TRAVIS Books: Klosterman’s Downtown Owl

Downtown OwlChuck Klosterman is known for being Chuck Klosterman. Who else can publish a book of his collected writings as an Esquire columnist and title it, Chuck Klosterman IV? Answer: only Klosterman. The disgruntled bookworm famous among 20-somethings for his pedantic insights, unmistakably comedic writing style and ease as a professional provocateur is back with his first foray into the realm of fiction, Downtown Owl. Tossing away his punchy opinions and manifesting his own characters and landscape (the nonexistent city of Owl), however, leaves the reader pining for the old pop critic Klosterman.

As a tale that focuses on the banality of rural America and its corresponding characters, the book is only interesting because of its Klosterman-esque techniques. Although there aren’t any footnotes present like in his classic, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Downtown Owl has chapters laid out with paragraphs titled, “What she said” and “What he meant” as an interesting inside perspectives of the characters. Likewise goes for a chapter with a numbered list of things to do “when trapped inside a car during a blizzard.” It just screams Klosterman. The problems arise, moreover, when the characters, which don’t understand or care for pop culture, speak Klosterman. For a dense bumpkin, for instance, to use such a perfect simile as, “It was like showing up at the Civil War with an AK-47” makes the reader disbelieve the character as anyone beside its bespectacled author. It’s a decent first shot at fiction, but the Klosterman we all know needs to stick to being the Klosterman we all know.

R.B.

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