White Tears by Hari Kunzru

White Tears

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 t...

Details White Tears

TitleWhite Tears
Release DateMar 14th, 2017
PublisherKnopf Publishing Group
GenreFiction, Horror, Literary Fiction, Music, Mystery, Race

Reviews White Tears

  • Sam
    This book isn't what you think it is. This book wasn't what you thought it was. This book has always not been what you thought it would be.I felt like there were two books in White Tears, but the final, can't stop reading for anything 50 pages force the halves into sides A and B of the record, completing each other, forming a whole, forcing me to appreciate more of what had come before. Early parts are occasionally irritating but gave me enough i...
  • Diane S ☔
    3.5 Seth, our narrator is somewhat of a misfit, many are surprised when Carter, the son of a wealthy family, picks him to be his mate, best friend. They share a love of music, and both are avid collectors, though this collecting will soon turn into obsession when Seth, who takes to the streets to record street noises, records part of an old, unheard of song from a black man playing a chess match. Sparking a switch in Carter's brain, he starts sea...
  • Lark Benobi
    An unnerving read that pulls the reader in nearly as many uncomfortable directions as it does its characters. The main narrator has a glib and superficial way of describing events, where the very dark currents of the novel are camouflaged for a time, only slipping into view intermittently. The foreshadowing is so subtle that it can be mistaken for misdirection, but it was the perfect way to disarm me in the beginning, and to prevent me from accur...
  • Katie
    Some books accumulate merit points as they progress; others have a habit of losing them. I'm afraid this fell into the latter category for me. It's set up really well. The narrator is a nerdy guy who goes around recording ambient noise. No one likes him. Until Carter, a cool rich boy, takes a shine to him. Carter doesn't have much time for the digital age. He collects old r&b records, the older and more obscure the better. Carter carries all the ...
  • J. Kent Messum
    *Review originally published in the New York Journal Of Books: http://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book-... There’s a lot going on in White Tears . . . maybe too much.The story starts off well. Two young white men meet in college and make a strong, but unlikely, connection through their shared love of music. Seth, from whose perspective the story is mostly told, is the low income antisocial kid who proves to be great at making equipment and recordi...
  • Robin
    The song that never ends A disorienting, uncomfortable, fascinating story that looks like one thing on the surface, but veers off into unexpected places. What begins with a couple of young white guys who are passionate about music from the past, turns into a ghostly tale of scorching revenge.Carter and Seth, living lives of privilege afforded by Carter's wealthy family, start the nightmare when they upload a recording of an unknown blues singer t...
  • Rosh
    I can't decide if this book deserves one star or five, so I went for three. It's not a perfect novel, which isn't to say it isn't great. It reads like water while being complicated on the verge of convoluted. Hari Kunzro has written something extremely complex and thoroughly readable, but something is missing. My biggest issue with the novel is pacing. The beginning of the book is much more generous than the end-the extreme change that the book g...
  • Jill
    What is the connection between the listener and the musician? Does it matter that one of you is alive and one is dead? And which is which?In this brilliant new novel, Hari Kunzru explores these questions. The narrator, Seth, is a dweeby young man who is obsessed with recording sounds during his walks in New York City. One day he happens across an old chess player who is singing a haunting blues song that he can't get out of his mind. He brings th...
  • Emma
    Before writing this review, I HAD to read what others had said to know if it was just me. This feeling of total disconnection and confusion. As so many reviewers have noted, the first half of the book had me; the complexity of relationships with both family and friends; the history of music and what it can mean to people in their search for self; just who is allowed/able to appreciate a specific style or period of art, in this case blues music of...
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    This was one of the books for which I had reading envy at the end of 2017, because I kept hearing good things and it ended up on so many year-end best books lists. So I cleared space for it in January after it was also shortlisted for the Tournament of Books. This is an excellent read. It contains that rare element that I do look for, where the author takes you somewhere far from where they started. Although I had heard mentions of this being abo...
  • Michelle
    Seth is obsessed with music. He hears it in the everyday cacophony of the city street. Each sound emancipating itself, bits parceled into musical arrangements. Awkward around people, he is befriended by Carter, a cock-sure socialite with an obsession for collecting rare Blues recordings. On his travels Seth records a chess player singing in the park. Carter posts it online and passes it off as the lone copy of an unheard of musician by the name o...
  • Jessica Woodbury
    I don't like to read the summary of a book before I read it. I started WHITE TEARS knowing Kunzru from some of his previous works and expecting a smart book on race in America. That is what I got, but it came in a package I wasn't expecting, a literary horror novel, a ghost story with a Blues soundtrack, a tale of class and the evil so much of the country was built upon.They may call this book a "ghost story" or "magical realism" because those te...
  • Ace
    Whoa, that was awesome. I don't normally get into the supernatural but if they were all written like this, then I'd have a lot of catching up to do. Another book exploring the intense passion of creativity (which reminded me of The Animators) and the intense cruelty and injustice of slavery and the music industry just after the turn of the century. How Kunzru crammed so much history and commentary into this little book is astounding. Now, if only...
  • Trudie
    Whoa.Now all the hahahahaha's towards the back of the book make sense.This is truely an ambitious undertaking and deft piece of writing. It starts simply, but then slowly like the frog in the proverbial boiling water, you find your in some shapeshifting, ghostly fantasy novel and your not entirely sure whats going on. But you don't mind as it is flinging little truth bombs at you and your thinking how did Kunzru pull this highwire act off ?. Thi...
  • Phrynne
    I always enjoy reviewing the books I have read but every so often I come up against one where I honestly cannot think what to say about it! This is one of those books.I enjoyed it very much - the writing is beautiful - but I would have great difficulty trying to explain what it is about. I suppose it is a ghost story in part, also a bit of horror thrown in - rather like a good Stephen King really. But there is so much more - music, racism, slaver...
  • Mona
    This novel is a tour de force that only an author with writing chops as good as Hari Kunzru's could have pulled off.It's full of endless unforeseable surprises and twists and turns. The narrative at some points starts to veer uncontrollably between different times and places. Even identities become blurred, with several characters bleeding into each other (literally and figuratively). At one point, a particular character is no longer sure what co...
  • Monica
    "Believe I buy a graveyard of my own..."Wow, what a powerful, intriguing, and clever book!I really enjoyed White Tears. It was a complex, rich satisfying bit of historical novel and just desserts. Rich, smug, entitled, self-important, callous people receive their due for sins of the past and present with overtones regarding race, wealth, subjugation, exploitation, and character. This novel is an allegory or fable not just about white privilege, r...
  • Perry
    Anybody singing the blues is in a deep pit yelling for help.Mahalia Jackson"White folks hear the blues come out, but they don't know how it got there," said Son House, a Mississippi blues singer who made his start in the 1920s. The blues got there, it is generally acknowledged, via the adapted rhythms and methods of West African natives enslaved in the American South. One of the blues' most customary components came from the group work songs of t...
  • Blair
    I know I talk about books in terms of 'halves' or 'thirds' or 'quarters' a lot. It's something I've been telling myself to do less of. But sometimes it's absolutely necessary, and White Tears is one such case: it's very much a book of two halves.Seth is an awkward, lonely college student who's obsessed with sound, and traverses New York making recordings of everyday background noise: Carter, who becomes his best friend and business partner, is th...
  • Paul Secor
    Hari Kunzru has written a novel which, at least in part, seems to be a fable about punishment for a family's sins being passed down to its descendants and a friend.There's also a connected tale which implies that if white folks mess with black music, some sort of hoodoo spell will be laid on them.I wasn't grabbed by any of that. What I did take from this book is to be wary of novels about rich folks. Rich folks can be boring and treacherous - a d...
  • Shawn Mooney
    Kunzru has plunked a couple young white men—obsessed with the Blues, with audio of all kinds—down into a mysterious, deeply American story of race, music, and violence, one steeped in Murikamiesque juices. Compulsively readable, the best and most important American novel I've read since Beloved—and penned by a biracial Indo-British writer in the US less than a decade! Like me, you might feel woozy, might get lost in this novel. I sure hope ...
  • jo
    this is the first book i read -- but surely there must be others, right? please tell me there are others -- that tackles squarely, that is to say front and center, the theme of whiteness in america (C.E. Morgan's The Sport of Kings does so too, but it taints the effort, in my opinion, by devoting almost half the book to a story told from a black man's point of view, which has always been dicey when done by a white author -- see William Styron's C...
  • Subashini
    A masterful book of controlled tension and terror. It's brilliantly-executed on the level of narrative and symbolism. An incredibly layered story about slavery and the prison industrial complex, about black people as property and possessions for the white owners, and draws a line down to record collecting and the music industry in terms of who owns black music. Cultural appropriation as the "liberal" form of ownership. And thus this injustice, em...
  • David Yoon
    The first half of the book sets up our hipster duo worshipping at the shrine of old black music. Deemed "more intense and authentic than anything made by white people." Carter is a trust-fund douchebag that sports blond dreadlocks in college while DJ'ing and Seth is a "sonic geologist" riding Carter's monied coattails. When Seth captures snippets of a song while travelling the city doing field recordings Carter matches it against a guitar riff re...
  • Emily May
    A fantastic and clever idea; an execution that left much to be desired.I've never felt so strongly aware of an author pushing his extensive research on the reader as I was while reading White Tears. Kunzru spares no details as he delves into heavy descriptions of the sound editing process and audio engineering. He name-drops. His characters contemplate music theory ad nauseum. It felt unnatural, like the author was ever-present behind the narrati...
  • George Jr.
    This is a terrible book. The received stature of the author makes that a surprise, but it is terrible nonetheless.Nothing against the ambition, which boils down to the question of authenticity, what it is and the dangers of pursuing it to the utmost level of purity. The vehicle is old-time American music, from poor Southern musicians, mostly black and mostly blues players, recorded in the 1920s on labels like Paramount. The characters who carry t...
  • Judy
    Five years ago I read Hari Kunzru's fourth novel, Gods Without Men. I was stunned by his imagination, his complicated world view, and his crackling prose. I have not yet read his earlier novels but I will. As soon as I could get a copy of his new novel from the library, I read it in three sittings.In White Tears, he sets up an unlikely friendship between Carter, a mentally disturbed trust fund kid, and Seth, a withdrawn socially awkward dude who ...
  • switterbug (Betsey)
    This extraordinary novel takes place in different time periods, and from NYC to the American South, spanning about 80 years that run fluidly together in a dreamscape-terrorscape. Like Gods Without Men, you have to let go of pre-conceived notions of temporal events and just go with the flow. It starts off with a straightforward narrative in contemporary NYC and then, eventually, dissolves into a prism of ghosts that superimpose the past onto the p...
  • Kasa Cotugno
    In a review earlier this week I noted that many of the best observational novels about America can come from outside. This is yet another. This beautifully crafted story slides from one thing into another so smoothly, taking you for a ride you don't expect, making you feel and think. Enough has been said in other encapsulations that I don't want to muddy the waters with plot, but only say, this is truly special.
  • Leo Walsh
    White Tears by Hari Kunzru is a captivating literary and psychological horror tale. It traces two young college-educated twenty-somethings’ obsession with sounds and music. After college, they move to New York and open a studio recording “authentic” music as opposed to commercial saccharin.The narrator Seth, a gifted, shy, and shadow-like engineer with mental health issues, just wants to create sounds, He loves mixing, filtering, parsing an...