Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Familiar Place

Downtown Owl: A NovelDowntown Owl: A Novel by Chuck Klosterman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is amazing. I wasn't sure what to expect from fiction and Klosterman. I read Fargo Rock City and I'd faulted him for an Aspergers-like lack of empathy in that book.

But he is certainly aware of the people in his hometown. (I assume this is mostly drawn from his childhood, since it's about a small town in North Dakota.) He nailed it. We spend most of our time with three characters, and they are all authentic and believable. As are all the supporting characters. His descriptions could have been of the town where I grew up, and many of his observations felt like things I'd thought before. It'd be interesting to hear what a reader without that background would think of the story -- whether it would be just as compelling for them.

I especially liked his theme of the "universal" knowledge of a small community. His characters are always describing the history or character of some person, place, or thing, and saying, "Everybody knows this." He even compares what "everybody knows" to Orwell's 1984 and the idea of the thought police. A high schooler wonders how Orwell's world of everyone being forced to think the same thing was different from living in Owl, North Dakota. Good times!

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