Saturday, August 25, 2012

Not the First Draft of the Port Huron Statement

“Boarded Windows,” by Dylan Hicks, 2012

I don’t usually review non-political books.  They are most of the time self-indulgent or inward – two characteristics this country is already awash in.  And this book is both.  However, this author is also a local musician and writer, talks about Minneapolis and the Midwest, and he’s immersed in popular music.  In addition, he can write well, on some phrase occasions. 

Boarded windows close the narrator’s years-long association with two women who had figured prominently in his young life during the 1970s and 1990s.  The narrator is an ostensible orphan, either sold to his foster-mother by a living mother who ‘wanted her weekends back’ or inherited from a drug-addled dead mother.  The focus of the book is Wade, a handsome native-American - musical, drug-dealing, opinionated, aesthetic - who might or might not be the narrator’s father.  Wade tells stories, seduces every woman in sight, bullshits genius, and drifts away to be a country DJ in Berlin.  Wade and the narrator trade high/low cultures references like two totally unreal people – but you will assuredly be impressed. 

Don’t we love orphans?  Or bullshitters?  Perhaps not.  What gives this book its charm is the saturation with which music inhabits the spaces of every day and every conversation.   Real and imagined musicians, old records, playing in bands, instruments, music gear, sing-a-longs, car tapes, remembered concerts, significant LP purchases, liner notes and used record scrawls, band vans, record collectors, music style showdowns, working in records stores, studios, bad poetry, good poetry, critics, conversations, vinyl clutter – its all here.  Hicks is a musician, after all, and this has formed the ground of his life, and of many in Minneapolis

Sex, masturbatory and consensual, is also a sub-text, and Hicks isn’t afraid of it.  It becomes part of the scenery, not the scene itself.

What gives this book its reality is that it reminds me of the low-key, poor, relaxed life many led in the 1970s in Minneapolis.  Money was invisible.  Shitty jobs were the norm.  Shabbiness was genteel.  Sex was there.  Living quarters were what you got. Music got you high.  Cars rusted.  Snow fell.  Not everything worked or was expected to work.  And we didn’t die from it all.

I am not quite sure that is the truth anymore.

And I bought it from May Day’s growing music book selection!
Red Frog, August 25, 2012

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