I really would like to write more about this book and display my academic prowess in dissecting Chuck’s message to the world. However, there is no message in this book to dissect. Is it a portrait of how depressing small town life is in North Dakota? Perhaps. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin and I do remember the Julias, the Mitchs, and the Horaces. I also remember the legacies of former high school football stars, the townies in the bars, and the promising young teachers having the life sucked out of them by the intellectual vacuum of a small town. This stuff is nothing new and has been told many times in various formats.
What does Chuck offer up inDowntown Owlthat is new or unique? Nothing was new, except that a person could suddenly be swept away by a freakishly strong Alberta Clipper. Chuck wrote a book that offers up nothing new about the strangeness of small town life. His only contribution was the finality of strange weather phenomenon in rural North Dakota.
Maybe the nothingness of his book was the whole point. In perhaps the best chapter of the book, Mitch ponders why anyone would desire to get out of bed in the morning. During this philosophical teenage wandering, the narrator of the book said:
What Mitch wanted most was what he already had: a room. A room. He wanted a rectangular room with a bed in the middle, a dresser, a nightstand with a lamp, a desk, and (in theory) a phone and a thirteen-inch TV (neither of which he currently possessed, but Christmas was only a month away). Mitch wanted to live in a motel room. He wanted to sleep in a room that expressed nothing, because rooms were supposed to be meaningless. He did not want to give anyone the opportunity to glean anything about his personality via his sleeping quarters.
This seems, at least from my teenage experience, to be an accurate portrayal of how many male teenagers may feel at times. It was here where I thought the book’s content might improve. However, it soon descended rapidly into literary oblivion.