White Tears

White Tears

Hari Kunzru

First Sentence:     That summer I would ride my bike over the bridge, lock it up in front of one of the bars on Orchard Street and drift through the city on foot, recording.

Back of the book:

Two twenty-something New Yorkers: Seth, awkward and shy, and Carter, the trust fund hipster. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Rising fast on the New York producing scene, they stumble across an old blues song long forgotten by history — and everything starts to unravel. Carter is drawn far down a path that allows no return, and Seth has no choice but to follow his friend into the darkness.

Trapped in a game they don’t understand, Hari Kunzru’s characters move unsteadily across the chessboard, caught between black and white, performer and audience, righteous and forsaken. But we have been here before, oh so many times over, and the game always ends the same way . . .

Quotes from the book:

Digital sound had an absolute cutoff, a sonic floor that repelled the listener and set an inhuman limit to the experience […] Whatever happened to soul, to the vibration of an animal-gut string, the resonance of lacquered rosewood?

“As he got in, I caught sight of his expression, an external blankness that wasn’t passivity or peace or even simple tiredness. It was like a lid on a boiling pan, masking some spirit-consuming interior battle.”

By the time I’d finished, it sounded like a worn 78, the kind of recording that only exists in one poor copy, a thread on which time and memory hang.

“I am often accused of lacking emotional response. In fact I think what I lack is emotional spontaneity. It takes me a while to release my reaction, for the feeling to bubble up from below.”

My memory is a mystical conspiracy of connections. Everything has already happened. I am merely a man, sitting in a chair, listening to a recording made long ago. The needle is travelling in a predetermined track. Eventually, sooner or later, it will hit the run-out groove at the end.

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All That’s Left To Tell

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Daniel  Lowe

First Sentence:     Now the sunrise.

Back of the book:

Every night, Marc Laurent, an American taken hostage in Pakistan, is bound and blindfolded. And every night, a woman he knows only as Josephine comes to visit him. At first, her questions are mercenary: who will pay for his release? But when Marc can offer no name, she asks him an even more difficult question: why didn’t he go home for his daughter’s funeral?

So begins a strange and yet comforting nightly ritual. Josephine tells Marc stories about what might have happened had Claire not been murdered. In turn, Marc begins to tell his own, in which his daughter is still alive. Soon, neither Marc nor Josephine are sure which stories are true and which are imagined, or even if it matters. And as they unfold — on a journey across America, into the past, and into a future that may never come — father and daughter start to find their way toward understanding each other once again.

Lyrical, seductive and utterly compelling, All That’s Left To Tell is a novel about second chances and the stories we tell to make sense of ourselves.

Quotes from the book:

“The blindfold left him increasingly vulnerable to memory because he couldn’t use his vision to distract himself with objects in the room.”

You know, you have those days in your life, and mostly it’s when you’re looking back, But every now and then, even at the time you’re living it, living in that minute, you say to yourself, ‘Well, I’ll just stay right here.’

“So when my father died, what happened is like you have Interstate 80 stretched out over a lifetime. But all those hours, all those weeks and months where nothing was happening, where you were living your life without even thinking about him, those spaces fall away, and the memories you do have slam into each other, one after another, and they’re moving too fast to stop.”

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A Line Made By Walking

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Sara Baume

First Sentence:     Today, in the newspaper, a photograph of tribesmen in the Amazon rainforest.

Back of the book:

Struggling to cope with urban life – and with life in general – Frankie, a twenty-something artist, retreats to the rural bungalow on ‘turbine hill’ that has been vacant since her grandmother’s death three years earlier. It is in this space, surrounded by nature, that she hopes to regain her footing in art and life. She spends her days pretending to read, half-listening to the radio, failing to muster the energy needed to leave the safety of her haven. Her family come and go, until they don’t and she is left alone to contemplate the path that led her here, and the smell of the carpet that started it all.

Finding little comfort in human interaction, Frankie turns her camera lens on the natural world and its reassuring cycle of life and death. What emerges is a profound meditation on the interconnectedness of wilderness, art and individual experience, and a powerful exploration of human frailty.

Quotes from the book:

“Objects don’t seem incongruous if they’ve been there forever; doings don’t seem ridiculous if they’ve been done that way forever.”

The ability to talk to people: that’s the key to the world. It doesn’t matter whether you are able to articulate your own thoughts and feelings and meanings or not. What matters is being able to make the noises which encourage others to feel comfortable, and the inquiries which present them with the opportunity to articulate their thoughts and feelings and meanings, the particulars of their existences, their passions, preoccupations, beliefs. If you can talk to other people in this way, you can go—you can get—anywhere in this world, in life.

“We used to share the same bathwater, I think, and yet now, somehow, it has become awkward just to say goodbye.”

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Blue Light Yokohama

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Nicolás Obregón

First Sentence:     The cable car pulled away, carrying one last load of tourists up into the warm dusk.

Back of the book:

Inspector Kosuke Iwata, newly transferred to Tokyo’s homicide department, is assigned a new partner and a secondhand case.

Blunt, hard as nails and shunned by her colleagues, Assistant Inspector Noriko Sakai is a partner Iwata decides it would be unwise to cross.

A case that’s complicated – a family of four murdered in their own home by a killer who then ate ice cream, surfed the web and painted a hideous black sun on the bedroom ceiling before he left in broad daylight. A case that so haunted the original investigator that he threw himself off the city’s famous Rainbow Bridge.

Carrying his own secret torment, Iwata is no stranger to pain. He senses the trauma behind the killer’s brutal actions. Yet his progress is thwarted in the unlikeliest of places.

Fearing corruption among his fellow officers, tracking a killer he’s sure is only just beginning and trying to put his own shattered life back together, Iwata knows time is running out before he’s taken off the case or there are more killings . . .

Blue Light Yokohama is crime fiction at its very best – gripping, haunting, atmospheric and utterly captivating.

Quotes from the book:

But there was an angry addict inside him who did not want to start again. An angry drunk who could not be reasoned with. Like a great tide, the warmth would drag him under and toss him back somewhere else, far, far away, flotsam on the surface of an unwanted life.

“When he had first shown her the lighthouse, they had looked at it for a long time, a lonely quirk against the mulberry twilight. They make me feel sad, she had said. They care about you but all they do is tell you to stay away. Kosuke hadn’t replied.”

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Lincoln In The Bardo

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George Saunders

First Sentence:    On our wedding day I was forty-six, she was eighteen.

Back of the book:

The American Civil War rages while President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son lies gravely ill. In a matter of days, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns to the crypt several times alone to hold his boy’s body.

From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself trapped in a transitional realm – called, in Tibetan tradition, the bardo – and as ghosts mingle, squabble, gripe and commiserate, and stony tendrils creep towards the boy, a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Unfolding over a single night, Lincoln in the Bardo is written with George Saunders’ inimitable humour, pathos and grace. Here he invents an exhilarating new form, and is confirmed as one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Deploying a theatrical, kaleidoscopic panoply of voices – living and dead, historical and fictional – Lincoln in the Bardo poses a timeless question: how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?

Thoughts:

Rarely have I seen a book that has been praised as enthusiastically as this one. It seems that every time I hear it mentioned people are commenting on how it is a masterpiece/already their book of the year/ the perfect novel etc. I have read some of Saunders’ short stories in the past and was blown away by his skills as a writer. Not surprisingly I was genuinely excited about the prospect of this book; pre-publication buzz was off the scale and it looks and sounds incredible. I have to say though I was massively disappointed. I just genuinely do not understand what all the fuss is about, and am at a loss to find anything remotely enjoyable in this reading experience. Not one I’ll be going back to any time soon.

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