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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book Review: Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

I’m ready to read anything by Chuck Klosterman. So far Downtown Owl is my favourite book of 2008.

Klosterman’s sense of place in the novel Downtown Owl is spot on. In Canadian terms, he’s the comedian that Sinclair Ross wasn’t.

Sharp, witty, observant: I can’t say enough about Klosterman’s depiction of the town of Owl, North Dakota, and 4 of its inhabitants. Everyone knows everyone but they don’t know their inner thoughts, hopes and fears:

* Mitch, the football kid who doesn’t fit in.
* Julie, the new meat woman in town who has everyone’s attention (men at the bar anyway).
* John Laidlaw and his young girl vices.
* Horace—widower.

Horace is by far the only 1 of the 4 who deserves his end.

The stories are short stories that are inter-connected to form the novel. It is a novel rather than short stories but really any chapter could stand on its own. I’m particularly fond of a chapter in the middle of the book, “November 23, 1983” (page 129). It starts:

Edgar Camaro was Satan. Or at least an idiot. Or at least he was when he rolled dice, or at least that’s how it seemed to Horace.

Horace had two secrets. One of them was dark and sinister, as most noteworthy secrets tend to be. The second was less awful but more embarrassing, which is why it became the secret he despised more.

This particular chapter is a masterpiece and I really wish I could share it with you hear, but I’ve asked and no such luck. You can, of course, have a look at this chapter on Mitch.

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman is published by Scribner (S&S) and you absolutely should read it.