A Paean to North Dakota

As ridiculous as that may sound, that is what Chuck Klosterman has written in his first novel, Downtown Owl.  Equally as ridiculous, this is the first Klosterman book I have read, so I am not able to compare his fiction to his non-fiction.  It’s likely that this will not be the only Klosterman book I will read, but it will probably be the only book I read about a rural North Dakota town in the 1980s.  Most of the story (like the town itself) revolves around Owl High School, whether told from the point of view of mediocre quarterback Mitch, new history teacher Julia, or retired farmer Horace.  Owl doesn’t offer these characters much, but they don’t want much anyway.  Mitch wants nothing more than to stay in his bed, where he dreams of murdering his football coach and English teacher (who has a propensity for getting female students pregnant).  Julia gets drunk while wanting to get high and fall facedown in love, and Horace wants to go on drinking coffee, having the same conversations with the same people over and over again.  This book chronicles their daily lives for part of the 1983-84 school year, during which nothing much happens until something apocalyptic hits Owl.  Klosterman nails his characters’ inner workings and the small town pathos while his humor is spot on, particularly at The End.

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