Book Review: Klosterman's attempt at fiction falls short of previous successes

Popular author Chuck Klosterman's long-awaited fifth book, a novel entitled "Downtown Owl," was released in September, much to the gratification of his fans.

Klosterman is the author of such well-known books as the pop culture sensation "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto" and the rock 'n' roll road narrative "Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story." While his first four works consisted of a combination of articles he had written for various magazines and newspapers and his personal views on culture and music, "Downtown Owl" is his first work of fiction.

The novel is a story of the people who live in Owl, North Dakota. Klosterman focuses on three specific and very different characters throughout the novel: Mitch, a confused teenage quarterback who contemplates the relevance of George Orwell's "1984" to his own life; Julia, a woman who has just moved to Owl to become a middle school history teacher and suddenly finds herself a hot commodity among the men in the town; and Horace, a 73-year-old man who "consumes a lot of coffee, thinks about his dead wife, and understands the truth."

Each chapter focuses on one of these characters at a time, narrating their inner thoughts as well as the motivations for their actions while revealing the semi-oppressive society that is Owl.

As is the case in many small towns, gossip is rampant but people steer clear of direct involvement in each other's problems, and Klosterman presents this tradition in the controversy surrounding high school English teacher, Mr. Laidlaw. Laidlaw impregnates one of his students but the truth remains unspoken.

While Klosterman succeeds at creating characters with an engaging depth, he fails to create an equally interesting story to accompany them. Throughout the novel, readers expect the protagonists to encounter a climax or turning point that will help to bring the plot to its summit, but Klosterman ultimately leaves them with open questions and a yearning to hear more about the characters' fates.

Klosterman injects his usual sense of biting wit into "Downtown Owl," as well as his unnatural obsession with death and irony. Although his first attempt at a novel was altogether entertaining, it might be best if in the future he sticks with what he knows: nonfiction and pop culture. As expressed in an Entertainment Weekly review, Klosterman has too singular a voice for fiction.