A Naked Singularity
By Sergio De La Pava
(University Of Chicago Press, Paperback, 9780226141794, 688pp.)
Publication Date: May 2012
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A Naked Singularity tells the story of Casi, a child of Colombian immigrants who lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan as a public defender--one who, tellingly has never lost a trial. Never. In the book, we watch what happens when his sense of justice and even his sense of self begin to crack--and how his world then slowly devolves. It’s a huge, ambitious novel clearly in the vein of DeLillo, Foster Wallace, Pynchon, and even Melville, and it's told in a distinct, frequently hilarious voice, with a striking human empathy at its center. Its panoramic reach takes readers through crime and courts, immigrant families and urban blight, media savagery and media satire, scatology and boxing, and even a breathless heist worthy of any crime novel. If Infinite Jest stuck a pin in the map of mid-90s culture and drew our trajectory from there, A Naked Singularity does the same for the feeling of surfeit, brokenness, and exhaustion that permeates our civic and cultural life today. In the opening sentence of William Gaddis’s A Frolic of His Own, a character sneers, "Justice? You get justice in the next world. In this world, you get the law." A Naked Singularity reveals the extent of that gap, and lands firmly on the side of those who are forever getting the law.
Sergio De La Pava is a writer who does not live in Brooklyn.
"Sergio De La Pava brings linguistic energy and grim hilarity to this furious novel about the dysfunctional criminal-justice system. His novel evokes such maximalist masterpieces of the 1970s as Robert Coover's Public Burning and William Gaddis's J R--he has Coover's rage and Gaddis's ear--yet also grapples with current issues hot off the AP wire. Socially engaged, formally inventive, and intellectually challenging, A Naked Singularity is a remarkable performance." --Steven Moore, author of The Novel: An Alternative History
"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
"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
"Casi's voice is the combination of brashness and world-weary humanity you'd find in a cynic who'd been scratched to reveal the disappointed idealist beneath. . . . The whole feels like The Recognitions as legal thriller, a glorious mess with dashes of Powers, minor Pynchon, and White Noise, among many others. . . . [I]n its ambitions and shortcomings and shaggy glory, A Naked Singularity is perhaps most reminiscent of The Broom of the System. So that bodes well."
"A Naked Singularity looks like an unreadable brick, bloated at 700 pages and likely dense with esoterica. Instead it is a fine encyclopedic romp in the Joyce/Pynchon/Wallace tradition, one with an effortless flow and arresting setting: the American judicial system as vortical funhouse."
"The manic prose fights viciously against an ultimate collapse of good into evil--but not only is there no escape; there was never any such thing."