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White Tears by Hari Kunzru
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White Tears

by Hari Kunzru

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2932254,865 (3.86)29
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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Interesting concept, very poor execution.

The concept is that two hipster music geeks record some ambient noise in a park, and then notice that the recording includes a guy singing a blues song. They doctor the song to make it sound like an old record, and then release it on the internet, claiming it is a record from the 1920s by Charlie Shaw, a name they made up. Things start to get creepy when they are contacted by someone who claims to have heard the original record, and knows that Charlie Shaw existed.

This is a great set-up for the story, but it just gets confusing after that. None of the rest of the story held together very well or even made much sense. ( )
1 vote Gwendydd | Sep 6, 2018 |
This is really not what you think it is. A crazy, antic, ghostly revenge story that has as much in common with Henry James as it does 21st century white appropriation of the blues and the connection between contemporary incarceration and Jim Crow laws. It was wild and funny and horrifying and even if it doesn't quite all come together in the end, I personally prefer a messy attempt than the tidy same old, same old.

Knowing my fair share of discographers and record collectors made this a shade funnier than you might, but you don't need a background in music to get the gist.

Well worth reading, especially if you think its outside your comfort zone. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Aug 8, 2018 |
I think the reviewers are missing the last 1/3 of the book where Charlie Shaw’s goast takes revenge,on the Wallace family ( through his host) for the un justified incarceration and loss of opportunity to record his music, ( )
  ebuchsbaum | Jul 29, 2018 |
This novel is narrated by Seth, a young white man working as a studio engineer as a partner to Carter, a friend from art school who shares his love for music. Carter comes from a wealthy family and is a douchey bro who claims to only listen to Black music from the analog era because of its "realness." Seth is the narrator but Kunzru leaks through that he's also not the most admirable person.

As part of his work, Seth records ambient sounds around the city that are digitally edited into musical recordings. On one occasion, he records a man singing a blues song and on Carter's prompting, Seth edits it to sound like a scratchy 78 from the Twenties and they release it as a lost blues song by a musician named Charlie Shaw. They are then contacted by a record collector who informs them that he last heard this recording in 1959 and that Charlie Shaw is real.

This sets off the narrative in which Seth loses everything, possibly even his mind. It's never clear if he's beset by a phantasmagorical punishment for cultural appropriation or if it's a story told by an unreliable narrator suffering mental illness. Seth's narrative is interrupted by the record collector's story (one in which he has a subservient relationship with a partner paralleling Seth and Carter) and Charlie Shaw himself. It's a clever and creepy and gory and unsettling book, that's nevertheless hard to stop reading. ( )
  Othemts | Jul 18, 2018 |
Reread for the Tournament of Books: I found White Tears very rewarding on a second read. It's creepy and compelling and cleverly structured. It's true that its characters are not particularly deep, but I don't see this as a flaw because I think they are intended to be archetypes and I think it works. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
Hari Kunzru has written a timely novel that demands an examination of the toxicity and perniciousness of whiteness. With razor-sharp insights, White Tears depicts what Greg Tate calls “everything but the burden”: the history of whiteness in the United States as a series of violent appropriations and erasures of black life, black experience, and black culture — which it has attempted to eliminate both physically (the prison industrial complex is but one recent example) and culturally (by turning black culture into commodity fetish).
 
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Epigraph
I rolled and I tumbled 
Cried the whole night long 
Woke up this morning 
I didn't know right from wrong
Dedication
For Katie
First words
That summer I would ride my bike over the bridge, lock it up in the front of one of the bars on Orchard Street and drift through the city on foot, recording.
Quotations
When you listen to an old record, there can be no illusion that you are present at a performance. You are listening through a gray drizzle of static, a sound like rain. You can never forget how far away you are. You always hear it, the sound of distance in time.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0451493699, Hardcover)

From one of the most talented fiction writers at work today: two ambitious young musicians are drawn into the dark underworld of blues record collecting, haunted by the ghosts of a repressive past.

Two twenty-something New Yorkers. Seth is awkward and shy. Carter is the glamorous heir to one of America's great fortunes. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Seth is desperate to reach for the future. Carter is slipping back into the past. When Seth accidentally records an unknown singer in a park, Carter sends it out over the Internet, claiming it's a long lost 1920s blues recording by a musician called Charlie Shaw. When an old collector contacts them to say that their fake record and their fake bluesman are actually real, the two young white men, accompanied by Carter's troubled sister Leonie, spiral down into the heart of the nation's darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation. White Tears is a ghost story, a terrifying murder mystery, a timely meditation on race, and a love letter to all the forgotten geniuses of American music.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 23 Sep 2016 19:08:35 -0400)

Two ambitious young musicians are drawn into the dark underworld of blues-record collecting while navigating the fallout of a scam involving one's claim that a viral video of an unknown singer is a long-lost recording of a famous blues musician.

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