For the past few months, I have been devouring everything written by Chuck Klosterman. I am currently working on Chuck Klosterman IV, and at this point only have Killing Yourself to Live left to read. I have been reading him so obsessively that I actually went out and bought Downtown Owl, his new novel, the week it came out and read it immediately. This is the first time I have purchased a brand new book the week of its release since Pynchon's Against the Day came out (on the same day as Tom Waits's Orphans box set and the Sufjan's Songs for Christmas set, which was an expensive day). That being said, it was no sure thing that his first non-pop-culture centric writing would be a successful endeavor.
Upon having finished Downtown Owl, I can safely say that Chuck Klosterman's first official foray into the realm of fiction writing alleviates those concerns.
*I entertained the notion of including shows like "The Wonder Years" and "Freaks and Geeks" in this company but decided that they were not contemporary and were as much suburban life as about small town life, which is a small, but I think important difference.
Klosterman takes the widower farmer, the teen outcast, and the young teacher and breathes life into them. He fleshes them out with complexity rather than simplicity. Contrary to the way popular culture would like to portray small town America, Klosterman shows the vast array of people actually present in small towns. In his secondary characters, the reader is introduced to characters with dreams out of character with their pigeonholed place in society. The breadth of people that actually exist outside the city is alive and well in Klosterman's Owl.
And it's not just that this is an accurate portrayal of small town America. Past that Downtown Owl is a great book. Klosterman's readers would not be surprised to find that its funny and smart, but they may be surprised to find that it is also at times moving, complex, suspenseful, and tragic.
If that doesn't sound like a book you want to read, then I'm not sure what you're reading.