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2018 TOB Shortlist Books > White Tears

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments so let's talk about it....


message 2: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments I'd say this is the most "important" book I've read for the TOB this year. It really made me think about white appropriation of black culture which was really not a thing I had been aware of before.


message 3: by Drew (new)

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments Janet wrote: "I'd say this is the most "important" book I've read for the TOB this year. It really made me think about white appropriation of black culture which was really not a thing I had been aware of before."

Ditto. After reading this book, I looked back on the British Invasion of my youth (1960s) and cringed.


message 4: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments Jesse Williams' speech last year was so powerful - something that seemed apparent once the light flashed upon it and yet not something that (we) the appropriators think anything about. On an interesting side note, Emma Watson's "Our Shared Shelf" goodreads group has chosen Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race.In her selection discussion, Emma discussed her discomfort and failures of understanding when she was being called a "white feminist."


message 5: by Daniel (last edited Jan 05, 2018 12:59AM) (new)

Daniel Sevitt | 91 comments I'm going to go out on a limb and pick White Tears as the winner of the ToB this year. I think Lincoln in the Bardo is too much of a marmite read (I liked it) to take the prize and Sing Unburied Sing suffers simply because it doesn't have the weight or the impact of Salvage the Bones. It's a fine book, but it will forever live in the earlier novel's shadow.

I think White Tears could be a stealth winner in the way that it was a stealth read. Starting with white characters, but only revealing their culpability and complicity as the novel progresses is a dazzling trick that fooled me and left me slack-jawed with admiration. The experience has only grown on me and forced me to self-examine since I finished the book a week ago.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments White Tears is one of those books which I recognise the importance and power of, but which did not personally engage me very much. I am looking forward to all the discussion, however, in the hopes that perhaps it will catch fire when I see other points of view.

Daniel's comment above about it being a 'stealth read' is very interesting to me -- I found Seth & Carter so unpleasant from the very first pages that I did not have any experience of being surprised by what kind of people they were.


message 7: by Dax (new)

Dax White Tears got better as the pages went on. I agree with Bryn that Seth and Carter were a little unpleasant, but the passages about recordings were interesting and I loved Kunzru's writing. And that final third of the novel is nothing short of amazing. What a unique ghost story. Would be happy to see this win.


message 8: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments I totally agree with Daniel. This was a steath read for me too because I had no idea where the story was going, I had to re-read a few pages twice. I love it when a books plot surprises me and this one truly did.

And I second Dax, the final third of the book blew my socks off!


message 9: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments I picked White Tears as my zombie.


Bryn (Plus Others) (brynplusplus) | 97 comments I ended up checking it back out from the library so that I can argue my case about it (whatever that ends up being) with vigor and copious textual evidence. :-)


message 11: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Greene (dakimel) | 241 comments I look forward to your arguments, Bryn+!

I got it on Audible (good audio) and my son, who shares my account, told me the other day that he liked it okay but wasn't wowed by it. I asked if he felt (esp since he just finished an intro to jazz course at college) like he was being told stuff he already knew about cultural appropriation (which is what I felt - the white boys took a *really long time* to get clued in to how much they were actively stealing in the present, much less the weight of the past) - turns out that was his favorite part, and the ghost story was what didn't grab him.

(Don't worry, he's taking intro to fiction writing w Jonathan Lethem next semester, so he'll learn more about story and why the ghost stuff was good.)

I did love the way Kunzru wrapped everything up in prison stripes in the end. No one can be tempted to say 'that's just cultural exchange of form, all music borrows from all other music, appropriation isn't some deliberate and malicious act.' He keeps the pressure on the reader to see the systemic problems from several angles.


message 12: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 155 comments Finally was able to get a copy from the library. Heard good things about this one. Can't wait to get to it. (Although I already have a stack of 9 or so other books to read😳)


message 13: by Andrea (new)

Andrea (helloandie) | 1 comments Melanie wrote: "...turns out that was his favorite part, and the ghost story was what didn't grab him."

This, exactly, for me.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 642 comments Melanie wrote: "I did love the way Kunzru wrapped everything up in prison stripes in the end. No one can be tempted to say 'that's just cultural exchange of form, all music borrows from all other music, appropriation isn't some deliberate and malicious act.' He keeps the pressure on the reader to see the systemic problems from several angles"

I agree with you. The lack of redemption, is maybe what I would call it. I'm still mulling over it, having only finished it through toothpick propped eyes last night, but I cant decide if I think the ghost element was necessary... does it make it weaker?

Melanie wrote: "(Don't worry, he's taking intro to fiction writing w Jonathan Lethem next semester, so he'll learn more about story and why the ghost stuff was good.)
"

Well THAT is not a bad way to start!


message 15: by Adam (new)

Adam (adamstephenhall) The ghost element is absolutely essential in getting the protagonist to see how his complicity and privilege can be malevolent. Without the ghost component, there's no novel.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 642 comments Adam wrote: "The ghost element is absolutely essential in getting the protagonist to see how his complicity and privilege can be malevolent. Without the ghost component, there's no novel."

Is that the only way? It's the way the author chose, certainly.


message 17: by Adam (last edited Jan 10, 2018 09:28AM) (new)

Adam (adamstephenhall) A ghost story seems appropriate, given the story is about past (read: dead) sins directly creating current, largely unacknowledged (read:invisible) systems of oppression. It's a large part of the brilliance of the novel. To extract the ghost out of the story is to write a fundamentally different book.


Jenny (Reading Envy) (readingenvy) | 642 comments Adam wrote: "A ghost story seems appropriate, given the story is about past (read: dead) sins directly creating current, largely unacknowledged (read:invisible) systems of oppression. It's a large part of the b..."
Nodding... thanks. Your responses are helping me get a better picture.


message 19: by Dax (new)

Dax Adam wrote: "A ghost story seems appropriate, given the story is about past (read: dead) sins directly creating current, largely unacknowledged (read:invisible) systems of oppression. It's a large part of the b..."

Very nice Adam. Spot on analysis


message 20: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments Adam wrote: "A ghost story seems appropriate, given the story is about past (read: dead) sins directly creating current, largely unacknowledged (read:invisible) systems of oppression. It's a large part of the b..."

Yes! The ghost story is what made this novel for me personally.


message 21: by jess (new)

jess (skirtmuseum) | 146 comments I just finished this book last night, and I suppose I'll be mulling it over for years to come. I have been thinking about cultural appropriation for at least fifteen years, since my first cultural studies class in college. WT does an incredible job of establishing the white characters, planting enough clues, and then just eviscerating the complacency and neutral position he's put the reader in. It was a wholly unexpected read for me - once carter got attacked and hospitalized, I realized the train was going off the rails, but you're traveling with this pendulum of normal life-horror life/past-present-???/living-ghost. I felt delirious and I couldn't look away. It was just totally not what I expected. I would impress that upon anyone I was recommending it to. "Hang in there, shit's gonna get weird, and it is going to be extraordinary."


message 22: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1099 comments Has anyone also read Shadowbahn from the Long List? I’m just finishing it and am struck by how strongly it echoes some of the themes of WT....especially the surreal/fractured time plotting and a focus on music as a way to explore cultural appropriation. WT is far more artful and powerful, but I almost wish Shadowbahn had made it to the Short List so we could talk about the two books together.


message 23: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments I just read that White Tears is a finalist for a Pen America Literary Award, specifically the Jean Stein Book Award which features $75,000 in prize money. I think this was the only book from our TOB shortlist although I noticed a few books from the long list in this and other categories. Good Luck Hari Kunzru!


message 24: by Michelle (new)

Michelle | 155 comments This book had me at first thinking I knew where it was going. Then it made me feel disoriented and finally it wowed me. Artistically written with a powerful message. I'm glad it made the TOB and am looking forward to the commentariat.

Here's my review:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 25: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments So glad I picked this for the Zombie. I think it will beat any of the play-ins handily in the first round but that means it will likely be up against Lincoln in the Bardo in the second.


message 26: by Dianah (new)

Dianah (fig2) | 255 comments What a book! I found this utterly amazing, and I'm still not sure how Kunzru pulled it off.


message 27: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments Janet wrote: "So glad I picked this for the Zombie. I think it will beat any of the play-ins handily in the first round but that means it will likely be up against Lincoln in the Bardo in the second."

You heard it here first guys, White Tears is going to win the Tournament...my prediction!


message 28: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1099 comments Ruthiella wrote: "White Tears is going to win the Tournament...my prediction! ..."

From your lips to God's ears!!


message 29: by Susanw (new)

Susanw | 21 comments Man I hope so @ruthiella


message 30: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) I like White Tears but had problems with the author's reliability. I wasn't sure how Shaw became the Wolfmouth character, and who Seth became when he was putting on whiteface, and who he was when he was being interrogated but couldn't determine his race - it just seemed designed to confuse and ultimately frustrating. And why did the JumpJim character tell Seth the recording was made by a white man? Was that supposed to be real? And was there a recording at all? If there wasn't why tell Seth it was made by a white man? And when the ghost Shaw makes his recording, is that real? Is Shaw white then, or what? I'm not asking for complete airtight plots, of course, and I can make up answers to these questions myself, but it seemed more like Kunzru gave up on narrative cohesion. And given Seth's unreliability re all these inconsistencies, is this even a ghost story, or is it just a tale of madness?


message 31: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments I don’t think that Kunzru gave up on narrative cohesion at the end. I think he deliberately started to blur the narrative so the reader is unsure what is real and what is not real. For me, this is (a) what makes it so frightening and (b) makes the reader start to really think about the bigger themes of the book. A good ghost story, in my opinion, always has to have a certain measure of ambiguity in it.

But this may be a case of “worked for me”. When I think of Idaho, not that it is a ghost story, but it does have a lot of ambiguity, none of it worked for me as a reader. But with White Tears, it was pretty perfect.


message 32: by Ehrrin (new)

Ehrrin | 114 comments I loved this book, and it is my pick to win.

One of the things that really surprised me about it is that it felt like an incredibly, deeply American novel. Once is finished it, I read up on Kunzru, and was shocked to learn that he isn't American. Maybe that gave him the distance and perspective needed to create this story?


message 33: by Adam (new)

Adam (adamstephenhall) Ruthiella, you’re my hero. I’m pretending I wrote your post.


message 34: by Roxy (new)

Roxy Reno | 4 comments Loved this book. Using Marconi's theory that sound never dies to set up the narrative was brilliant. Felt like Nick Hornsby at times Haruki Murakami at others. I lived with a serious vinyl collector for a number of years and Kunzru nailed it.


message 35: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments Adam wrote: "Ruthiella, you’re my hero. I’m pretending I wrote your post."

Aw shucks. (*^0^*). But it is also so interesting to hear from others what didn't work for them, right?


message 36: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments I've only just started it, but so far it's my favorite book named after a shampoo.


message 37: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments Eric wrote: "I've only just started it, but so far it's my favorite book named after a shampoo."

Eric I think you're thinking of White Rain.


message 38: by Eric (last edited Feb 07, 2018 12:55PM) (new)

Eric | 90 comments


message 39: by Bob (new)

Bob Lopez | 391 comments New article in the LARB about White Tears: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/l...#!


message 40: by David (new)

David | 10 comments Eric, you have made my day. Like Emily, I am not in favor of protecting endangered feces and I think there is too much sax and violins on television. But I have changed my mind about making Puerto Rico a steak. I think it's the least we can do, but I would make certain it wasn't a Trump Steak. They are understandably losing their taste for that particular entree...


message 41: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments Bob wrote: "New article in the LARB about White Tears: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/l...#!"

Thanks for the link Bob. That is a really good and perceptive piece.


message 42: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) Roxy wrote: "Loved this book. Using Marconi's theory that sound never dies to set up the narrative was brilliant. Felt like Nick Hornsby at times Haruki Murakami at others. I lived with a serious vinyl collecto..."

I'd forgotten this bit from the beginning and wish he'd brought it back in the end, it would have tightened things up thematically. But it was still too much chaos and not enough theory for my tastes.


message 43: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) Ruthiella wrote: "Bob wrote: "New article in the LARB about White Tears: https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/l...#!"

Thanks for the link Bob. That..."

Strangely, I think that article makes a better argument about race, music, and our post-colonial mindset than the book does.


message 44: by Ruthiella (last edited Feb 09, 2018 02:45PM) (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments Michael wrote: "Strangely, I think that article makes a better argument about race, music, and our post-colonial mindset than the book does."

LOL! That is how I felt about Fever Dream when I read "around" about the book after finishing it.


message 45: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments i haven't dared come here till now cuz i love and admire this book so much that i didn't want to read ANYTHING negative about it. also, we discussed it within an inch of its life in the newest literature group. but now i'm so happy i came cuz of the shampoo comment. hahahahahahhahaahah


message 46: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments Jo-I think I need to be a member of that newest literary fiction group...sounds right up my alley.


message 47: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments Compare Robert Wilkins' "That's No Way to Get Along" and the Rolling Stones' "Prodigal Son", billed (on my copy, anyway) as being by Jagger and Richard.






message 48: by jo (new)

jo | 429 comments Gwendolyn wrote: "Jo-I think I need to be a member of that newest literary fiction group...sounds right up my alley."

c'mon over!!!!!!!!!!!
https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...


message 49: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisgitt) | 88 comments Daniel wrote: "I think White Tears could be a stealth winner in the way that it was a stealth read. Starting with white characters, but only revealing their culpability and complicity as the novel progresses is a dazzling trick that fooled me and left me slack-jawed with admiration."

What a great way to describe the novel. Last year, I quickly returned it to the library, because I had no interest in those annoying dudes. The book is amazing, and I love how stealthy it is.


message 50: by Eric (new)


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