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A Naked Singularity: A Novel Paperback – April 19, 2012
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"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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A NAKED SINGULARITY -- A book of 864 pages I wish had been even longer. One of those rare novels you don't want to end. A classic post-modern novel dabbling in everything but the kitchen sink: astrophysics, boxing, chess, philosophy, law, New York blackout, the criminal justice system, a daring heist, the Honeymooners and Ralph Kramden. Unlike a lot of post-modern novels, though, which have no discernible plot, there is something of a plot that propels this novel, a bold heist, the elusive “perfect” crime.
First-time author De La Pava could not find a publisher for A NAKED SINGULARITY, so he self-published it in 2008. Through word-of-mouth buzz, the novel was finally picked up by University of Chicago Press, and now retains cult status.
For an 864-page novel, it moves swiftly, primarily on a dialogue based form. The writing is at times witty, madcap, inventive. The protagonist, the narrator, is a young New York City attorney known to us only as Casi. As the novel opens, he’d never lost a case, which is saying something since he defends the down-and-out, the feeble-minded, those least able to navigate the justice system. Through Casi we learn the ins-and-out of the New York criminal system, with all its flaws, loopholes and injustices. When one of his clients, a petty druggie named DeLeon, tells him inside information about a huge drug deal about to go down, Dane, one of Casi’s colleagues obsessed with “perfection,” tries to convince Casi that they should rip off the drug dealers. At the same time, Casi is trying to save a mentally challenged client from the electric chair. What transpires I’ll leave to you to find out. But it’s great.
I loved this book.
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.
The leading character in this word fest, Casi (pretentiously with no last name), is a public defender who is unbelievably convinced that he is the best such that the world has ever seen. His every moment is spent in an attempt to prove this, even when his actions work to the detriment of his clients. His total lack of connection to the real world puts him at odds with, well, most of the real world. He isn't surprised about this since he fails to recognize the possibility he could be anything except the darling of the world. Guess who really isn't.
He likes to relive the boxing career of Wilfred Benitez in his mind. I'm guessing that he senses some connection between himself and the former world champion. Casi's misconception of the world, his place in it and even that of his clients leads him from one ridiculous situation to the next. His high moral ground makes him tell people it's all about the clients. It's not. Guess who it is all about.
In spite of this character that I totally and completely disliked, there were some interesting and likable people in the book. Some were given some great lines by the author. And, some of them did all they could to either help Casi completely ruin himself while others tried to actually help him wake up and smell the real world that was closing in around him. Guess which group he pays attention to.
My favorite character had to be Angus. In the midst of all the confusion in the world; and all the comings and goings of the residents of the rooming house they shared with Casi; Angus managed to keep a firm grip on his reality and his version of sanity. A few other bit players showed an ability to be totally inane yet stay more in touch with reality than Casi. You'll never guess the real reason for my liking Angus.
The wordplay of the author was amazingly inventive and fun. Many, many passages had to be read more than once to fully enjoy the creativity. The entire book is filled with humor - of the intelligent kind. Though this is nearly 700 pages long, and though some passages could have been cut shorter without loss of meaning, there was virtually no "fluff". The pages were made up of what he had to say rather than a concern for page or word count. Guess what I liked most about the book.
The previous paragraph explains my reason for the five stars; even with my not liking Casi. I refuse to guess whether the author meant for it to be that way.