Downtown Owl | Chuck Klosterman

I was flipping through Klosterman at Chapters when an employee came up behind me and started gushing about him. The bookseller compared Klosterman to Douglas Coupland—I was sold.

Downtown Owl is a story about three people in a small town in 1983/84 North Dakota. Mitch is a high-school student who grew up there. Horace is a widower who is living out the end of his life discussing espionage in the bars. Julia is a teacher who moved to Owl to get her first job. The narrative is framed by weather: how the unpredictable can break into even the most mundane and scripted lives.

This book is a masterpiece. Klosterman doesn’t waste a single line—everything has meaning. I laid in bed for a few nights thinking about the various connections between the main characters and themes. It seemed like the deeper I went, the further the trail led.

Another great element of this book is the way he used different types of lists to convey information. My particular favourite was the list of what all 22 students in Mr. Laidlaw’s English class were thinking at 8:45 in the morning. It’s as funny (and realistic) as you could imagine.

There’s a particular thrill in discovering an author you absolutely love. I’ve got four earlier books as well as one forthcoming to read before I’ve caught up with the Klosterman universe.

Long live “small-town quirkiana” (The Boston Globe review from the cover of the Scribner paperback).

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