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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.

Have you read “The Prairie bridesmaid” by Daria Salamon? It’s a chicklit book set in Winnipeg. It’s full of Winnipeg references. I thought it was some of the smarter chicklit out there.

I just finished Downtown Owl and I agree for those who like Chuck’s intimate brand of ironic detatchment this will be a compulsatory read.  The pacing is deft, measuring the slow trudge of the town to the development of the plot and characters. Nothing is revealed too quickly, but when it is, the completness satisfies the reader’s curiousity.

The author’s attention to detail and minutia would crumble under the heft of most novels. Considering the characters are either kids (who thrive on minutia, they eat that shit for breakfast), characters under great stress of personal change (where everything is new and suscept to didaction), or characters with one defining moment that pervades the choices made for the rest of their lives (examples of Horace and Vance fit this bill) the intensive introspection does not derail this monster train of thought.  That might have been the longest sentence I have ever written.

I am personally grateful to CK for renewing my love affair with the paper printed word. The symbiotic feeling of the book in my hands, devouring page after page creating a motion of pictures in my head. 



Hey Ryan,
Thanks for checking out SoMisguided. I’m glad you liked Downtown Owl. I’m on the lookout for his other stuff and, fingers crossed, it’s as good.


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