Things get spooky when a seemingly harmless hoax actually has some teeth.
Supernaturalism and blues music go together like neon lights and strip clubs. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil, after all, and the exact details of the history of both can be quite mysterious. So a novel about a dead bluesman whose personal history is exceedingly hazy reaching out from the past is not so surprising; nor, separately, is making it into a very contemporary horror genre story that feels exactly of this moment, reckoning with America’s deeply racist past and how that reality continues to shape how things are today.
Unfortunately the story gets too far gone in its hallucinatory melange of past and present and strays over the line into incoherentness, but an interesting failure at least has the interesting part going for it.
Bleak good word for this book, dark, hard to believe what people give their lives to "achieve", collecting, even if it's rare things you're collecting - who's going to get them when your time of earth is finished? Dialogue frustrating at times as if by a psychopath or author couldn't think of how to write it in a meaningful way that is; skimmed the last hundred or so pages to see if it got any better (it didn't) won't be reading anymore of his books.
This book is spooky, bleak and sometimes purposefully disorienting. It reminded me a little of the movie 'Get Out' with its sense of creeping dread and focus on US racial politics but this being a book it manages to go a little deeper into that territory, exploring some of the historical abuses of power that have lead to the current state of affairs.
I really enjoyed reading this novel while also being deeply discomfited by it, which I'm sure was the intent.
mixed past and present together in an interesting story. Re read parts to absorb the initially confusing mix of past and present
I'm intrigued by the lore around Blues music and the Crossroads so when I read the synopsis of this book, I thought I'd give it a read. It is a story about two men who make a fake recording of a song claiming it to be a long lost recording by an obscure Blues artist. A man contacts them about their song explaining to them that what they have recorded is in fact a real song and that there was only ever one recording of it. From there, the men experience strange and terrible events in connection to their recording. It was not quite what I expected, which is completely okay, but I did find It hard to follow. As a result, I kept getting distracted from the story as i was not engaged in it. Half way into the story, there is a jump from present day to the past and these jumps happen randomly throughout the book from then on. It was not evident however that this is what was happening and so there was some confusion as I was reading the second half of the story. It was an interesting concept for a story and explores themes of race and oppression.
Terrific novel of music, race, obsession, ghosts and paying the piper.
What happens when white hipsters record a black man singing and then repackage it as a long lost blues vinyl from the 1920s? Comeuppance!
I had not heard of this author before, and am not sure how this book was added to my reading list. However, it captured my attention right away when the protagonist was out recording ambient sound in the city. Then there is the story, which quickly drew me in and then kept twisting. and turning itself inside out and went all over the place.
Beyond the story and the history it carries in the music and the rich Wallace family, who make their money running prisons... There is the intricacy in the writing, the reflection of technology, digital vs. analog, reality vs. imagination, layer upon layer... "Electromagnetic grief."
"If Marconi was right and certain phenomena persist through time, then secrets are being told continuously at the edge of perception. All secrets, always being told."
- Hari Kunzru
Note: This is not a sequel to "White Teeth" or "White Noise." This fifth novel by the London-born, Brooklyn-based (Is it a law that all contemporary novelists live there?) is about 2 white guys and the blues. The premise and theme are promising, but the execution is lacking. It ends up as a rather drab, unconvincing thriller rather than the meditation on race, music, and the past that it's billed as.
Truly exceptional writing. Reading this book felt like watching a coin you toss into one of those big funnels where it spins faster and deeper into the abyss until it finally vanishes. Great writing about music, cultural appropriation, and dealing with the ghosts--past and present--of racism and exploitation. If this book doesn't immediately appeal to you, give it a chance. It dives deeper and deeper into a blurry, haunting ride into the racial heart of darkness of the United States. Highest recommendation!!
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