Hari Kunzru’s fifth novel is a ghost story, and the ghost is in the machine. Leopold Bloom, in Ulysses, mused on the resurrection of the voice that would be made possible by placing ‘a gramophone in every grave’; White Tears tells a story of blues music and race in which every recording is engraved with the voices of the restless dead.
One ghost in particular haunts the book: that of the fictional bluesman Charlie Shaw. But how fictional is he? An unearthly voice registers on a recording made by the book’s primary narrator, Seth, a misfit audiophile and would-be music producer, as he wanders the streets of New York,