White Tears - Hari Kunzru
Under the sleek techno of today’s music scene, there’s some very messy history. Kunzru’s powerhouse of a novel starts with a pair of New York-based “audio craftsmen,” one searching for “a hidden sound that lay underneath the everyday sounds,” and the other obsessed with acquiring vintage LPs, especially early blues recordings. Caught up in the chase, and wanting “authentic” blues without considering what went into them, neither has any idea what’s really at stake, though the more sensitive of the two notes that “secrets are told continuously at the edge of perception. Nothing ever goes away.” Charlie Shaw, a black Mississippi bluesman who disappeared on his way to his first—and only?—recording session in the 1920s, not only doesn’t go away, but returns with a vengeance. Filling in the details of the pain and suffering in Shaw’s songs, Kunzru denies white music buffs their usual shortcuts, forcing all of us to hear what’s been tuned out over the years. The rarest recordings are those never made, and using literary genres like tracks, Kunzru restores the lost voices in a narrative that’s by turns a romance, a murder mystery, and a ghost story, with electrifying prose that moves from crisp precision to high-octane rhythms to the mesmerizing fugue-states of repetition.