight that involved the punching of a horse.) When the Lutheran minister ultimately decreed that all Protestant athletes would have to quit all extracurricular activities if the name “Satan” remained in place, the school was forced to change nicknames midseason. Nobody knew how to handle this unprecedented turn of events. Eventually, one of the cheerleaders noticed that the existing satanic logo actually resembled an angry humanoid wolf, a realization that seemed brilliant at the time. (The cheerleader, Janelle Fluto, is now a lesbian living in Thunder Bay, Ontario.) The Screaming Satans subsequently became the Screaming Lobos, a name that was edited down to Lobos upon the recognition that wolves do not scream. This nickname still causes mild confusion, as strangers sometimes assume the existence of a mythological creature called the “Owl Lobo,” which would (indeed) be a terrifying (and potentially winged) carnivore hailing from western Mexico. But—nonetheless, and more importantly—there has not been any major community controversy since the late sixties. Things have been perfect ever since, if by “perfect” you mean “exactly the same.”

Mitch and the rest of the Lobos clapped their hands simultaneously and started to jog one lap around the practice field, ostensibly preparing to perform a variety of calisthenics while thinking exclusively about Owl Lobo football and not fantasizing about The Price Is Right. But such a goal was always impossible. It was still summer. As Mitch loped along the sidelines, his mind drifted to other subjects, most notably a) Gordon Kahl, b) the Georgetown Hoyas, c) how John Laidlaw managed to seduce and impregnate Tina McAndrew, and d) how awful it must feel to be John Laidlaw’s wife.

© 2008 Chuck Klosterman

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Introduction

Questions for Discussion

1. Downtown Owl is told primarily from the three different perspectives of Mitch, Julia, and Horace. With whom did you most closely identify? Although these three dominate the book, why do you think the author also devoted short chapters to both Mr. Laidlaw and Cubby Candy's points of view?

2. While presenting his class syllabus, Laidlaw explains that, "'The central issue in Nineteen Eighty-Four is personal privacy.'" Via Mitch's perspective, we also discover that Laidlaw sees personal privacy "'as the main issue in many novels.'" Why is Laidlaw preoccupied with personal privacy? In what way is this incongruous? How does the town react to Laidlaw's transgressions?

3. Julia quickly discovers that nearly every town resident has a nickname. In Owl, "If you met ten people, you had to remember twenty". Why does Julia think the Owl nicknames are particularly odd? Why do you think nicknames are featured so heavily in this novel? What do they imply about small town life?

4. Sprinkled throughout the novel are numbered and bulleted lists. One passage of dialogue translates Julia and Vance Druid's contrived speech into their genuine thoughts. Mitch's English exam is featured as an entire chapter. What role do these non-traditional narrative formats play?

5. Julia is devastated when she discovers the tortured cat outside of her apartment. Why did she go back to bed when she overheard the violence occurring in the middle of the night? Who do you think is responsible for killing the cat?

6. Why is the Gordon Kahl incident significant? What does it mean to the people who live in Owl?

7. Mitch lists five reasons why he does notunderstand or can't relate to the characters and struggles that exist in Nineteen Eighty-Four (galley page 109). What do these things that are perplexing to Mitch illustrate about his own personality and awareness? If you have read Nineteen Eighty-Four, how do these reactions differ from your own? How are they similar?

8. Discuss the relationship between Julia and Vance Druid. Why is Julia immediately drawn to him? Did Vance's revealed thoughts and intentions throughout his conversation with Julia at Yoda's (galley pages 112 - 128) come as a surprise? Did you hope that Julia and Vance would ultimately end up together?

9. Of his two secrets, the one that Horace most despises - and the only one that is explicitly revealed - is the deal he foolishly made with Chester Grimes. What is Horace's second secret?

10. Although we learn about Horace's deceased wife and Mitch comes to regret not spending more time with his sister, there is little other mention of family relationships in the book. Do you think that this was a deliberate choice made by the author? If so, why may he have purposely chosen to focus mainly on the relationships between friends, neighbors, teachers, students, enemies, and strangers in Owl instead?

11. Much of the conversation between Mitch and his friends is devoted to determining who would win in a fight - Cubby Candy or Grendel. Why has Mitch been nominated as the expert on the matter? If the storm had not interrupted, what do you think the result of the fight would have been? What does the chapter told from Cubby Candy's perspective reveal and why is there not a chapter told from Grendel's perspective?

12. Discuss why you think the author opened and closed the novel with newspaper articles. Though these articles are both recounting the same catastrophe, how are they different? How would the story change if the placement of these articles - one at the beginning and one at the end - were switched?

13. What is the irony in the article that concludes the novel? Does this make for a satisfying or dissatisfying end to the story? Is there a message or lesson in this book about false perceptions?

14. How do you think life would resume in Owl after the blizzard? Would the people and places change or would they remain the same?

Enhance Your Book Club

The only chapter in the book that is not devoted to a particular character focuses on the shared and shocking experience of the killer blizzard. Klosterman makes the blizzard palpable through the use of analogy. Have each member of your group come up with one additional analogy that could be used to describe the catastrophic event. Then, do a similar exercise, but instead write an analogy to describe a slightly less cataclysmic but perhaps equally momentous event, such as your first swim in the ocean, a first kiss, eating ice cream, your favorite concert, etc. Share with the group.

Julia lists the nicknames that she can remember and why they have been given to her fellow Owl inhabitants. As a group, give each member a nickname (a new one if someone already has one) and explain why it would be appropriate.

The blizzard featured in this novel is said to be based on true events. Research this storm and share any interesting discoveries with the group.

Read one of Klosterman's previous books, which include Fargo Rock City, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Killing Yourself to Live, and Chuck Klosterman IV. Downtown Owl is Klosterman's first novel. How does it compare to his other work? What elements, if any, of his signature writing style are apparent in Downtown Owl?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. Downtown Owl is told primarily from the three different perspectives of Mitch, Julia, and Horace. With whom did you most closely identify? Although these three dominate the book, why do you think the author also devoted short chapters to both Mr. Laidlaw and Cubby Candy's points of view?

2. While presenting his class syllabus, Laidlaw explains that, "'The central issue in Nineteen Eighty-Four is personal privacy.'" Via Mitch's perspective, we also discover that Laidlaw sees personal privacy "'as the main issue in many novels.'" Why is Laidlaw preoccupied with personal privacy? In what way is this incongruous? How does the town react to Laidlaw's transgressions?

3. Julia quickly discovers that nearly every town resident has a nickname. In Owl, "If you met ten people, you had to remember twenty". Why does Julia think the Owl nicknames are particularly odd? Why do you think nicknames are featured so heavily in this novel? What do they imply about small town life?

4. Sprinkled throughout the novel are numbered and bulleted lists. One passage of dialogue translates Julia and Vance Druid's contrived speech into their genuine thoughts. Mitch's English exam is featured as an entire chapter. What role do these non-traditional narrative formats play?

5. Julia is devastated when she discovers the tortured cat outside of her apartment. Why did she go back to bed when she overheard the violence occurring in the middle of the night? Who do you think is responsible for killing the cat?

6. Why is the Gordon Kahl incident significant? What does it mean to the people who live in Owl?

7. Mitch lists five reasons why he does not understand or can't relate to the characters and struggles that exist in Nineteen Eighty-Four (galley page 109). What do these things that are perplexing to Mitch illustrate about his own personality and awareness? If you have read Nineteen Eighty-Four, how do these reactions differ from your own? How are they similar?

8. Discuss the relationship between Julia and Vance Druid. Why is Julia immediately drawn to him? Did Vance's revealed thoughts and intentions throughout his conversation with Julia at Yoda's (galley pages 112 - 128) come as a surprise? Did you hope that Julia and Vance would ultimately end up together?

9. Of his two secrets, the one that Horace most despises - and the only one that is explicitly revealed - is the deal he foolishly made with Chester Grimes. What is Horace's second secret?

10. Although we learn about Horace's deceased wife and Mitch comes to regret not spending more time with his sister, there is little other mention of family relationships in the book. Do you think that this was a deliberate choice made by the author? If so, why may he have purposely chosen to focus mainly on the relationships between friends, neighbors, teachers, students, enemies, and strangers in Owl instead?

11. Much of the conversation between Mitch and his friends is devoted to determining who would win in a fight - Cubby Candy or Grendel. Why has Mitch been nominated as the expert on the matter? If the storm had not interrupted, what do you think the result of the fight would have been? What does the chapter told from Cubby Candy's perspective reveal and why is there not a chapter told from Grendel's perspective?

12. Discuss why you think the author opened and closed the novel with newspaper articles. Though these articles are both recounting the same catastrophe, how are they different? How would the story change if the placement of these articles - one at the beginning and one at the end - were switched?

13. What is the irony in the article that concludes the novel? Does this make for a satisfying or dissatisfying end to the story? Is there a message or lesson in this book about false perceptions?

14. How do you think life would resume in Owl after the blizzard? Would the people and places change or would they remain the same?

Enhance Your Book Club

The only chapter in the book that is not devoted to a particular character focuses on the shared and shocking experience of the killer blizzard. Klosterman makes the blizzard palpable through the use of analogy. Have each member of your group come up with one additional analogy that could be used to describe the catastrophic event. Then, do a similar exercise, but instead write an analogy to describe a slightly less cataclysmic but perhaps equally momentous event, such as your first swim in the ocean, a first kiss, eating ice cream, your favorite concert, etc. Share with the group.

Julia lists the nicknames that she can remember and why they have been given to her fellow Owl inhabitants. As a group, give each member a nickname (a new one if someone already has one) and explain why it would be appropriate.

The blizzard featured in this novel is said to be based on true events. Research this storm and share any interesting discoveries with the group.

Read one of Klosterman's previous books, which include Fargo Rock City, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Killing Yourself to Live, and Chuck Klosterman IV. Downtown Owl is Klosterman's first novel. How does it compare to his other work? What elements, if any, of his signature writing style are apparent in Downtown Owl?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 60 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(25)

4 Star

(15)

3 Star

(11)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 60 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2008

    Seinfeld-esque

    If you are looking for a novel with a beginning,a middle and an end that leaves you feeling your main characters have resolved a problem or grown in the course of the story's events, then this book is not for you. Simply put, this is three separate slice-of-life stories running concurrently about three individuals and an interesting cast of secondary characters who all happen to live in a very small town called Owl, North Dakota. It offers an inside glimpse of how narrow life can be in a small town when some little thing you said or did at one insignificant moment in your life becomes the standard by which you are defined for the rest of it. The novel is hilarious and sad, pointed and pointless--and something I could not put down. Interestingly, everyone seems to know everything about everyone in Owl, but only superficially. The problem is that superficial knowledge is all that matters in Owl. What I was left with at the end was the question, and the question is this: Is it better to be defined and remembered (probably incorrectly) for one single incident in your life, or not to be remembered at all?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 19, 2010

    Ridiculous mess

    I was excited about this book, small town drama is usually fairly entertaining, but this book honestly had no point whatsoever. I kept reading night after night thinking ok, tonight will be the night where it makes sense as to why a person would bother writing the stories of these characters. Each time, I was disappointed. As other people have mentioned, there are three main characters, none of whom actually do anything. There are some good one liners in the book, but that is about all this book has going for it. The ending, ridiculous as it was, couldn't come soon enough. Sorry Mr. Klosterman.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Klosterman's first novel is pretty much truth!

    I always read Klosterman's work with great intersest. I've always felt that his essays are either right on, or pretentious and reaching. When I found out that he was writing his first novel about small town North Dakota life, I was greatly intrigued. I know it's where he came from, and since I came from there as well... I felt I could be a fair judge. What success! It's like he took notes on my life and wove them into characters. The most accurate descriptions come as he describes the feeling of being a small town quarterback. This novel made me appreciate Chuck Klosterman more than I ever thought I would. A great book, by an even greater observer!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2008

    My man crush with Chuck Klosterman

    If you liked gonzo journalism and new styles of creative writing then you would probably like this book that Chuck has written along with some of his other interesting books, like Killing Yourself To Live: 85% a True Story being my favorite one. Well today I found out his new book Downtown Owl has been released so I rushed out like a little school girl to go get it. All of his previous work is about pop-culture and his own twist on it and a lot of it being about about music and musicians. Downtown Owl though is Chucks' first novel and doesn't quite carry the same tone as his other books do because of it being a novel rather than a review or self reflection. It probably relates to his life in one way or another as the story takes place in his home state and in a small town that may or may not be similair to the one he grew up and describes in Fargo Rock City. Anyways, the story in Downtown Owl has nothing directly related to music in it (at least for the first 60 pages) and it's about a high school football player (that has goth fantasies and sadistic dreams of torturing his coach/english teacher), a young female history teacher from Milwakee that just smokes the remainder of her pot and turns into a bar fluzee, and an old man that sits around at a local coffee shop with a group of other old men and play poker dice to determine who gets the tab (old man is my favorite character). Anyways, if you've read this much about my little man crush on C. Klosterman then I think you'd definitily enjoy these books. If not the new novel that was just released may I suggest the rest of his books in this order: Killing Yourself to Live, Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, Fargo Rock City, and IV.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2008

    Protentious Fluff

    There is no mind or matter incorporated into this work of fiction. It is obvious Chuck didn't take to much time trying to find an original concept for his themes in this novel. It reads just like 'Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs', except with a whole handful of badly developed characters thrown into the pot. The ending of the book is a poor attempt at a Scorsese-esque build up, that fails worse than a Carrot Top production.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2013

    I read "Downtown Owl" two years ago and am still sugge

    I read "Downtown Owl" two years ago and am still suggesting it to those looking for something different to read. I admit that I have read at least half of Meg Cabot's published works, and when someone loaned me "Downtown Owl" in college as something different to read: I could not put it down. Even if you weren't born or didn't experience the 80s the way that Klosterman did in North Dakota, that's okay because he writes so that the audience still understands the musical or cultural reference. I have read other readers commented on Klosterman's newspaper articles he opened and closed the novel with, and the most interesting thing was that it sort of reminded me of Shakespeare's use of the 'chorus' in "Romeo and Juliet". I doubt that this is the edge Klosterman was aiming for, but it set the story for me that this is a story of a town and this is how the story ends. I've read that many readers think that the plot is pointless -- the characters are ambling around Owl with no purpose. I think that is how life is; sure we attempt to live with a purpose but the story that is currently being written in our history, does it have one? If not, then why judge "Downtown Owl"? It's about a part of three individual's lives during August 1983 until February 1984 when a snowstorm hits Owl, North Dakota and that's it. The story hardly matters to me -- what matters is the way the story is told and the voice that is conveyed. Klosterman has a knack of having a definite voice to his writing and I highly recommend "Downtown Owl" just based on that reasoning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2013

    EGG SORTING

    Sort the eggs and leave the rest to us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    Lionheart to all!

    Who is the cat that needs a mate?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    Owlstar

    I dont think theres any scarface here. Sorry.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    Hello?

    Hello?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2012

    Beautyrose

    Scarface?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2012

    Great

    Extremely entertaining and funny. Most of the time i cannot put it down. Definately worth the money im extremely happy with it.

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  • Posted May 25, 2011

    Great read

    It took me a few pages to warm up to the book, but once I did I couldn't put it down. This is my first book by this author and now I can't wait to move onto his other works. The ending was slightly infuriating but also perfect. I know I'll go back to this book again and again. I highly recomend the book and the author.

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  • Posted March 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Klosterman Attempts Fiction

    I have read Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman. Now I will a) write a review of it here and b) attempt to write said review in the style of Chuck Klosterman. When I picked up this book I was (mostly) excited to read a new work by Mr. Klosterman though (somewhat) apprehensive about his taking on of the fiction novel genre. I was 85% happy with the final outcome.

    This is my review. My review is this. After having read his first published stab at fiction in the form of a short story in Chuck Klosterman IV I didn't believe he could really make me enjoy a full scale novel. I was wrong. Downtown Owl was pretty good. Klosterman sticks to what he knows. Pop culture observations this time done through the eyes of ficticious characters. So even if the book is not a literary masterpiece, it still is an honest solid work by the well established author.

    My biggest qualm with the story (and it's not a major point of contention) is that on the whole the story seemed to lack a point. We follow three different characters from the same small rural town of OWL living three different kinds of existences but never crossing each others paths. A sort of three seperate stories united and seperate at the same time. The ending was paradoxically unnecessary and necessary at the same. The ending is truely the part of the book that warrants discussion and debate.

    All in all another good (and different) effort by Chuck Klosterman. I look foreward to his next book.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    dramatic Change in Klosterman's work

    This is a well written book. The 3 main characters are well developed as are the supporting characters. There are many lines in the book you will enjoy sharing if you read this in a book club. The plot is not a very concrete one. I didn't know where the story was going and it didn't really go anywhere. This will be fine for many people. This book should not be read by those who read for escapism, though.
    If you have some decent disposable income, go ahead and buy it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2009

    Great portrayal of small town life

    I read some critics who think that Klosterman should stick to pop culture, but I thought that this book perfectly captured the characters you meet and the general eccentricities of living in a small town.

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  • Posted October 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Owl, North Dakota. Population 850

    Is there anything original to say about small-town life in the 1980's? Author Chuck Klosterman thinks so, and in his first novel he says it through the stories of three residents of this undistinguished farming town.

    High school senior Mitch Hrlika (who earned the nickname "Vanna White" when he said his name needs more vowels) plays football, though not as well as his twelve-year old sister, and hates rock music. He spends his time cruising up and down the six blocks of Owl with his friends and wondering why he feels so alienated. New teacher Julia Rabia spends her nights in bars and learns that a new single woman in a small town has lots of friends and never has to buy her own drinks. The elderly widower Horace Jones meets his friends in a coffee shop six afternoons a week and wonders if his life would have been different--better--if he'd been the right age to go to war, any war.

    DOWNTOWN OWL starts with a news story about a deadly winter wind storm in February 1984, and then steps back to August 1983. The short chapters cycle through these three Owlites' POV, with the occasional section focusing on a minor character. Nothing much happens--all the high school students are reading Orwell's 1984 and trying to understand "dystopia," Julia falls for a buffalo farmer who is the only man in town not trying to date her, Horace squirms at the memory of his deepest, darkest secret. We wonder how these three will fare when the storm strikes; Mr. Klosterman doesn't disappoint us when he finishes the book with the huge, unprecedented storm.

    I listened to the audio book of DOWNTOWN OWL and it was a good choice. The three characters' sections were each read by a different performer; even though the writing was not in the first person, I was amazed at how well the narrators were able to convey the sense of the characters, making me feel as if I "knew" them. The book is full of references to 1980's music, movies and sports (not surprising since Chuck Klosterman is well-known as a cultural essayist in those fields). Halfway through the first CD, I was hooked.even though I don't expect to trade ANY of my treasured paper-and-ink books for audio.

    Mr. Klosterman has a great ear for dialogue and his characters are brilliant. He captures the fishbowl nature of small-town life perfectly with what might be called a series of sketches. As much as I enjoyed these aspects of the book, I did note the lack of a plot in the usual sense. I'm taking off one star for this since I like a novel to have a well-laid-out plot, but happily giving four stars for the great writing and humor. I may even try a few more audio books someday after this enjoyable "listen."

    Reviewed by:
    Betty Dravis
    Author of Dream Reachers (with Chase Von)

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  • Posted September 1, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great Book

    I have recently been reading a lot of books and this book is one of my new favorites. It was hard to put it down at night. Great Book!

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    MUST READ THIS WITTY PAGE-TURNER!

    Chuck Klosterman has magnificently written an engaging novel about 'normal' life in the small town of Owl, North Dakota. This captivating story begins with a brief news article about a deadly blizzard that strikes the area. As the tale unfolds, three very different townspeople are introduced. Cleverly told in alternating narratives, each describes the reality of their daily life. As a result, what they give are three distinct, insightful viewpoints of the same small town. Mr. Klosterman does a brilliant job crafting the unique characters and I quickly became enthralled by these individuals and their perspectives. I was delightfully drawn into their lives and began feeling a rapport with their reality. Being so deeply engrossed, I actually forgot about the impending blizzard! Therefore, the poignant ending took me by complete surprize! I really, truly loved this fascinating page-turner. It got me thinking about the concept of 'normal' and what it really means. Also, there were many laugh-out-loud moments. One of my favorites is a supporting character by the name of Marvin Windows. Everyone who lives in North Dakota/Minnesota knows that Marvin Windows is a very large window manufacturer in NW Minnesota, near the North Dakota border!! I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS READ!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2009

    Typical Klosterman, in novel form

    Look, if you like how Klosterman writes, you'll like this book. You'll chuckle at his veiled references to music and 80s pop culture, which you've read about in "Fargo Rock City" and "Killing Yourself to Live." Assuming you've read his other books and essays, you'll nod knowingly to his previous discussions of what it's like to grow up in North Dakota. If you don't know Klosterman's work and you grew up in a small town in the Midwest in the 80s, this book is probably for you as well.

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