I just read a book I really didn’t like, by a writer I’m normally very devoted to.
If you don’t know who Chuck Klosterman is, he’s a sort of pop culture critic and writer that I often enjoy. It’s similar to the affection that I have for Rob Sheffield, although I like Rob better. Chuck has published four other books, two of which I own. One of them is Fargo Rock City, which is his critical analysis of and argument for the artistic validity of 80s hair metal. Upon reading the book, I too became a fan of the genre, which I never was before, proudly, and have loaned the book out to many. He’s seen as a sort of expert on metal and has helped me see the light.
Well, that light just went out after reading Downtown Owl, his first work of fiction. Let’s just say, fiction isn’t his strong suit. It’s basically, the story of a handful of locals in Owl, ND and the flow and routines of their lives. It all ends abruptly in a cataclysmic flurry, which is the only way it could have because prior to that it was going nowhere.
My problem with the book is that everyone spoke in the same voice, which is Chuck’s critic voice. There was no sense of character because almost no one had distinct mannerisms or colloquialisms. A lot of the book takes place in bars with people spouting and philosophizing, but they all talk about the stuff Chuck wants them to talk about like music, football, cars, movies and North Dakota, where he’s from. My other problem was that the book takes place in 1983-84, yet no one spoke like that. There was no sense of time or place, except in some of the topics that were being discussed. Surprisingly, he thanks Rob in the book for helping him write it. I wonder if Rob was just too nice to tell him what was up.
If it sounds boring, good, because it was. Sorry, Chuck, but you don’t get a pass this time.