Downtown Owl: A Novel

By Chuck Klosterman
Publisher:Scribner, (6/23/2009)

Average Rating:
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3.57 out of 5 (7 Clubie's ratings)

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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.

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. 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.

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Nick's thoughts on "Downtown Owl: A Novel"
updated on:12/9/2009

Holy Schnikies!!! This book completely blew my mind and has haunted me since I finished it. I'd say more on that, but - I can't - or it would ruin it for you. Excellent writing and I loved getting to know these characters. Mitch, Julia and Horace give us great glimpses into life in Owl from various perspectives. I actually really dug the fact that after an enjoyable 100 pages or so you just had to wonder where the heck it was going, but the book was excellently tied together in the end. This is the first time I have read any of Klosterman's work, but I will be back to read more. He seems to take after my favorite author, Tom Robbins, a bit and sprinkles in brilliant observations in the midst of a story. Love those thoughts, man!


Unscribbler's thoughts on "Downtown Owl: A Novel"
updated on:12/7/2009

Very Unleashable

Alice_Wonder's thoughts on "Downtown Owl: A Novel"
updated on:8/13/2009

I can barely give this 1 star--I did like two sections that were classroom humor but the rest was a waste of my time except it did prove to me that I don't want to read any other of his books. The characters are mad, sad, angry, or drunk or various combinations. The worst part was Klosterman's constant inclusion of pop culture. ---I read in other reviews that the readers were so surprised by the ending----I disagree. Since the rest of the book was trite, then so was the ending. It was something a highschool freshman would write when they didn't know how to end something in Creative Writing class. I admit I was mildly amused the first 30 pages---but the same joke just kept up. Enough already---Chuck just write a short story. This is another case where I kept reading just because I wanted to be able to write a review.

Do not Unleash

Book Junky's thoughts on "Downtown Owl: A Novel"
updated on:8/5/2009

Small town life from a teenager, a twenty something teacher and a pick-up truck driving-coffee drinking-widower getting on in his years. I enjoyed this romp through the 80s very much. But if you are reading it and think where the heck is this going, hold tight, cause the ending is one heck of a ride!

Very Unleashable

Reese's thoughts on "Downtown Owl: A Novel"
updated on:7/1/2009

The book was such a witty and clever read. This is my first reading of a Klosterman book, and his first foray into fiction. I didn't know what to expect from him beyond being an established pop culture writer. So that is what I got, plus some great character development mixed with satire and profound reality. I could totally relate to all the pop culture references to the 80's as I laughed along and remembered fondly. The story, told within a 6 month time frame, through the lives of the three main characters doesn't really go anywhere but it doesn't really matter. They are likable and real. Mitch- the affected High School student, Julia- the young new teacher in town looking to find the perfect fit in a small town where there is none. And my favorite, the elderly Horace- who seemed so much wiser than the town of Owl and his group of cronies, but who had no want to be anywhere else. I kept wanting to read more about the people of Owl until it ended quite abruptly in an unpredictable stunning fashion that maybe shouldn't have been so startling when you look back. The writing was excellent and it was an easy enjoyable read for me.


Sam's thoughts on "Downtown Owl: A Novel"
updated on:6/30/2009

Chuck Klosterman is a great writer. He has a knack for turning pop culture into comedy that everyone can relate to. Having read several of his nonfiction books, including the fantastic Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I was excited to read Downtown Owl, his first forray into fiction. The story is set in Owl, a small sleepy farming town. In the middle of nowhere, the most important events are high school football games, and the main form of adult entertainment occurs in one of two towny bars. People rarely come to Owl, and the locals never leave. There are three central characters in the story, and I think that most readers will easily identify with one of them. Mitch, a student of the local high school, is full of adolescent strife. Horace has lived in Owl his entire life, over 70 years. It's all he knows, and all he cares to know. Julia is new in town, fresh out of college with her first teaching gig. Owl is a far cry from Madison, WI, and she struggles to adapt to her newfound celebrity as the new single lady in town. Mitch, Horace, and Julia go about their daily routines until tragedy strikes, proving that no matter how typical a small town is, anything can happen at any time. This is a really entertaining story, chock full of early '80s rock and roll references (it wouldn't be a Klosterman book without them). The characters are believeable and likeable, and regardless of where you're from, you will form a definite image of Downtown Owl in your head. Don't bother questioning how the tragedy goes unseen, how no one predicts it. Just go with it. You'll enjoy the story. I just wonder what happens to the Football Coach/English Teacher? His story never really finishes.

Very Unleashable

Ceci's thoughts on "Downtown Owl: A Novel"
updated on:6/30/2009

At first, I really liked this book. If you have read Klosterman’s non-fiction, you are familiar with how he wields the pop culture reference, ironic snark, and list-making to maximum effect. Generally, I’m all for this kind of thing, and I was laughing and nodding along for the first few chapters. He uses his distinct style to give the reader a good sense of small town Owl: “Her apartment was on the far side of town, which meant it was a three minute drive;” the locals discuss, among other topics, “The implausibility of specific plotlines on the television show Dallas;” and one of the most deeply polarizing events in the town stems from the decision to rename the Owl high school team something other than the “Owl owls” to eliminate the redundancy. The plot primarily focuses on several months in the lives of three characters – a high school football player, a twenty-something newcomer to town, and a late-in-life widower. Ultimately though, Klosterman’s hip tone left me too detached from the characters to care much about what was going to happen to anyone. I felt like Klosterman was possibly more interested in showing off how cool he is than in letting his story develop and speak for itself.

Mildly Unleashable

"Downtown Owl: A Novel"
By Chuck Klosterman

Average Rating:
Unleash it
3.57 out of 5 (7 Clubie's ratings)

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By Forrest Leo

 General reading guide discussion questions to be used with ANY book your book club or reading group might be discussing.
Clubie Submitted Discussion Questions
The school principal, to convince Julia that living in Owl isn't going to be too bad as compared to Chicago, tells her, "sometimes I think, 'Hey, maybe there's something else out there.' But there really isn't. This is what being alive feels like . . . The place doesn't matter. You just live." Do you think this is how Mitch, Julia and Horace experience Owl? Would any of them live life differently in another place?

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