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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (6,656 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Chuck Klosterman Narrator: Chuck Klosterman, Phillip Baker Hall, Lily Rabe, Wiley Wiggins, Keith Nobbs, Dennis Boutsikaris Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2008 ISBN: 9780743573733
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New York Times bestselling author Chuck Kosterman’s first novel!

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.

Mitch Hrlicka lives in Owl. He plays high school football and worries about his weirdness, or lack thereof. Julia Rabia just moved to Owl. She gets free booze and falls in love with a self-loathing bison farmer who listens to Goats Head Soup. Horace Jones has resided in Owl for seventy-three years. He consumes a lot of coffee, thinks about his dead wife, and understands the truth. They all know each other completely, except that they’ve never met.

Like a colder, Reagan-era version of The Last Picture Show fused with Friday Night Lights, Chuck Klosterman’s Downtown Owl is the unpretentious, darkly comedic story of how it feels to exist in a community where rural mythology and violent reality are pretty much the same thing. Loaded with detail and unified by a (very real) blizzard, it’s technically about certain people in a certain place at a certain time … but it’s really about a problem. And the problem is this: What does it mean to be a normal person? And there is no answer. But in Downtown Owl what matters more is how you ask the question.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “An astonishingly moving book, a minor masterpiece in the genre we might call small-town quirkiana.” 

    Boston Globe

  • “It’s tempting to compare this novel with Sherwood Anderson’s classic portrait of small-town American life, Winesburg, Ohio. But no one in Winesburg listened to Ozzy Osbourne. And Klosterman is much funnier than Anderson.” 

    Washington Post

  • “Klosterman creates a satisfying character study and strikes a perfect balance between the funny and the profound.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “With the same cynical edge and cheeky pop-culture references that characterize his music writing, Chuck Klosterman portrays the unpretentious but still dark impulses of a rural community in North Dakota.”

    AudioFile

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 stillme | 2/6/2014

    " I couldn't decide whether I should give it 3 or 4 stars... The entire time I was reading it, I wavered between liking it quite a bit and not being completely sure that things were going to end satisfactorily in the pages that remained. By satisfactorily, I don't necessarily mean happily-ever-after, just appropriate for the story. I am still thinking about the characters, which to me often means a good book. Mitch was well done, but I think there was a lot lacking in Julia's perspective. There were some really disturbing aspects to each character that could have been developed more, but the 3+ person perspective gave a decent idea of what it might be like to live in a town like Owl. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cole | 2/5/2014

    " If you like reading Chuck Klosterman, don't read any interviews with the man. He is an ass and will turn you off to him as a writer. With that disclaimer out of the way, Chuck's first foray into fiction is a fairly slight book with some nice small town ambiance and the usual Klosterman pop culture rants. This review should really be a 2 1/2 because of the ending. Downtown Owl is a book with no story to speak of, it's much more of a slice of life, but in the final 20 or so pages Chuck throws down a literal Dues Ex Machina. Dues Ex Machina is only used when the writer has painted their plot into a corner and even then it's poor writing. To introduce this machinery of the gods to a story with no plot is senseless, meaningless and undermines all the understated observation that the book hinged on for the 200 pages prior. Go ahead and read it, but once you get to the part in which "Everything went white and we all fell down," close the book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Colleen | 2/5/2014

    " I gave this 3 stars because I literally laughed out loud at least 10 times while reading this book... in a good way. Some of the scenarios are downright bizarre and amazingly funny. I would only recommend it to people who are looking for a laugh.. to try and dig any deeper with the themes here would be a total waste of time and soon you'd forget the comedy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dannymanitoba | 2/2/2014

    " There were a lot of great lines in this book. I found it both entertaining and easy to read. After finishing it, I found a lot of the character motivations to have played out well. It catalyzed nicely at the end. Not bad for a first novel. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachael Kenney | 1/27/2014

    " When I tried to read Sex, Drugs, and Coco-Puffs I didn't make it through 10 pages before I decided I hated the book. So when my book club chose Downtown Owl I was nervous. It turned out that I had nothing to worry about because Downtown Owl is the most fun book that I've read in a while. Quirky and fast but somehow still deep. I loved the way Klosterman had the omnipotent narrator but jumped around to different characters. I'm going to have to give Coco Puffs another try. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley Thomas | 1/20/2014

    " Being from a small and very similar town in North Dakota myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. 7 bars in a town of 900 is no exaggeration! There were so many moments in the book where I thought "that is spot on" I am familiar with all of the towns mentioned in the book (with the exception of Owl of course) and that was a lot of fun for me cuz "who rights books about North Dakota?" Anyways, if anyone is curious as to what its like to live in a place like this, I recommend it! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kent | 1/19/2014

    " Chuck Klosterman's background as a writer of non-fiction shorts shows in this novel. As you would expect from Klosterman, each chapter is entertaining in and of itself, but as a whole it is less than the sum of its parts. The novel takes place over the course of approximately six months in Owl, North Dakota. It tracks the lives of 4 protagonists. The structure of the book is such that each chapter is written from perspective of a single protagonist relating a few hours of a particular day. As such, Downtown Owl jumps around a great deal. There is minimal interaction between the primary characters and the book lacks a certain cohesion. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Maris | 1/15/2014

    " Chuck Klosterman should not write fiction. The lead up was great, the characterization was great, but the ending was a complete and utter cop-out. Love his other stuff though. Chuck, go back to what you do best and write some kick-ass essays, alright? "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Phoebe | 1/15/2014

    " I wanted to live in Owl, a town where boys play football with their sisters and drinking is a legitimate pastime, after reading this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carl | 12/22/2013

    " Hopefully this is the first of many more Klosterman novels. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Todd | 12/12/2013

    " Got this as a gift. I prefer Klosterman as a journalist but his fiction attempt isn't horrible. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mj | 11/29/2013

    " Popcorn but a burnt caramel and sea salt organic popcorn. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 11/22/2013

    " Actually makes life in Owl, North Dakota, population 800, in the 1980s fascinating. Narrative shifts among three characters--high school jock, young schoolteacher, and retired/widowed farmer--and they are all handled very well. The ending comes as quite a shock but I enjoyed the entire book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nicole | 11/20/2013

    " Dark, very funny and lots of strong opinions, I absolutely love it. This is the first book I've read by him , don t want to jinx it but he may be my new squeeze , until T.C Boyle puts out a new novel of course ... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 diane w | 7/25/2013

    " I LOVE HIM. love him. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kyle | 5/19/2013

    " I thought this was a solid read. If you like Klosterman, this if your kind of novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Eliza | 12/20/2012

    " I enjoyed this a lot more than I've enjoyed Klosterman's nonfiction essays. It was very obvious and pretentious and a little too precious at times, but over all it was fun and quirky in a good way. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Chris Ryan | 12/10/2012

    " It was pretty good. Not a serious page turner, but at the same time it was enjoyable and there wasnt much wrong with it. My main gripe is that Chuck didnt write characters that discussed music more in this book. The conversation about the Rolling Stones vs everyone else ever, was pretty hilarious. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Michelle Bahr | 10/22/2012

    " I am a huge fan of Chuck Klosterman's non fiction. I am happy to now be a huge fan of his fiction as well. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christine | 5/15/2012

    " I just loved this book! The characters and setting were phenomenal! This book kept me laughing and is easy to love. I mean I was cracking up laughing out loud laughing which is not typical for me. It is kind of brilliant and funny at the same time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jenna | 5/4/2012

    " This is one of those slice-of-life books where nothing really happens, but you somehow vaguely miss the characters once you're done with them. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Wave | 2/8/2012

    " pure crap. klosterman should stick to pop culture essays. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeffreyd77 | 11/27/2011

    " An impressive debut novel. Quirky and funny. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Dora | 6/23/2011

    " I enjoyed it all the way until the end, which was really reprehensible. I can only recommend it with reservations, but I'm still in line to read Klosterman's next novel. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lindsay | 6/19/2011

    " OH DEARY ME WAS THAT REALLY THE END I CANNOT. :( "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kyle | 6/6/2011

    " I thought this was a solid read. If you like Klosterman, this if your kind of novel. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Luann | 6/6/2011

    " Klosterman knows his small-town midwest.
    "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Elaine | 5/30/2011

    " He was on the 2009 UND Writer's Conference panel. Because he was born in ND I wanted to read this book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gina | 5/29/2011

    " I think I prefer the non-fiction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Brent | 5/22/2011

    " Very good book. Kept my interest to the end, but there was sadness. I enjoy the Klosterman shorts that make milk come out of my nose. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 5/10/2011

    " An inside view of small-town life. Wellwritten. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David | 5/3/2011

    " It's the story of life in a small North Dakota town through the eyes of a first-year teacher, a high-school quarterback and an aging widower. This is the first of Klosterman's books that I've read and I really enjoyed it. I just hate there was no Candy-vs.-Grendel free-for-all! :) "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bill | 4/21/2011

    " It didn't really seem like Klosterman had much to say here, and he accomplished that task impeccably. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mary | 4/10/2011

    " I felt betrayed by this book, but really liked it anyway. I can't recommend it, but I did make at least one person read it so I could talk about it. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Batch | 4/4/2011

    " Fun, easy read. Slightly depressing. Interesting character development. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Patty | 4/4/2011

    " Awesome and amazing!
    I really enjoyed this read and will be getting more of Chuck's books.
    I'm a fan. "

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About the Author
Author Chuck Klosterman

Chuck Klosterman is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Eating the Dinosaur, and The Visible Man. His debut book, Fargo Rock City, was the winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He has written for GQ, Esquire, the New York Times magazine, Spin, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and ESPN, and now writes about sports and pop culture for Grantland.com.

About the Narrators

Keith Nobbs is a stage, television, and film actor who is best known for his portrayal of Joey Ice Cream in the television series The Black Donnellys. He has acted on Broadway with the Roundabout Theatre Company and appeared in such television shows as The Sopranos, Law & Order, and New York Undercover. 

Dennis Boutsikaris has won two Obie Awards, one for his performance in Sight Unseen, and played Mozart in Amadeus on Broadway. Among his films are W., Batteries Not Included, The Dream Team, and Boys on the Side. He is a recipient of both Audie and Earphones Awards and has read over 140 audiobooks.