eBook Review: Downtown Owl

Chuck Klosterman's Downtown Owl is no cheap .99 Kindle Single. It cost $12 but looked so interesting I couldn't pass.

Downtown Owl is a story about life in the tiny town of Owl, North Dakota. We watch the several characters' lives unfold -- a high school teacher who has just moved to town, a HS kid who doesn't quite fit in, former football heroes, and folks who've lived their entire lives in Owl without ever leaving.

They live and they learn. Klosterman's characters are very engaging and by the end of the novel I found myself caring about what happened to them.

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman


  1. I am surprised no one has yet asked Chuck Klosterman his opinion on Marilyn Hagerty’s viral review of the Olive Garden, especially since they worked together at the Grand Forks Herald back in 1993.

  2. I liked this book a lot.  It’s funny but not in a comic way. Pretty sophisticated and nuanced presentations of the characters.  Not excepting the Klostermanic hyperattention to detail, inner dialogue and analysis.  A good balance of what happens and what-the-hell-did-that-mean?

  3. Is it just me or is this not much of a review? I get no sense on whether or not this book is worth $12.00 – All I get is that the characters are engaging. Nothing about the story! I’m not a huge fan of Klosterman in the first place (Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs reads like he was trying, and failing, to be the new Hunter S. Thompson) so I’m biased, but I’d have been willing to give C.K another try if someone told me it was worth it.

    1. I’m sorry. I found it worth the $12. This is the only Klosterman I’ve read and as a huge and life-long HST fan — there is not a single reflection of HST in this book.

  4.  by the end of the novel I found myself caring about what happened to them.

    It took that long?

    I’m getting the sense you did the review as some kind of personal favor, or because you got paid for it.

  5. The book was published in 2008, so now it’s news or in some other manner, distinguishable why? Simply because of the electronic release? What’s up with that? Your people know his people, right?

    1. It’s distinguishable because Jason just read it and liked it so he decided to recommend it. We post things that we find interesting, whether they’re from an hour ago or the 18th century.

  6. Umm.. I did a plug/review for this book in the Maggie Koerth-Baker comment thread about North Dakota restaurant culture here recently. It really is a fascinating book. I would very highly recommend it.

    As previously mentioned, I wasn’t a fan of Klosterman before this, but he reflected some surprisingly profound insights and empathy about Midwestern small-town culture.

    Personally I think $12 is a bit steep for e-book version, but hey.

    Also, the review mentioned doesn’t really capture the sweet weirdness of the story.

    This is the dust-jacket blurb, which is a decent start:

    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.

  7. I’ve read a lot of Klosterman and I get the impression he’s quite weird and also very typical.   This book is about people like that. 
    IOW, humans.

  8. Klosterman’s always worth the money! 

    But $12 for an eBook when you can buy a used paperback via Amazon for a buck? Or new for $10?  Digital goods are great, but they should always be cheaper than the “real” thing.   

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