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Downtown Owl

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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  8,682 ratings  ·  962 reviews

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.
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Published September 16th 2008 by Simon & Schuster Audio (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Tyler
This book is absolutely fabulous. It ranks as one of the top three books I have ever read and definitely one of the funniest. The people who say it isn't a very good read went in with the wrong expectations. This isn't Steinbeck or Henry James, this is a modern Salinger. What else could you expect out of Klosterman? It's not about what goes on around the characters, but rather what goes on inside the characters. It is absolutely wonderful. You get to follow the thoughts of multiple characters wh ...more
RandomAnthony
Ok, I just finished Downtown Owl. A few thoughts:

1) I realize slamming Klosterman is fashionable, but I liked this book, esp. the first 250 pages, quite a bit. However, it's important to note that Klosterman loves North Dakota and parts of Downtown Owl read like mash notes to the author's home state. You could see him sitting in a bar saying, "Wasn't growing up in North Dakota weird, even if we didn't know it at the time? But still, I can't complain."

2) I laughed out loud at least ten times whi
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Jodi
In a Pop Matters interview Chuck Klosterman says, “It was harder to write fiction, but maybe that was only because I’d never done it before. I can’t remember if writing Fargo Rock City was hard or easy.”

The fact that he’s never written fiction before is painfully, achingly, stupefyingly, annoyingly obvious. First, there is the problem with the adverbs, which I won’t go into again.

To start off Klosterman can’t even answer the question of who is telling this story, one of the main tenets of all fi
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Meg
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Helena
Chuck Klosterman is adorable and thus we fell in love and made casual small talk one day about a year ago when he came in to sign books. Now we live together. Except, you know, he's a book on the shelf and I'm a real live girl.

I think, perhaps, had I read this several years ago, it would have been The Best Book I've Ever Read. However, Douglas Coupland got to the several-years-ago-me first and so I spent the course of Downtown Owl looking for the Canada references. (There aren't any. But explain
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Kelly
There were parts I loved and parts that seemed like silly writing exercises to amuse himself.
Holli
Loved it. Klosterman is a genius and I'll read anything he writes- he's so clever and writes in such a conversational way. It's easy to get into the rhythmn of his writing and I enjoy every page. In this book, he tells the story of a tiny town called Owl that's hit by a monster blizzard. The blizzard doesn't even happen until the last few pages but every page leading up to it is a pleasure. The surprising/creepy ending kept me thinking about it for days...

Favorite Passage:
"Why do we get out of b
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Jason Pettus
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com:]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)

Regular readers might be confused at first over why I found Downtown Owl, the debut novel by famed Generation X memoirist Chuck Klosterman, so incredibly terrible, given how many tropes it shares with CCLaP Publishing's first original book, Ben Tanzer's 2008 Repetition Patterns; after all, both are e
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Kelly
After reading, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, I dismissed Klosterman as another rambling pop culture writer. If all it takes to write a book is to talk about Bad Religion's first album and Alf, then I should just record conversations with my friends and transcribe them.

Then one day I found Killing Yourself to Live on the street, and found that book to actually have a great mix of pop culture references with a real story. I thought, "Wow, he really writes with such honesty here, I can't wait for hi
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willaful
I'm so angry with myself for ignoring the clues that this was going to be my absolutely most hated storyline: a bunch of unrelated stuff happens to a group of loosely related people, then there's suddenly a horrible catastrophe. Or to quote my two line review of the movie, "Magnolia": "Everyone is very sad. Then the frogs come."

I hate the ending so much, I can't give this book a decent rating, even though I enjoyed listening to about two thirds of it up to the end. The third I disliked was the n
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Greg
I read books to be entertained or educated. This book must be in a third category.
Lisa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tamara
Oct 03, 2008 Tamara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Klosterman fans, small-town North Dakota residents (past and present)
Shelves: gen-fic, 2008
If this were the first thing Chuck Klosterman had ever gotten published, it would not propel him to the fame he enjoys, and could even doom him to obscurity. But since it's not, both he and the book will do just fine.

It's also a good thing I grew up in a small town in North Dakota. I know where each of the small towns (other than the fictional Owl) he references are, and have been to probably all of them. And I have known all of the people in the book, just with different names.

Speaking of names
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Brianna Sanchez
For a town where everyone knows everyone seems cliché. Though in the small town "Owl" of North Dakota, this concept is normal for almost all the residents. Three different stories from three different people are told in a darkly comical way by Chuck Klosterman in "Downtown Owl".

In the novel "Downtown Owl" by Chuck Klosterman, set in the 1980's the author writes of three characters who are intangibly connected. Julia, a twenty something woman who has just moved into Owl and is less than motivate
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christa
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman follows a few months in the lives of 17-year-old level-headed, slightly depressed, Mitch — a mediocre athlete who’s ideal bedroom would be as sterile as a hotel room. Julia, the 23-year-old recently-hired history teacher who’s resale value skyrockets because she’s new in town and she’s in a town of men who want to ply a woman with alcohol. And Horace, a widower who enjoys solitude, spy biographies and wars he did not fight in. The omniscient unnamed narrator is a ...more
Chris
While I read Downtown Owl, I kept thinking of that old chestnut "You can't see the forest for the trees."

I enjoyed individual chapters of the book. Unto themselves, there were quite a few of them that told interesting stories about the main characters with Klosterman's snarky pop culture commentary. I especially liked the sections that focused on Horace, the 74 year old widower. It's in these chapters that it feels like Klosterman's created a living, breathing person that exists outside of his
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Emily Crow
As I am terminally unhip, I had never heard of Chuck Klosterman when I picked up his first novel, Downtown Owl, at the library, and had no idea what to expect. (I just liked the title.) Well, this book was...different...and I'm not sure if I liked it or not. On a literal level, it is about the people of the tiny, insignificant town of Owl, North Dakota, who lead tiny, insignificant lives--lives which even they can't work up any enthusiasm for. This is a dreary and insular place, where high schoo ...more
Christian
I like Chuck. I used to really like him. His pop culture analysis is usually spot-on and witty. Downtown Owl, however, is supposed to be a novel. And it sort of is one, but it still reads like a backpage essay in Spin. I didn't care about any of the characters, the dialogue and internal monologues were not believable (they all sounded like Chuck-as-high-schooler, Chuck-as-23-year-old-history-teacher, Chuck-as-old-farmer), and the ending sucked.
Kemper
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Hillery
Excellent book! Set in a small fictional town in North Dakota (Owl: population 800) in the Fall/Winter of 1983-1984, it follows three people through everyday life. One is a 15 year old high school guy. One is a 23 year old teacher who just moved there from Wisconsin for her first teaching job (8th grade Montana state history, of which she knows nothing!). The last is an elderly widower whose life consists of meeting his friends every day at 3:00 for coffee and conversation at the local diner. I' ...more
Frank
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 Klosterma
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Lacey
I am a huge fan of Chuck Klosterman's non-fiction work, so I met the prospect of his fiction with a sort of hopeful apprehension. I wasn't necessarily expecting it to be as good as his other work simply because fiction was not his primary mode of writing to this point. I am pleased to report that Klosterman met and then exceeded my expectations.

Downtown Owl is not the novel I expected it to be. I don't know what I expected it to be, but it wasn't what was delivered to me. I think I half expected
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Zoë
A couple years ago I read the book Chuck Klosterman is most famous for, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs. This is pertinent, because I went into reading his first novel, Downtown Owl, wanting to enjoy it. I wanted it to be clever and smart like Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs was, but while telling a story. Unfortunately it didn't. The focus of Downtown Owl is three characters, with each chapter alternating between Mitch, a seventeen year old not so great football player, Horace, a widower who spends mos ...more
Brian McDonough
Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman is a novel about the small city of Owl, North Dakota in the mid-1980s. In Owl, news spreads through the population quickly and everyone knows each other. This book follows the lives of three Owl citizens: Mitch, Julia, and Horace. The first protagonist introduced is Mitch Hrlicka. He is a junior at Owl High School who plays as one of the quarterbacks on the Owl football team, the Lobos. He despises his football coach and English teacher, Mr. John Laidlaw, who rec ...more
Kevin
I like Chuck Klosterman, but I'm not sure why. His writings are often, on the surface, about subjects I don't care for, like sports, or 80's pop metal, or his own sex life. When it comes to music, he is, in fact, like Christopher Columbus - he discovered something thousands of people had already known about for centuries. The tone of his writing is usally patronizing, and his attempts at witticism often assume that his reader knows just as much about pop culture as he does, which is not always a ...more
Patricia
I'm just going to say right now: prepare yourself for the ending. You will be breezing along enjoying the story and the writing and Klosterman's incredibly unique way of seeing things and then BAM! The ending just hits you over the head and there is no real resolution and you will walk around in a kind of book daze for the next week feeling angry. But it is an anger tempered with some other emotions such as embarrassment--Why didn't I see that coming?--and rationalization--Well, it is his book a ...more
Craig Butler
Ok I'm giving the book a two because,through all the rubbish and incontrovertible flaws this book contains of.There's still a story told that screams from under piles of pop culture references and needless list.It happens to be a good story that could have been wonderful,The three characters are pretty interesting.The towns intriguing enough and it's nicly painted because Klosterman obviously has that attachment with the mid-west,

With all that being said,a two-rating Is mighty benevolent of me
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J.A.
As ridiculous as it may sound, Chuck Klosterman has written a paean to North Dakota in his first novel, Downtown Owl. Equally as ridiculous, this is the first Klosterman book I have read, so I am not able to compare his fiction to his non-fiction. It’s likely that this will not be the only Klosterman book I will read, but it will probably be the only book I read about a rural North Dakota town in the 1980s. Most of the story (like the town itself) revolves around Owl High School, whether told fr ...more
Melissa
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing. — shakespeare


Having attended high school in the late 70s/early 80s in a small, midwestern town(though not as small as Owl), I can verify that Klosterman gets a lot of it very right. Star h.s. athletes are idolized by the whole town. One of the teachers could be sleeping with students and it would be "a secret" th
...more
Katie
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If you liked it, why? 7 172 Feb 03, 2009 12:22PM  
  • Exit A
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  • The Advanced Genius Theory: Are They Out of Their Minds or Ahead of Their Time?
  • Now I Can Die in Peace: How ESPN's Sports Guy Found Salvation, with a Little Help from Nomar, Pedro, Shawshank, and the 2004 Red Sox
  • Revolution On Canvas: Poetry From The Indie Music Scene
  • A Handbook to Luck
  • Miss Wyoming
  • Mick Foley's Christmas Chaos
  • Gone Tomorrow
  • Supreme Courtship
  • The Wilco Book
  • The Double Life is Twice as Good
  • Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut
  • Home Land
  • Kick Me: Adventures in Adolescence
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Charles John "Chuck" Klosterman is an American pop-culture journalist, critic, humorist, and essayist. He was raised on a farm near Wyndmere, North Dakota and graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1994. After college he was a journalist in Fargo, North Dakota and later an arts critic for the Akron Beacon Journal in Akron, Ohio, before moving to New York City in 2002.

More about Chuck Klosterman...
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas Eating the Dinosaur Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota

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