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A Naked Singularity: A Novel Paperback – April 19, 2012
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"A Naked Singularity is not about physics. It's about the American criminal justice system in a large and chaotic city, a place slowly crushed by hopelessness in the same way that an ancient star is gradually crushed by gravity. . . . The novel is a densely packed and offhandedly poetic 678 pages. . . . It is about a city that teeters on the edge of total collapse and complete disaster, but that has the capacity to right itself (whew!) at the last possible second. . . . The novel is a cross between Moby-Dick and Police Academy. Between Descartes and Disneyland. Between Henry James and Henry Winkler." (Julia Keller Chicago Tribune)
"This book is ambitious. It's 678 octavo pages--about 13,000 tweets. It's the sort of book you write if you're not sure anyone will ever let you write another one. . . . Even while the lives it describes are often bleak, the book is funny, consistently so. . . . The heist is discussed so exhaustively that when it finally transpires it's thrilling. Casi's defendants, all messes, are lovely and authentic. I could have done with a whole book about them, or rather I enjoyed the whole book about them I read in the middle of this much larger book about other things. A story of a death penalty case begins drenched in irony and grows ever more serious. . . . It's a fine thing for an author to bring forth something so unapologetically maximalist."
(Paul Ford Slate)
"One of the best and most original novels of the decade. . . . It's one of those fantastic, big, messy books like Darconville's Cat or Infinite Jest or Women and Men, though it's not really like any of those books or those writers. . . . . But see here: I refuse to divulge too much of the plot, because watching it unfold is one of the great joys of the novel. . . . . What I keep coming back to is the audacity of this novel, which is truly a towering, impressive work--De La Pava's not hesitant to break and then mirror the narrative with the story of professional boxer Wilfred Benitez, or insert a recipe, none of which hinder the narrative but rather shape the entirety of the book, making the actual story and its effect on the characters (and the characters' actions that shape the story, et cetera) more profound. . . . If you like The Wire, if you like rewarding, difficult fiction, if you like literary, high-quality artistic and hilarious yet moving novels that are difficult to put down, I can’t recommend A Naked Singularity enough."
(Scott Bryan Wilson The Quarterly Conversation)
"I strongly encourage you to overcome whatever hesitation the phrase 700-page self-published novel may inspire in you and pick it up. It is a beautiful monster of a book, a novel that left this reviewer, at least, feeling like maybe there's some point in reading novels--and writing them--after all." (Paul La Farge Barnes and Noble Review)
"'Buzz' is a dirty word in reviewing circles, being a close cousin to 'hype' and often having the same air about it of ad copy generated by publicity departments. It's the kind of word that should put you immediately on guard: Just where is this buzz coming from? Who is doing the buzzing? That said, sometimes buzz can be a good thing. Sergio De La Pava's A Naked Singularity is a case in point. . . . A Naked Singularity is . . . a great American novel: large, ambitious, and full of talk. . . . We can be thankful that this time the buzz did its work."
"When I started reading A Naked Singularity, after a page or two I realized I was going to love it--and I did--but why? I've never sat down to analyze what it is that makes me read a book voraciously from cover to cover, fretting when I have to put it down and longing through the day to get back to it. I like, admire, appreciate a whole range of books and am happy to devote my time and attention to them, but the ones that take me over are rarer. . . . Casi's voice is astonishing, cynical but compassionate, alive to the ridiculous and the pitiful and the horrific but never losing its commitment to morality."
(Lian Hearn, author of Tales of the Otori)
A Philadelphia City Paper Book of the Year
"Exuberant, hyperverbal . . . a minor masterpiece of humor, paranoia, and even flashy technique."
(Philadelphia City Paper)
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Top Customer Reviews
Let me explain. Some entertainments are race cars; some are watches. All stories are wheels. In a plot driven entertainment, the wheels hit the road spinning as fast as they can to get you from point A to point B. (The fastest plots, like formula ones, drive you in a circle to the starting line.) In a clockwork entertainment, there are wheels within wheels: the stories interlock like the gears of a clock, and the point is to tell you what time it is now. This is the difference between, for instance, "Law and Order" and "The Wire."
In this context "A Naked Singularity" is a Rolex, a Breguet, a Patek Phillipe. As befits a tale of clients and lawyers, most of the book is people telling stories to each other. All of them (people and stories) are fascinating, complex, and unpredictable. This book is more educational than two years in law school and more fun than a weekend in New York. In addition to the sausage making of our courts, it contains one of the worst blind dates in literature, the best immigrant musical number since "West Side Story" (and that being a fugue for single voices, also owes a debt to "Fidelio,") and startling scatological riffs worthy of Mozart.Read more ›
But what if one wrote so well that it all works?
That is the case here. Sergio de la Pava writing, pace, creativity and storytelling in combination delivers one of my favorite books for 2012.
Casi is a Public Defender in New York City. The setting appears to be late 1990's but with a few IT references that hint of editing right up to his self publishing date of 2008.
Chapter one is a priceless education in what (may) really happen to the charged and incarcerated in our Criminal Justice System. We meet his half dozen "clients" on a typical day, the crimes, the negotiations, what prosecutors, police, judges and defense attorneys are thinking. All while the largely clueless and lost defendants try to figure out what's just happened. It's a whirlwind, eye opening satire on a system that doesn't seem to work well for anyone.
Casi's life is a mix of his worklife, couch potato friends in Brooklyn Heights and his colorful immigrant family from Colombia now settled in Jersey City. He's 24 and already working for 2 years as a lawyer suggesting he was a brilliant student that burned through college and law school.Read more ›
Writing a review for this book is complicated. I think I'm just going to throw out a jumble of thoughts that explain why I reduced my first impression (copied at the bottom) to 3 stars from 4 stars.
First a summary for those not familiar with the story: Casi is a young public defense attorney in NY who's tries to save poor addicts and dealers and the like from prison, he's smarter than everyone else, he tries to save a death row inmate in Alabama, he gets caught up in a heist, he talks about various subjects like the concept of perfection, and he talks a lot about boxing champions.
Now my thoughts:
1) The first third of the book is great. So well written, such amazing detail about NY courts, and so clever and witty. After that first third, it's just another case of feeling like the author ran out of material and doesn't know what to write about. He's still clever and witty, but it's going nowhere. Some discursive ramblings are interesting, some are boring. Then he starts in with a plot, as if he knew he wasn't going anywhere and had to introduce something. It was a good plot, but it would've helped to introduce it earlier to make a more cohesive story.
2) The boxing references go from interesting to just sounding like statistics. In the end he ties it together, but I think the book could've used some editing for this and other loose areas.
3) My most important thought: All the characters sound exactly the same. They're all philosophical. They all have the same speech. Casi is an interesting character, I'm sure Sergio is an interesting guy, so it's a good read. But you have to make your characters sound different, at least so we know who's talking.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the best book I have read for 40 years and I am an avid but fussy reader. To me its as crazily clever and moving as Catch-22. Read morePublished 1 month ago by IPL
This book starts out as authentic as good be about the life of a public defender. It then takes a crazy turn which I liked, but you should be ready for.Published 1 month ago by Alex Perlin
Greatest novel of this new century! An eclectic blend of James Joyce, Henry Miller, and Ernest Hemingway. Most realistic depiction of a public defender ever.Published 2 months ago by Gary Ray Betz
What is called a "difficult" novel, such as this one, is a euphemism for a book that's hard to follow. Read morePublished 4 months ago by David Eubanks
Intellectual, often disjointed, extraordinarily literate and captivating. An intriguing read. A different sense than Joyce, but Finnegans Wakelike. An unexpected finis.Published 12 months ago by Eugenia J Dowling
Maybe I was very tired when I tried to read this but I found it too dense. It needed a good editor as the writer definitely has talent ! I'd try his next onePublished 17 months ago by reviewer1
I liked this exuberant debut. It has been a great success from humble, self-published beginnings and gives hope to every nascent author out there with a decent idea and dedication... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Skidge