‘White Tears’ by Hari Kunzru [Book Review]

white tears hari kunzru penguin books australia
Image: Penguin Books Australia

The first time I heard about the premise of this book, I got so scared that almost could not sleep.

A white guy roams around New York recording all sorts of sounds from his surroundings. He’s a sound engineer and he intends to use his recordings in a project he’s working on. One time, while reviewing his recordings, hears a song sung by a mystery man.

He’s fascinated, so he tells his white business partner about it. The business partner gets obsessed with the said song until he decides to play with the recording in the studio they own. Once done, he uploads it online, under the name of a made-up singer. He even makes the track sound as though it were extracted from some old blues record, thanks to his skills in sound engineering.

Things get weird when a stranger gets in touch with them, saying that he knows the singer of the song. They try to convince them that they simply invented the singer, but he does not believe them. He swears he knows that person. So, is the singer a ghost or what?

Considering its premise, it’s safe to assume that it is indeed a ghost story. Not the usual type, though. Well, it goes beyond haunting on a supernatural level. It does, in fact, tackle other complex topics like race and cultural appropriation.

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