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Downtown Owl


Downtown Owl Cover

ISBN13: 9781416544180
ISBN10: 1416544186
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Only 3 left in stock at $8.95!



Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. Downtown Owl is told primarily from the three different perspectives of Mitch, Julia, and Horace. With whom did you most closely identify? Although these three dominate the book, why do you think the author also devoted short chapters to both Mr. Laidlaw and Cubby Candy's points of view?

2. While presenting his class syllabus, Laidlaw explains that, "'The central issue in Nineteen Eighty-Four is personal privacy.'" Via Mitch's perspective, we also discover that Laidlaw sees personal privacy "'as the main issue in many novels.'" Why is Laidlaw preoccupied with personal privacy? In what way is this incongruous? How does the town react to Laidlaw's transgressions?

3. Julia quickly discovers that nearly every town resident has a nickname. In Owl, "If you met ten people, you had to remember twenty". Why does Julia think the Owl nicknames are particularly odd? Why do you think nicknames are featured so heavily in this novel? What do they imply about small town life?

4. Sprinkled throughout the novel are numbered and bulleted lists. One passage of dialogue translates Julia and Vance Druid's contrived speech into their genuine thoughts. Mitch's English exam is featured as an entire chapter. What role do these non-traditional narrative formats play?

5. Julia is devastated when she discovers the tortured cat outside of her apartment. Why did she go back to bed when she overheard the violence occurring in the middle of the night? Who do you think is responsible for killing the cat?

6. Why is the Gordon Kahl incident significant? What does it mean to the people who live in Owl?

7. Mitch lists five reasons why he does not understand or can't relate to the characters and struggles that exist in Nineteen Eighty-Four (galley page 109). What do these things that are perplexing to Mitch illustrate about his own personality and awareness? If you have read Nineteen Eighty-Four, how do these reactions differ from your own? How are they similar?

8. Discuss the relationship between Julia and Vance Druid. Why is Julia immediately drawn to him? Did Vance's revealed thoughts and intentions throughout his conversation with Julia at Yoda's (galley pages 112 - 128) come as a surprise? Did you hope that Julia and Vance would ultimately end up together?

9. Of his two secrets, the one that Horace most despises - and the only one that is explicitly revealed - is the deal he foolishly made with Chester Grimes. What is Horace's second secret?

10. Although we learn about Horace's deceased wife and Mitch comes to regret not spending more time with his sister, there is little other mention of family relationships in the book. Do you think that this was a deliberate choice made by the author? If so, why may he have purposely chosen to focus mainly on the relationships between friends, neighbors, teachers, students, enemies, and strangers in Owl instead?

11. Much of the conversation between Mitch and his friends is devoted to determining who would win in a fight - Cubby Candy or Grendel. Why has Mitch been nominated as the expert on the matter? If the storm had not interrupted, what do you think the result of the fight would have been? What does the chapter told from Cubby Candy's perspective reveal and why is there not a chapter told from Grendel's perspective?

12. Discuss why you think the author opened and closed the novel with newspaper articles. Though these articles are both recounting the same catastrophe, how are they different? How would the story change if the placement of these articles - one at the beginning and one at the end - were switched?

13. What is the irony in the article that concludes the novel? Does this make for a satisfying or dissatisfying end to the story? Is there a message or lesson in this book about false perceptions?

14. How do you think life would resume in Owl after the blizzard? Would the people and places change or would they remain the same?

Enhance Your Book Club

The only chapter in the book that is not devoted to a particular character focuses on the shared and shocking experience of the killer blizzard. Klosterman makes the blizzard palpable through the use of analogy. Have each member of your group come up with one additional analogy that could be used to describe the catastrophic event. Then, do a similar exercise, but instead write an analogy to describe a slightly less cataclysmic but perhaps equally momentous event, such as your first swim in the ocean, a first kiss, eating ice cream, your favorite concert, etc. Share with the group.

Julia lists the nicknames that she can remember and why they have been given to her fellow Owl inhabitants. As a group, give each member a nickname (a new one if someone already has one) and explain why it would be appropriate.

The blizzard featured in this novel is said to be based on true events. Research this storm and share any interesting discoveries with the group.

Read one of Klosterman's previous books, which include Fargo Rock City, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, Killing Yourself to Live, and Chuck Klosterman IV. Downtown Owl is Klosterman's first novel. How does it compare to his other work? What elements, if any, of his signature writing style are apparent in Downtown Owl?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Tim Cook, February 26, 2009 (view all comments by Tim Cook)
If you're expecting Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs you will be disappointed. This is Klosterman's first fiction work and while I appreciated his razor sharp pop culture references, I was annoyed by the excessive use of lists throughout the book. I almost abandoned the book a couple of times; I'm glad I didn't, because the ending is fantastic and saved it for me.Quote-right
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Jean Caillie, January 26, 2009 (view all comments by Jean Caillie)
I judged a book by its title (cause I love owls) I was pleasantly surprised. You may have already heard
of Chuck Klosterman. You may have already read something of his. I believe this one, "Downtown Owl" is an obscure addition to his repitoire. You become involved in the lives of three main narrators, Mitch,
Julia and Horace. The story takes place in downtown
Owl in North Dakota, just before an Alberta Clipper is
to hit town. Mitch is a football player for the local High School. Julia is a newly appointed history teacher. Horace is a 73 year old widower. The author has quite a handle on each of their feelings and brings you to a comfortable place where you wish to share a cup of coffee, or a cocktail. The pace is slow in Owl, ND, but Klosterman keeps the reader entangled in the lives of its population
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Product Details

A Novel
Klosterman, Chuck
North dakota
Edition Description:
Scribner Hardco
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.44 x 5.5 in 13.895 oz

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Downtown Owl Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$8.95 In Stock
Product details 288 pages Scribner Book Company - English 9781416544180 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Four books of nonfiction (Fargo Rock City; Klosterman IV; etc.) and a steady magazine presence have established Klosterman as a pop culture writer known for his air-quotes wit. There's plenty of that sensibility in his first novel, and fans and detractors alike may be pleasantly surprised to find Klosterman delving beneath the quirky surfaces of Owl, N. Dak., the 'overtly idyllic' but 'paradoxically menacing' town that provides a perfect backdrop for the author's sense of humor. (The time in which the novel takes place — 1983, an era of Def Leppard and feathered hair — tickles the author's love of the vapid.) The book shifts perspective among three Owl residents: Mitch, a smart teenager who's 'not clutch' on the football field or with girls; Julia, a teacher fresh out of college and discovering an affinity for booze and beaus; and Horace, a widower whose life revolves around coffee and bull sessions. Though no single narrative line binds the three — the event that ultimately unites them is a creaking deus ex machina — Klosterman creates a satisfying character study and strikes a perfect balance between the funny and the profound. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
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