The author is best known as a music journalist for various different publications, and while his previous books on music commentary, sports, and culture-at-large may at times have been a bit scattered and longwinded, he is in superb form for his first novel. The book takes place in Owl, North Dakota (Klosterman's stomping grounds
lie in ND), and charts the progress of football player Mitch Hrlicka, ordinary high school student. There are some wickedly funny characters here, including newly arrived school teacher Julia Rabia and a host of whack jobs named Bull Calf, Grendel, and Little Stevie Horse 'n Phone. Their lives intersect each other in wonderful, small-town ways, and the depiction is so true you can hear the rattle of pickup trucks and the clink of domestic beer bottles on every page.
The town is a nothing-town with multiple bars and bad weather. In fact, some of the most engaging pages take place in the bars, and it is Mother Nature who ultimately brings this book to a close.
Klosterman is a terrific writer with a true wit and an uncanny ear for dialogue. Sample:
Julia: "I've never met someone who didn't like The Beatles. What about Foreigner? Or Boston? Or Styx? Or Journey?"
Here the author has created a cross-pollenization of his own music journalist chops with his novelist riffs. Funny, funny stuff.
Vance: "I can't tell any of those bands apart."
Julia: "Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. You're probably one of those Led Zeppelin people. Guys like Zeppelin."
Vance: "No, they were gay."
Julia: "What?" said Julia. "You thought Led Zeppelin was gay? Weren't they, like, sex fiends?"
Vance: "Their singer always seemed gay to me," said Vance. "I haven't listened to that shit since ninth grade."
Julia: "How about Fleetwood Mac?" she asked.
Vance: "I don't like female singers."
Even if you don't dig his essay/critique books, you will like this one.