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Downtown Owl: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Chuck Klosterman
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $8.99
You Save: $7.01 (44%)
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

New York Times Bestselling Author Chuck Klosterman's First Novel

Somewhere in North Dakota, there is a town called Owl that isn't there. Disco is over, but punk never happened. They don't have cable. They don't really have pop culture, unless you count grain prices and alcoholism. People work hard and then they die. They hate the government and impregnate teenage girls. 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. She gets free booze and falls in love with a self-loathing bison farmer who listens to Goats Head Soup. Horace Jones has resided in Owl for seventy-three years. He consumes a lot of coffee, thinks about his dead wife, and understands the truth. They all know each other completely, except that they've never met.

Like a colder, Reagan-era version of The Last Picture Show fused with Friday Night Lights, Chuck Klosterman's Downtown Owl is the unpretentious, darkly comedic story of how it feels to exist in a community where rural mythology and violent reality are pretty much the same thing. Loaded with detail and unified by a (very real) blizzard, it's technically about certain people in a certain place at a certain time...but it's really about a problem. And the problem is this: What does it mean to be a normal person? And there is no answer. But in Downtown Owl, what matters more is how you ask the question.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Klosterman, who has made a name for himself as an idiosyncratic pop-cultural commentator on rock music and sports, proves just as entertaining in his first novel. In or on the edge of nondescript Owl, North Dakota, live laid-back high-school football player Mitch Hrlicka, who stands out from his peers by being exceedingly normal; teacher Julia Rabia, who has fallen in love with buffalo farmer and Rolling Stones–exclusivist Vance Druid; and old Horace Jones, who mourns his wife and has a few painful secrets. Klosterman doesn’t follow them in a conventional narrative manner. Gifted with a superb ear for dialogue, a kind of perfect pitch for the way ordinary people talk, Klosterman is also capable of fine word-portraits of the three principals and the folks orbiting them in a town whose residents have nicknames like Vanna White, Bull Calf, Grendel, and Little Stevie Horse ’n’ Phone, and time exists on its own odd terms rather than those of the novel’s setting, the 1980s. Despite their eccentricities, or maybe because of them, one believes in these people and their often improbable yet always credible stories. Think of this as a literary relative of the movies Fargo and American Graffiti, sans the latter’s cruising Main Street and warm weather, with a poignant and tragic edge to it, conferred by a paralyzing and deadly blizzard in February 1984. --June Sawyers


"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

Product Details

  • File Size: 1218 KB
  • Print Length: 306 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1416544194
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (September 12, 2008)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0015DYJOO
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #349,194 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Spade is a Spade October 3, 2008
I was hesitant to post a review of Downtown Owl, because I'm somewhat partial to the works of the author. I've loved all of Klosterman's books, and have always thought that his essays deserve their place alongside the finer works of the past ten years. However, if no one else is going to say it, I will--this book was simply okay. For a first stab at fiction, I would say it was just `good.'

People--myself included--are fast to rave about Klosterman's work, and one previous review even said that the writer `wouldn't have known it was Klosterman had the name not been listed on the cover. Really? The mentioning of obscure eighties rock songs, deep debate over the creative merits of the Rolling Stones, and Black Sabbath/heavy metal references didn't remind you of any certain author's favorite topics? To me it was obvious, but I confess that it didn't bother me. That's who Klosterman is and it's natural to think that some of his music essay writings would bleed into his fictional work. In my opinion, it doesn't discredit the work at all--in fact I welcome it--but to say it doesn't exist is ridiculous.

Downtown Owl's most powerful feature may be Klosterman's characters and their introspective dialogue. Such self-reflective accounts allow readers to develop a connection to each one, even if they are have nothing in common. Also, the pace of the book--though this may be idiotic to say--sort of mirrors the pace of life in small towns like Owl. Life moves a bit slower there, and the pace of the book stays congruent with that.

The main flaw of the book, in my opinion, is the latter part of the book where the storm begins to move in. Mitch, for example, is blown backwards--with apparently no idea of what just hit him.
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45 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Klosterman Blizzard September 16, 2008
Guess what? Chuck Klosterman wrote a novel and it's good and it's nothing like his non-fiction pop culture essays. In fact, were I given the book not knowing the author, I would never have guessed.

After I saw an advertisement for a Klosterman event calling him "the next Hunter S. Thompson," I got very upset because, Klosterman, Hunter S. Thompson, you are not. I suddenly had a very irrational hatred for Klosterman. I thought Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs was pretty good. I didn't always agree with him, but at least when he was wrong, he was entertainingly wrong. Suddenly I hated that book and thought he was incredibly stupid and not very clever at all in retrospect. This novel, Downtown Owl, changed my mind. Klosterman is cool once more.

Downtown Owl reminds me in tone and texture of a Mark Haddon novel or David Mitchell's Black Swan Green. It has the same humor as Franzen's The Corrections with less resolution. Chuck does an amazing job with the small-town Midwest and most amazingly - he somehow writes the early-to-mid 80's without seeming nostalgic or silly or even dated. Chuck displays his encyclopedic knowledge of film and music throughout but manages to make the release of E.T. seem current. The real trick, the real page-turner is that the struggles of his characters are as universal today as they were over twenty years ago. Downtown Owl lacks the rough edges and narrative mistakes of many first novels and rolls heavy with both wit and tragedy.

The one critique I see coming for this novel is that it could be argued that there is a lack of plot.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning. More than 5 stars October 26, 2008
Format:Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This review is of the unabridged audio CD of the novel.

If I could give this book & the audio production more than 5 stars, I would. I don't know if it resonated so strongly with me because I grew up in a town not much larger than Owl. I don't know if the author was trying to make social commentary about life in rural small towns or human nature. All I know is that I started the final disc in my car on the way to a party an hour's drive out into the country and was so absorbed by and emotionally involved in the unfolding events that I worried I'd arrive before the book was done. Then I'd have to decide whether or not to sit in the car and finish the book as my friends waited inside.

The audio production is excellent. The story is told through the lives of several residents of Owl. The three main characters, Mitch Hrlicka (a high school junior), Julia Rabia (a young schoolteacher new to Owl), and Horace Jones (a 73-year old widower and lifelong resident of Owl). Each of these characters has its own narrator. This is one of the best aspects of the production. The different narrators make it easier for the listener to remember whose chapter it is and, more importantly, to connect with the character as a person. The voices seemed to suit the characters very well. At first I was annoyed by the Horace narrator's voice because his reading was very sibilant, much like an old preacher I had whose teeth didn't fit well. After a while, I realized that voice fit Horace perfectly. A couple other people have small sections either narrated by different people or by one of the other narrators using a different vocal inflection. The author also reads some parts.

The book starts with a news clipping about a blizzard in early February, 1984.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars This was not my favorite book of the year
This was not my favorite book of the year, although it was an excellent portrayal of small town life. Read more
Published 4 months ago by slh
5.0 out of 5 stars Good words here
I'm a huge fan of Klosterman. I like how he develops characters with descriptions that really hit home. Read more
Published 4 months ago by DrunkleNick
3.0 out of 5 stars It was a slow read. Just didn't really care ...
It was a slow read. Just didn't really care for the writing.
Published 6 months ago by Paula J Adamerovich
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 9 months ago by Allen
3.0 out of 5 stars Uneven
Prior to the conclusion, I was resigned to rate this 2 stars. However, it finished with a flurry of activity. Throughout I struggled to relate to the characters and the story.
Published 15 months ago by Andy
5.0 out of 5 stars Klosterman excels at fiction
The seemingly mundane details of different lives in a small North Dakota town become interconnected here in the most interesting way. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Lindsay Renner
1.0 out of 5 stars a time sink
Stilted writing from this author and cumbersome, unrealistic phrasing, are some of its many flaws. The book has no point, the characters are shallow, and don't give you any reason... Read more
Published 20 months ago by reading adept
4.0 out of 5 stars Should be a 4.5
Yes again Klosterman is somehow able to make completely average people with completely average lives incredibly interesting, simply through great writing and a sarcastic but deep... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Natalie Fertig
5.0 out of 5 stars skyped with the author
main reason I liked it was because it could have been anywhere here in ND--and our town was even mentioned. Read more
Published 23 months ago by jane h. schneider
5.0 out of 5 stars Klosterman does it again (He wrote another good book with cool words)
I burned through this book quicker than a bag of candied nuts. You call me crazy. I'd say I'm nuts.
Published on April 19, 2013 by Thadius Goodshine
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More About the Author

Chuck Klosterman is a New York Times bestselling author and a featured columnist for Esquire, a contributor to The New York Times Magazine, and has also written for Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, and ESPN.

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