In his last novel, An Unfortunate Woman, Richard Brautigan wrote that no place is more surreal than the Midwest. He was right. To explore this issue further you should read Chuck Klosterman’s new book (and his first novel), Downtown Owl. In his amazing story you will meet a small band of inhabitants from a fictional North Dakota town called Owl, circa 1983. This crowd includes a transplanted teacher, a high school coach who impregnates students, students who make and don’t make the football team, alcoholic farmers, retired geezers, barflys and other sundry characters who not only make up the nuclei of our small towns but our larger metropoli.

If you grew up in a small town you have met these people, if you grew up in a large city you have probably still met them. Maybe one married your cousin or coached your nephews or nieces. Perhaps they drove into your brother’s car on a drunken Saturday night or gave you grandchildren. The characters in this town are Everymen and Klosterman paints them in their glaring humanity and vulnerability – he does not look down upon them at all. Klosterman is one of them. He grew up in North Dakota.