Wade Salem is a charismatic aesthete, drug dealer, and journeyman country musician. He’s also a complicated father figure to this novel’s narrator, whose cloudy childhood becomes both clearer and more confusing through Wade’s stories, jokes, and lectures. Through the eyes of a keenly observant, underemployed record collector, Wade emerges as a sly, disruptive force, at once seductive and maddening.
Shifting between flashbacks from the seventies and nineties, Boarded Windows is a postmodern orphan story that explores the fallibility of memory and the weight of our social and cultural inheritance. Stylistically layered and searchingly lonesome, Dylan Hicks’s debut novel captures the music and mood of the fading embers of America’s boomer counterculture.
Each book comes with a free download of the companion soundtrack, “Sings Bolling Greene,” written and performed by the author.
The “Music & Lyrics” bundles:
Option #1: Get a signed copy of the book and a signed, limited edition CD of the soundtrack, “Sings Bolling Greene” for $20
Option #2: A signed copy of the book and a signed, limited edition LP of the soundtrack, “Sings Bolling Greene” for $25
“The joy in Hicks’ debut arises less from plot than from the writing itself: nuanced, ingenious, perceptive, funny. Music plays a role, but doesn’t dominate. A heartfelt sadness settles over the last 50 pages like a classic alt-country tune.” —The Star Tribune
“The story of a con man and a know-it-all, set in all your favorite Minneapolis haunts.”—Star Tribune
“Boarded Windows is a stellar work of fiction, not to mention a stellar work on fiction.”—Los Angeles Review of Books
“Nuanced with fluid prose and a pensive, melancholy undercurrent, Hicks incrementally details Wade’s insinuation into the lives of the narrator and his wife, spilling stories of adoption and missed opportunities.” —Publishers Weekly
“Hicks is a terrific writer who can craft a simile with the best of them.” —Kirkus
“[H]ick’s narrator . . . has a charm and appeal all his own. With each scene and sentence, he is forever trying to capture the truth of the moment. [T]his constant searching and second guessing . . . makes the narrator all at once alluring, lonely, and naïve, which is perhaps what makes the novel such an apt portrait of the early 1990s.”—City Pages
“Dylan Hicks, author, freelance writer, and musician, has crafted a novel rich with multi-faceted characters and layer upon layer of the characters’ personal histories.”—Hazel and Wren
“Evident in Hicks’ writing is a sense of inevitability that would have garnered a thumbs-up from Flannery O’Connor. The sirens of unavoidable heartbreak sound throughout this book, not quite drowned out by all the music and erudite chatter, and you can’t help but want to stick around and watch the storm roll in.” —MPR’s 89.3 The Current Local Blog
“It’s one thing to find your own voice, it’s another to create your own language, and I think that’s what Dylan does.” —Greil Marcus, quoted on Minnesota Public Radio
“[Boarded Windows is] a rock’n’roll story couched in Proustian delicacy, a Beat reconfiguring of the family that moves towards pomo deconstruction of any reliable relationship—and withal, a hybrid of highly pleasing shape.”—Bookforum
“This novel calls into question the notion of truth and asks to whom one’s story really belongs… it is rife with humans desperate for connection, for finding their place in this enigmatic world.” —ForeWord
“[T]his book is not merely a postmodern exercise in notions of truth, nor is it merely funny and intelligent; it is fundamentally a sincere and heartbreaking tale of loneliness, a man who comes to realize that the windows in his life, home, and family are inherently boarded up.” —Brooklyn Rail
“Pop-music reference pepper the pages of Hicks’ ambitious debut about the prickly relationship between a father and son. . . . with polished prose that is witty and smart.”—Booklist
“The novel is a carnival ride of amusing, sad narratives—people telling people the stories of their lives. The problem lies in deciding which of these many stories to believe, determining how and where the source material has been polluted, corrupted, and distorted through time.” —MNartists.org
“This was a pretty amazing novel—an unapologetically intelligent and cringe-inducingly intimate take on Midwestern hipster culture, armed with a dizzying array of references to art, literature, criticism, and of course music.” —Bookslut
“Reading Hicks’ debut novel is not so much like reading a novel as it is like peering into someone’s soul. . . . It’s more an exploration of memory than it is of relationships—with dizzying forays into country music, jazz, erotica and Plato. Try to keep up, will you? You will be rewarded.” —The Examiner
“Dylan’s writing contains gems; you’ll want to read slowly so you don’t miss them. . . . Read the words, listen to the music; you have good things waiting for you.”—New Pages
“Boarded Windows is a shrewd and soulful novel. References (high and low, familiar and obscure) abound in this eloquent and unusual story of not-quite innocence lost. Hicks uses his intimate knowledge of American music to give us a precise portrait of Wade Salem, a self-taught, fast-talking half-genius.” —Dana Spiotta
“Do yourself a favor and read this smart, tender book. The characters will haunt you with their longing, and inspire you with their sweet, caustic wit. Dylan Hicks knows his music and his prose is a song in itself. He’s given light to the shuttered and boarded parts of life.” —Sam Lipsyte
“As a novel, Dylan Hicks’s Boarded Windows takes a sly, questioning, sidelong glance that keeps both the narrator and his listeners—because this novel is whispered, confided, mused, as much as it is written—continually off balance. As a work of American iconography, it’s a continually hilarious, hopes-dashed account of an indelible American character: the con man.” —Greil Marcus
“Boarded Windows is a luminous novel about love and loss. Written with wit, profundity, and compassion, Dylan Hicks’s debut delights in language and music and the joys of being alive. This is a deeply moving book that announces a major talent in American fiction.” —Samantha Gillison
The last time I saw Wade Salem was the morning of December 21, 1991, through the window of a green and white taxi. I stood on the sidewalk’s lumpy mattress of snow and watched him toss a backpack to the other side of the seat, and pull off his pomponed Washington Redskins cap with a nod toward urgency. The taxi was overheated, it’s safe to imagine. I had recently turned twenty-one. I had even more recently lent Wade the backpack, in the way one lends out a quarter or a piece of gum. In the trunk was my former guitar, a mid-priced acoustic on which three or four nights earlier Wade had played “Gentle on My Mind” and “The Poor Orphan Child.”
Something—my sticky-zippered backpack, or, more likely, the Redskins cap—must have slid off the backseat’s slippery vinyl, because just as the taxi was about to pull out into the lane, its wheels creaking the snow, Wade leaned over (to pick up the cap, I’m speculating), erasing himself from the rear passenger-side window, like I and millions of others had slide-erased stale sketches from our magnetic drawing toys, such as the one Wade long ago brought home to me, unwrapped, as an ingratiating gift. His head reemerged as the taxi made its first turn toward the airport. For a moment I lingered on the sidewalk, across the busy westward one-way from a pretentiously named Nixon-era apartment building, its mansard roof covering most of its face like the Fat Albert character’s nonpomponed cap. The bare trees and dirty boulevard snow were aptly gloomy, but the sky was blue, seemed too blue for the nostril-stinging cold. I felt tired and brittle, wished my feelings of good riddance weren’t so mixed with longing.
Minnesota Monthly Q&A with Dylan Hicks:
Q: The narrator of Boarded Windows is a young man who works in a Minneapolis record store in the 1990s and gets caught in a Halloween blizzard. Um, is this you?
Dylan Hicks: The store is drawn pretty closely from Musicland, where I worked for a long time. But the substantial stuff is invented: I was never visited by a con-man father figure.
Q: You played in bands as the “governor of fun” back then. Were you especially fun?
DH: No. I meant it as a play on songs like Otis Redding’s “Love Man,” an ironic persona.
Q: The book is crammed with cultural references—songs, novels—some fake, right?
DH: I wanted to create a dream world where the reader can’t identify what’s real. For his latest novel, Jonathan Franzen made up a band called Walnut Surprise, which seems ridiculous at first. But after a while it’s like, sure, Walnut Surprise, why not?
Q: The character who can only have sex to John Philip Sousa marches—true story?
DH: She is a friend of a friend. But the rumors may not have been true.
Q: You’re releasing your first CD in years, Dylan Hicks Sings Bolling Greene, as a companion to the book. What inspired it?
DH: Bolling Greene is a country musician who skirts the edges of this book, a kind of intellectual Kris Kristofferson type. For the CD, I wasn’t pretending to be him so much as riffing, like I’m covering his songs from memory.