If the windows on Dylan Hicks's debut novel, Boarded Windows (Coffee House Press), are indeed boarded, it's because the high- and low-brow music, literary, and cultural notes that fill its pages are straining against the glass. But the thicket of references is not so daunting as to make the book impenetrable. While his story is an exploration of life in early 1990s Minneapolis, it is more so a study of the (admittedly unreliable) narrator as well as a musician and drug dealer named Wade Salem. Through his monologues, dialogues, and charisma Salem becomes an everyman, mostly absent and illusive, but very much a father figure. But Hicks's narrator (who is never actually named and who works at an also unnamed downtown Minneapolis tape store) has a charm and appeal all his own. With each scene and sentence, he is forever trying to capture the truth of the moment. He leaves no observation unmentioned, and has, at times, gone back and done research to make sure he has certain facts, such as dates and the types of bondage marks he notices on his girlfriend's body, just right. This constant searching and second guessing, which is in contrast to Salem's constant knowing, makes the narrator all at once alluring, lonely, and naive, which is perhaps what makes this novel such an apt portrait of the early 1990s. (Photo by Sean Smuda)
Tue., May 1, 4 p.m., 2012
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