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Chuck Klosterman

Downtown Owl

Published by Scribner

Nov 01, 2008 Year End 2008 - Best of 2008 Bookmark and Share

After four books of nonfiction (including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs), Chuck Klosterman’s fiction debut can’t match the wit and cultural insight of his previous efforts.

The novel’s biggest problem is that Klosterman’s authorial voice isn’t suited to fiction. While he’s clearly put a lot of thought into creating realistic characters, their inner lives seem contrived—not so much genuine as the creation of someone setting out to create a fictive universe peopled with realistic characters. At times the book comes off less like a novel and more like another forum for Klosterman’s human nature hypotheses; Downtown Owl is at its best when it sticks to straight narrative, as at the climax.

A rural North Dakota native, Klosterman sets the novel in Owl, a fictional small town like his own hometown. While he clearly understands small town life (anyone who comes from a small-town will recognize shades of his or her own experience here), you’re left with the feeling that Klosterman would’ve been better served had he just written a book about life in an actual North Dakota town—ground that, to be fair, he already covered a bit in his debut, Fargo Rock City. (

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 2,645/10


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