Before I start, let’s address the obvious elephant in the room… it’s a new year, it’s a new me (it’s not) and it’s time to make some resolutions.
Like all good resolutions, I’m going to start with something that seems achievable but will inevitably fail anyways… in 2019, I resolve to show my blog some more love and write at least once a week.
Why? You may ask. Because, I started my blog almost two years ago (!) to free me up to write about what I love. And having been through three jobs in 2018 (I promise that’s not as bad as it sounds), I’ve realised that, as much as I’d like to, I can’t sit around and write the whole time. Yes, writing is still a big part of what I do, but there’s a lot of other stuff involved too and some days I end up not writing anything at all.
Like I said in my very first blog, reading and writing are my escape from real life – everyone has something.
And that little resolution preamble leads me neatly onto my December reading material:
White Tears – Hari Kunzru
White Tears is about escape through art and how dangerous this can be when it’s taken too far.
The blurb of White Tears had me “New Yorkers” and hooked me further with “noir-tinged”. To me, anything noir is fundamentally American and is also fundamentally good. It’s not surprising that one of my favourite movies is LA Confidential and another of my favourite books is No Country For Old Men. Call me crazy, but there’s something that American authors get so right about thrillers.
Told through the eyes of the so-self-effacing-he’s-effaced-by-everyone narrator Seth, the novel tracks him and his rich white college buddy Carter as they look to appropriate a tradition that was never and should never have been theirs: African-American slave music.
Fast forward to the end of the novel and you’ve got a narrator who doesn’t even know himself anymore, a guilt-ridden heir to his family’s fortune in a terminal coma and his sister mutilated and murdered. In other words, well intentioned though you might be, claiming a tradition as your own is pretty much certain to get you into trouble.
White Tears reminded me a lot of Fight Club, which is probably not surprising since it borrows the same noir tropes. Like The Narrator in FC, Seth is unreliable, at times incoherent and you feel uneasy with him the whole way through. And his “army” are just the same. Like Narrator/ Tyler’s army in FC, Seth’s team, Carter and Leonie, believe in something that’s bigger than themselves, even though they don’t know what that is. First rule of cultural misappropriation, you don’t acknowledge cultural misappropriation whilst at the same time being incredibly, uncomfortably aware of it.
Spoilers aside, I’ll let you experience the thrill ride that is White Tears for yourself – it’s really well written, has all the nuances you want in a plot line and has an important message to boot.
And on that note, Happy New Year!