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53 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh New Chestnuts
"A Naked Singularity" is the greatest lawyer novel since "To Kill a Mockingbird," the best originally self-published novel since "Youth In Revolt," and the third big fat great novel of this century after "Europe Central" and "The Instructions." The set-up is pure Grisham, a brilliant young public defender finds himself involved in. . .(and so on), but the whole is so much...
Published on April 24, 2012 by Dmitry Portnoy

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A talented first novel
Full Review:
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...
Published on August 24, 2012 by Jeremy


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53 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh New Chestnuts, April 24, 2012
By 
Dmitry Portnoy (Studio City, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: A Naked Singularity: A Novel (Paperback)
"A Naked Singularity" is the greatest lawyer novel since "To Kill a Mockingbird," the best originally self-published novel since "Youth In Revolt," and the third big fat great novel of this century after "Europe Central" and "The Instructions." The set-up is pure Grisham, a brilliant young public defender finds himself involved in. . .(and so on), but the whole is so much more, the way Dante's Inferno is more than a horror-coaster ride through hell.

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. It is also the Burj Dubai of comedy, from the anchor pilings driven into bedrock (where bad stuff literally hits the fan) to the stratospheric helipad (where Nietzsche disses Wagner amidst musings on string theory.)

For a while, the reader is distracted by all these inter- and dis-connected stories, as the book keeps introducing (seemingly random) variables (never constants.) Then about a third of the way through, you get a glimpse of the whole equation, and your jaw drops. The alarm rings on the clock. And you wake up in a race car rocketing along a roller coaster.

Because a great novel can be both a race car and a watch. Actually, a great novel can be everything.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite novel of 2012, November 13, 2012
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Digital Rights (Newtown/Fairfield CT) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Naked Singularity: A Novel (Paperback)
I loved this book. It's broad, deep, smart but not smarmy, intelligent and witty without the cyncism that often follows. Some have said it's a typical college try at the great American novel. I thought about that as there's no doubt that Sergio de la Pava has thrown everything that a pop culture raised, self aware young twenties male might come across in the late 1990's; Honeymooners reruns, the existence of god, the great boxers of the 1980, drug dealers, the criminal justice system, the big bang theory, the only hysterical scatalogical vignette that I've ever read and on and on. And that's not even the plot!

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.

The story goes in so many interesting directions and digressions which all worked for me. I loved even his recounting of 1980's welterweight boxing history. He wrote it better than any hack sportswriter.

For a long story it's well paced, often very funny, always witty and a wonderful expose of one man's 1990's New York life.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A talented first novel, August 24, 2012
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This review is from: A Naked Singularity: A Novel (Paperback)
Full Review:
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. The best dialogue is in court where there's Casi and the judges and criminals and lawyers who act as a foil for his cleverness. Outside of that, everyone is philosophical and clever and rambles in the same way. You have no idea who's talking.

To sum up, it's a good first novel. I think De La Pava could be a great writer if he keeps at it. But for this book, the beginning was great (everything about court and his family), the end was good (the plot, the themes tying together), and the middle was a bunch of different characters all sounding the same, philosophizing about random things that aren't as clever as they sound.

First Impressions:
I'm reading this book now and I think so far the book can be summed up in one word: clever. The writer is very, very clever. Very intelligent, erudite. And the flow of the writing is just impressive. I wouldn't compare Sergio De La Pava to David Foster Wallace at all. I couldn't finish Infinite Jest, and DFW's writing bored me to death. I think Sergio is much more like Saul Bellow: every sentence is filled with detail and color and sarcasm and cleverness. It's the kind of book in which your first thought is, this writer is smart. I hope the rest of the book stays this good.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Entertaining and Brilliant, July 31, 2009
This review is from: A Naked Singularity (Paperback)
A Naked Singularity One of the most creative books I have ever read. I could not put this book down for two weeks. It is a dramatic and humorous look into the life of a young attorney as his life takes a twist into the unknown. All of the characters in this novel help to shape the brilliant and provoking dialogue, in what amounts to non stop banter that will leave you riveted. This was Law And Order meets The Honeymooners meets Ring Magazine meets The Sting. I could feel all of the character's emotions spilling off of the pages. On top of that, the author took me back to my favorite era in boxing, triggering some wonderful memories. The conclusion of this read left me with one question for the rookie author......when can we expect a follow up effort from De La Pava???
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every day running out of more time, February 12, 2013
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New York is over. Nobody lives there any more. It is too crowded.

Almost 700 pages. Almost perfect. 'Linguistic energy and grim hilarity'. That's how one of the professional reviewers, quoted on the book page, described this novel.

A sprawling assembly of monologues, dialogues and stream of consciousness, in the mind of Casi, a young Colombian attorney in Manhattan. Not to be dismissed as sophomore prose. There is a whiff of silly writing, but it is also competent and well organized. It is a great reading pleasure. The pleasure is increased by various alternative language injections into the narrator's amusingly young English. The pidgin English of his immigrant mother. The vulgarities of his clients. The absurdity of legalese. Some Spanish. Some boxing history.

The world according to an overworked underpaid 24 y old in New York, a public defense attorney with an overflowing case load and impossible hours. His cases are mostly black juveniles or Hispanics, and the majority are drug related, part of the lunacy that is called the War on Drugs.

His apartment neighbors a bunch of crazy students. One mile to walk across Brooklyn Bridge between Manhattan office and court and Brooklyn apartment. His cynical world views, and yet he is a man willing to do the right thing. The workings of the law, judges, DAs, arrests, attorneys, clients, arraignments, holding cells, probation, trials, plea bargains, felonies and misdemeanors, fugitive warrants, drug users and HIV carriers. Pro bono work on a hopeless death penalty case in Alabama. And a big heist with much bloodshed.

A crime novel indeed. Big and small crime. Dealing to undercover agents. Raping homeless women. Selling goods in the subway without license. Open beer cans in public parks. Illegal immigrants. Vandalism. Petty violence. Major violence. Murder, hold ups, kidnapping. Burglaries.Robberies. Who wants to live in this world? Well, who gets to choose?

This is not just impressionist voyeurism. This is a splendid tour de force through worlds that most of us don't know much about first hand and don't want to. But it is there and dipping into it is easy and dangerous. Some of us enjoy consuming fictionalized bits and pieces in movies and novels. Why, this here is of course also fiction, though it has the feeling of truth.

It does something to a person to constantly deal with people who have made a mess of their lives. Our hero compensates by philosophizing and bee-essing. Few of the characters in the story, the colleagues or clients or neighbors or friends, acquire a real individual personality. That seems realistic, considering that the narrator's existence has qualities of a zombie life. He has no time even to understand himself, how can he show us full pictures of others.

Rewarding and entertaining novel. Stylistically surefooted, which cannot be taken for granted. There seems to be a growing body of strong Hispanic writing in the US.
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27 of 35 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Huge ambition and potential squandered by too much cheap posturing, September 18, 2012
This review is from: A Naked Singularity: A Novel (Paperback)
It's definitely not the next step in big 'difficult' American novels that a lot of critics are making it out to be, but A Naked Singularity certainly falls somewhere within the continuum of large, maximalist/hysterical fiction that writers like Pynchon, Foster-Wallace and Delillo have made so popular. De La Pava obviously has the insider knowledge as a public defender to skewer and satirize the NYC criminal justice system from now until judgement day, and the best parts of the book are when he's using Casi (who is really more of a narrative voice than an actual main character/protagonist) to ridicule and belittle the gross hypocrisy and incompetence that we all probably already suspect any old institution to be rife with at this stage in history. Unfortunately De La Pava spends a lot of time (especially in the bloated and tedious middle part of the book) hewing away from what he's good at and forcing us to endure a sort of checklist of contemporary literary themes as rendered between Casi and the cynical, jaded, not-quite-there-enough-to-be-actual-characters who populate his world. A contemplation on life and death? Check. A contemplation on perfection? Check. A contemplation on randomness and chance? Check. A contemplation on god/the universe/the meaning of life? Check. A contemplation on our relationship to entertainment and media? Double Check. It's like listening to every serious late night conversation you ever had when you were a smart freshman in college. Which would be fine I guess, except that the book doesn't ever really (for me at least) add up to more than that. And a lot of those conversations feel so pro forma, so like something you read in a bad Don Delillo novel years ago, that it feels more like someone jumping through the hoops of what they think good literature should be instead of taking the risk and actually trying to write something that belongs to them. But look, in spite of that, there are moments of powerful, beautiful writing in here, they are just marred down by insubstantial characters and a plot that doesn't seem to care if it gets totally hijacked by cheap philosophical introspection. It's De La Pava's first novel for god sakes, and it is obviously the work of an ambitious intelligence that wants to say a lot about our world. Who knows? Maybe his next book will hit it totally out of the park and slay us all. He could be that good one day, with a lot of work and dedication. But I don't think he's there now.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine and highly recommended read, May 6, 2009
This review is from: A Naked Singularity (Hardcover)
What's behind the nature of selfishness? "A Naked Singularity" is a novel about boxer Wilfred Benitez. Using Benitez as the stage, author Sergio De La Pava writes a story that gives readers something to think about. Speaking on the nature of evil, human nature, psychology, Hispanic life, and much more, Pava picks at the readers mind as the story rolls on and hopes to leave them wiser having read it. "A Naked Singularity" is a fine and highly recommended read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Huge Ambition, No Reward, October 14, 2013
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Being from Latin America myself, I was interested by the attention some Colombian guy was getting for his indie published work "A Naked Singularity". I thought: "Hell, maybe this guy is a new Junot Diaz or something". So I bought the book, started it and dropped it the same day at around page 90, when I just couldn't keep it going. It seems De La Pava strived for something huge, and while I admire what he tried to do, it just doesn't come out well. If you wanna play with grammar, punctuation and syntax, go ahead: if you are a genius like Cormac McCarthy that comes out wonderfully. If you are not though, it may come out like this. Those first 90 pages or so I didn't know where the dialogue ended and the narration began, what was the point of the history of what was happening 90% of the time. Some dialogues were introduced with " ", while others simple weren't. It seems there was no coherency on the writing style whatsoever, just blurted out idea after idea with no sense or plot.
I won't be giving this book another chance. That is my experience with this book though, and I guess some people look at it differently. All I can safely say is that I feel De La Pava tried to do "an important" novel; to come out with something great. Like Bukowski said: "if you are gonna type, make it a heavyweight fight". De La Pava does, but this is a match he ended up losing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant rocket-ride of a novel, September 9, 2013
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This is the best new novel I have read in years. It is like a brilliant comet streaking through your head. It is also pretty much unlike anything else I have read. Critics have dragged out all the postmodern suspects for comparison, Robert Coover, William Gaddis, Thomas Pynchon, the dreadful David Foster Wallace... Time to stop beating these dead horses; de la Pava is unlike all of these models, and "A Naked Singularity" is the better for it.

My list of authors that came to mind is crazier: Thomas Love Peacock, Junot Diaz, James McCourt, John Kennedy Toole. James Ellroy. But this list still does inadequate justice to de la Pava's remarkable book.

Where to begin? Well, this is a novel narrated by Casi (Spanish for "almost," what his mother kept telling nurses when they asked for the new-born's name), Casi, a very young and very smart Manhattan public defender, of Colombian immigrant origin. There is a crime novel somewhere in here. I think. But this isn't a book read for the common thrills of genre literature. We learn enormous amounts of information about a broken legal system, but again, this isn't the point.

What we have is Casi's brain, running at a million miles an hour, pretty much spilling out thoughts a little faster than he can think them. The only word I can come up with to describe the style is "headlong." We rush breathless through his funny, sad, scary pages, trying to keep up. I kept wondering if de la Pava could pull it off, and he does, barely. People have complained that the book is too digressive, which misses the point completely; this is like moaning about "Tristram Shandy" not getting to the point. "A Naked Singularity," the entire book, is one long digression, or hundreds of digressions, including some of the weirdest and most wonderful conversations ever written down. This is a novel of logical intellectual exaggeration.

He drops the ball, once, horribly, in Chapter 25, and tosses in an insult at the reader for good measure. I forgave him half-way through the first page of Chapter 26.

One particularly pleasing thing: I don't know how long de la Pava worked on this book; it seems to be set in about 2000. No smart phones, no i-anythings, hardly any computers. Oh, he tosses in a few anachronistic items to act like he is au courant, like the high-speed wireless connection in the supremely odd Orchard hotel scene. But he doesn't mean it. The astounding conversations take place in the flesh, face to face. No computers. There is even a fax machine. Bliss; I fear every novel will soon be like every teevee drama, where nine-tenths of the "action" is people texting, people yakking on their phones, people wasting their lives on social media, while life around them becomes more and more like a stupid video game. Not so this book; it is a supremely human endeavor.

All I can suggest, urge, you to do is to read the first few pages previewed. If you get it, get it. And there is also a very tempting empanada recipe.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scatalogical Apocalypse, May 3, 2012
This review is from: A Naked Singularity: A Novel (Paperback)
Over the centuries secret texts have been disseminated by stealth, often more rumor than parchment, considered heretical, too radical for broad dissemination. Sergio De La Pava's A Naked Singularity, self-published in 2008, seems to have become one of those texts, a tome that once it is discovered sends shockwaves through the literary establishment, garnering positive comparisons to such leading lights as Wallace, Pynchon and Gaddis and inspiring fan status from such respected websites as the Quarterly Conversation, Conversational Reading, Known Unknowns and 21C.

Comparisons to Wallace's Infinite Jest are inevitable. At 689 pages it is a sprawling maelstrom of ideas that bullets along with a narrative that has more in common with a Neal Stephenson epic such as Cryptonomicon. Like Infinite Jest and Don DeLillo's Underworld De La Pava's tale has a sport motif. But Wallace's tennis fixation, and DeLillo's powerful baseball setting, pale beside De La Pava's orgasmic boxing tableaux.

On the surface ANS could be described as a legal thriller, but one injected with musings about the nature of Television (always capitalized), pure courtroom slapstick that recalls Pynchon at his best (and a truly laugh out loud moment of scatological grotesqurie). There are musings on the Human Genome Project and a moment of correspondence between our protagonist, the long suffering Casi, and a death row inmate that is as moving as Wallace at his best. There's enough paranoia for one to be reminded of a Philip K. Dick story and enough surrealism to keep a David Lynch fan content. It is both preposterous and profound, a philosophical thriller if you will set in a very gritty and very cold New York City haunted by a Golem-like creature that is depicted as a black void which could only be defeated by a naked singularity.

Indeed, the title of the book becomes key to the strange sense of Apocalypse that grows throughout its pages. A singularity is a theory utilized in general relativity referring to the event horizon in a black hole where the gravitational force of the singularity is so powerful that light cannot escape. Thus, the singularity cannot be directly observed. A naked singularity, by contrast, is clearly observable. The theoretical existence of naked singularities would mean that it would be possible to observe the collapse of an object to infinite density. This would cause chaos for the theory of general relativity because in the presence of a naked singularity, general relativity cannot predict the future evolution of space-time. In De La Pava's alternate world one suspects that many of the strange occurrences in his tome are indeed the consequence of an impending naked singularity. To say more would ruin one of the finest endings to a novel ever rendered.
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A Naked Singularity: A Novel
A Naked Singularity: A Novel by Sergio de la Pava (Paperback - April 19, 2012)
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