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Boarded Windows

I always judge a book by its cover, and then I check the blurbs. I know, there’s a behind-the-scenes history of blurbing books, friends helping friends, paying back owed favors, etc. But still, the marketing world seems to have zeroed in on what and whom I like. When I saw a turntable on the cover of Dylan Hick’s debut novel, Boarded Windows—well, being of the turntable generation, I was intrigued. Then I checked out the blurbs (Sam Lipsyte, Dana Spiotta, Greil Marcus), and I was hooked. I went home and digested the book.

I always judge a book by its cover, and then I check the blurbs. I know, there’s a behind-the-scenes history of blurbing books, friends helping friends, paying back owed favors, etc. But still, the marketing world seems to have zeroed in on what and whom I like. When I saw a turntable on the cover of Dylan Hick’s debut novel, Boarded Windows—well, being of the turntable generation, I was intrigued. Then I checked out the blurbs (Sam Lipsyte, Dana Spiotta, Greil Marcus), and I was hooked. I went home and digested the book.

Boarded Windows is the story of a somewhat detached young man (perhaps on the far end of the spectrum?) who works in a record store and lives with his girlfriend. His life is simple and packs no punches until the appearance of Wade Salem, the narrator’s sort-of stepfather, maybe father, and definite game-changer. Wade disrupts the time continuum alpha-rhythms that are the narrator’s life. There is a suspicion that Wade might be sleeping with his (maybe) stepson’s girlfriend. Then there is the revelation that everything our hero thought he knew about his family history is not true. It is hard to gauge Wade’s affection for his understudy. He is like one of those guests who run up your phone bill and leave your gas tank on empty, but buys you a toaster or something you never wanted or asked for to make up for it. He’s that kind of guy, likable yet annoying. His come-and-go antics leave the narrator revising his own life’s history in a way that keeps the reader motivated. Dylan’s writing contains gems; you’ll want to read slowly so you don’t miss them.

Hicks is also an accomplished musician and has created a companion CD (also available on LP) titled Dylan Hicks Sings Bolling Greene to accompany the book. Bolling Greene is a fictional character in the novel, a subterranean musician whose songs Hicks performs on the CD. Fictional songs made real, life imitating art. I read the book while listening to the CD and found the two complemented each other very well. Having finished the book, I find myself remembering certain scenes when I replay the CD. The combination makes for a unique reading experience. A free download code is available for all who purchase the book. Hicks has produced previous albums which you may want to investigate, one of which a fanzine described as a “combination of Richard Hell and Jim Croce.”

Did you notice I didn’t call Boarded Windows a coming-of-age novel? I hate that phrase but someone, somewhere is going to say it. I prefer to think of this novel as a “whispered intimacy,” a phrase I somewhat sampled from the Greil Marcus blurb. However you describe the book, I believe it is one you will enjoy. Read the words, listen to the music; you have good things waiting for you.

Spread the word!