White Tears by Hari Kunzru [in Booklist]
Two young white men from disparate, dysfunctional family backgrounds meet in college, bond over an obsessive devotion to black music, and create an in-demand production studio in Brooklyn. Their pièce de résistance is a clever hoax: an outdoor recording of a singer that’s remixed to sound like a 1920s blues song on vinyl. Near-instant success comes at an impossibly high price.
Erratic, impulsive Carter, presumptive heir to a multibillion-dollar fortune, lands in a coma after a vicious attack. Seth, too ready with apologies and lacking net worth, is discarded by most of Carter’s family. Desperately chasing answers, Seth heads into the Deep South with Carter’s sister, embarking on an odyssey that quickly turns surreal, unreliable, and tragic.
Ambitious and sprawling, Hari Kunzru’s (Gods without Men, 2012) fifth novel is a convoluted montage of cultural appropriation, entitlement, mental illness, and Jim Crow history presented as a buddy drama intertwined with mystery, horror, and even (not-so-) magic realism. Alas, this proves to be more muddled than masterful, with so many multilayered intentions and garbled narration, not unlike the skipping of the old vinyl 78s.