21 September, 2020

Cracklin’ On Like An Ol’ 78

The novel inhabits the forgotten world of early blues, while fakery and the fantastic, served in overlapping narratives, keeps a steady, modernist beat

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Cracklin’ On Like An Ol’ 78

“Guglielmo Marconi, the inv­e­n­tor of the radio, believed that sound waves never completely die away, that they persist...masked by the day-to-day noise of the world. Marconi thought that if he could only invent a microphone powerful enough, he would be able to listen to the sound of ancient times. The Sermon on the Mount, the footfalls of Roman soldiers marching down the Appian Way.”

That stray observation by Seth, the young, white, introverted, middle-class narrator of White Tears, has a resonance that reverberates through the plot of this singular novel. Early in the narrative, Seth teams up with a rich, enigmatically charismatic drifter named Carter Wallace, who leads him into his own obsessive world. At their first meeting on the campus of the upstate New York college where they are students, Seth is eavesdro­pping on distant conversations, using a directional microphone mounted in a homemade parabolic reflector made out of an old satellite dish. Carter suggests they go back to his dorm room to listen to music. The records are...



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