Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

Downtown Owl (2008)

by Chuck Klosterman

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7732811,948 (3.47)25



Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 25 mentions

English (27)  German (1)  All languages (28)
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Reviewed 3/15: A re-read, originally read 2/11. This is my pick for our book club this month. I really enjoyed the book the second time around, and even though I knew the semi-surprise ending was coming, nothing was ruined. The climax to that point was even better because I remembered what happened, but not exactly how. It’s a lot of story for a quick resolution, but I appreciate it because Klosterman eliminated several main characters, which isn’t something a lot of authors do.

Originally read and reviewed 2/11: Though "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs" had always caught my eye (what a title!) in the bookstore, I never read a Klosterman book until I picked up "Downtown Owl" at my local library. I flipped to the inside flap and was hooked.

"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."

The story is told from three main points of view: Mitch, a high school student, Julia, a high school teacher new to Owl, and Horace, a man who's lived in Owl his entire 73 years. Every so often, a secondary character will narrate a short chapter, but it really relies on the three main characters, and it really works being written this way. The characters are realistic and unique individuals. Even without the chapter "titles" indicating who was speaking, their personalities come through immediately.

For at least 3/4ths of the story, I had no clue how the narrators fit together. (Besides Julia teaching at the high school Mitch attends, their paths never cross.) I didn't read a chapter and then say 'Oh, I know what's going to happen. He's going to twist it like this, and then this will happen.' I genuinely had no clue, even at the climax. That, I think, is super powerful. How amazing to have your reader totally in the dark, clueless about what will happen, but loving the story you're telling? Impressive work! There is no foreshadowing, there are no hints at what will happen. I literally had no idea what would make the story end. And, because of that, I technically had no idea why the story was being told - but it was enjoyable just the same. It was an easy read because once you start, you can't put it down. The chapters are so short and so intriguing you keep saying "Just one more, just one more!"

One of my favorite passages follows. I love when authors get down something you've felt forever, and put it in these perfect words and you stop and say YES. THAT is what I've been feeling all this time.
"Sometimes you think, Hey, maybe there's something else out there. But there really isn't. This is what being alive feels like, you know? The place doesn't matter. You just live."

The ending, to me, was a total surprise. It's based on true events, so I suppose if you know your North Dakota history (the subject Julia teaches, it just so happens) you might have an idea what's coming. But if you don't, I don't advise you to look up the dates on Wikipedia. Just read it. You'll be shocked at the end, but it's one of the best endings I've ever read in a book. Not a hint of corniness, no deus ex machina - just perfection. ( )
  howifeelaboutbooks | Nov 4, 2015 |
It's okay, a little slice of life story, but it didn't have much oomph. It can't compare to his non-fiction, but it's still worth reading. If you like Tom Perotta or Jeffrey Eugenides and are looking for something similar this is a good book for you. I liked 2/3 of the end, it should have gone all the way.

Edit: After a day of reflection I think it's better than I gave it credit for. He does some nice subtle inter-weaving that took some separation to see. ( )
  rockinghorsedreams | Nov 13, 2014 |
I love Chuck Klosterman. I regularly read his articles in various publications (his stuff in Grantland is particularly good) and his non-fiction books. This is my first time reading his fiction (and, as it happens his first published fiction.) I truly enjoyed this look at small town life, its joys and its limitations. I also enjoyed befriending the town denizens through whom this story is told. This is a little like Northern Exposure in North Dakota. There are not many deep truths here, and the end feels contrived, but it is a fun read (about deeply depressed people) and the writing is delightful.

I listened the audiobook, and heartily recommend it. The various readers are excellent and the story is well-suited to being read aloud ( )
  Narshkite | Nov 19, 2013 |
Slow read. I had a difficult time finishing it. There were a lot of interesting things going on with various characters in the book, so there was a lot of potential. I think if the author would have focused on one or two characters and created the book around them, it would have kept my interest better. It did pick up quite a bit near the end, in fact, I couldn't put it down), but at that point I had almost finished the book. If you stick with it, you might be glad you finished it. This is not your happily-ever-after kind of book, but the end is superb. ( )
  admccrae | Apr 3, 2013 |
This book left me not hating it, but not loving it either. Like everyone else notes, there are plenty of pop cultural references and parenthetical asides that every Chuck Klosterman fan recognize. But I feel like he could've done more with the characters and the ending seemed random. ( )
  Rincey | Mar 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
no reviews | add a review
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For Melissa, and for North Dakota
First words
When Mitch Hrlicka heard that his high school football coach had gotten another teenage girl pregnant, he was forty bushels beyond bamboozled.
The middle class does not exist. If you believe you are part of the middle class, it just mean you're rich and insecure or poor and misinformed.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743573722, Audio CD)

New York Times bestselling author and “oneofAmerica’stop cultural critics” (Entertainment Weekly) Chuck Klosterman’s debut novel brilliantly captures the charm and dread of small town life—now available in trade paperback. Somewhere in rural North Dakota, there is a fictional town called Owl. They don’t have cable. They don’t really have pop culture, but they do have grain prices and alcoholism. People work hard and then they die. 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. A history teacher, she gets free booze and falls in love with a self-loathing bison farmer. Widower and local conversationalist Horace Jones has resided in Owl for seventy-three years. They all know each other completely, except that they’ve never met. But when a deadly blizzard— based on an actual storm that occurred in 1984—hits the area, their lives are derailed in unex- pected and powerful ways. An unpretentious, darkly comedic story of how it feels to exist in a community where local mythology and violent reality are pretty much the same thing, Downtown Owl is “a satisfying character study and strikes a perfect balance between the funny and the pro- found” (Publishers Weekly).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:11 -0400)

A tale based on a deadly 1984 North Dakota blizzard follows the experiences of a small rural community devoted to its high-school athletics and its citizens' minor scandals, until a dangerous storm impacts the town in unsettling and powerful ways.

» see all 2 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
1 avail.
151 wanted
3 pay2 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.47)
1 6
1.5 1
2 22
2.5 6
3 71
3.5 24
4 77
4.5 10
5 24


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Recorded Books

An edition of this book was published by Recorded Books.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 100,863,166 books! | Top bar: Always visible