Embarrassed by his stutter and tired of being overshadowed by his younger, more outgoing brother, seven-year-old Simon Davies simply opts out of speech for 18 years. During the long period that Simon doesn’t speak, his happiest moments are sitting on his bed with a radio on his lap, listening to the commercials, studying and worshiping the men whose mellifluous timbre and perfect diction advertise grocery stores and sports cars. When he does start speaking again, he has one improbable goal: to move to Chicago and become a professional voice-over artist. Simon’s dream, and the people who either help or hold him back from achieving it, are the center of The Voiceover Artist
(Curbside Splendor), the first novel by Chicagoan Dave Reidy. (His first book, a collection of stories called Captive Audience
, was published in 2009.)
The novel is narrated in turn by Simon; his parents, a working-class couple who are both confounded and hurt by his years of silence; his younger brother, Connor, a natural charmer and Simon’s rival, whose lifelong dream is to be a comedian; and the talent agents, marketing executives, neighbors, and mentors he meets along the way. Although Simon is the only one with a voice for radio, all are struggling with how to project themselves into the world. As with most multivoiced novels, some narrators resonate deeply, while others’ stories seem thinly drawn. Reidy is at his best when focusing on Simon and Connor’s relationship, a uniquely complex, sometimes uncanny sibling rivalry and a skillful portrait of two young men with unironically big dreams.
Launch party Wed 11/11, 6:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, hideoutchicago.com, free.