switterbug (Betsey)'s Reviews > A Naked Singularity

A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava
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Apr 30, 12

Read on April 18, 2012

This blazing, colossal creation was originally self-published by a vanity press in 2008, and left to hang in obscurity for four years. Here’s the author’s bio:

“Sergio De La Pava is a writer who does not live in Brooklyn.”

Consider that Brooklyn is the writer’s writers’ colony of Pulitzer and other award-stamped writers, the borough of billboard blockbusters and earnest publicity favorites scratching out their lines between the lines of the backlit white box. And, all this time, La Pava was under the radar, his brain a sapient submarine with the torqued turbines whirring, writing the most spectacular linguistic blitzkrieg of a novel that I have encountered in the past decade (or more). Too bad publicity counts for so much, because the only introduction he needs is this phenomenal, audacious, achingly humane book to speak for itself.

It reads like defiance with a deep, scalding, tender, moral center. As in David Foster Wallace’s INFINITE JEST, it is full of subversive philosophical digressions and anarchic linguistic feats, while invoking the acute probity that penetrated and pervaded Wallace’s seminal work of postmodern fiction. But he does not mimic DFW. De La Pava has his own style that also pays homage to Wallace, as well as others such as Pynchon and Gaddis, but other than recognizing that he is the literary stepson or nephew or cousin to this group of writers, you observe that he is the master of his own insurgent narrative.

How refreshing that the back cover of the novel doesn’t spell out the plot and spoil the adventure of discovery. My intention is to just give a whiff, provoke you to read this book. If you like unconventional, genre-bending, linguistic acrobatics, you’ll delight in this novel. De La Pava combines a bracing book of ideas with a thrilling crime caper, which is at the root of the novel’s digressions. So if you also want a driven, page-turning, heated suspense, you will be blissed out with the white-knuckle, fist-clenching plot at the center of the story.

You follow twenty-four-year-old Casi (no last name given) in every scene, a brilliant public defender in the Manhattan criminal justice system, circa 2002 (but it never states that). There’s lots of dialogue—it actually begins with a typical day at work for Casi, with dialogue as the main narrative thrust, and the injustices of the justice system a scorching context that is so absurd as to be authentic. Wait—actually, it is so authentic as to be absurd. Anyway, it is ripe and thoroughly engaging with easy access right from the pages to the courthouse. If you like THE WIRE, you will like this breezy but blistering exchange of voices. Casi’s negotiations with drug-addled, impoverished criminals and nefarious judges illuminate just how inverted and perverted morality and justice can be. It’s an unfiltered colloquy that self-critiques with its nakedness, and reads unplugged like the basement tapes of the New York justice system.

Don’t forget it has a sinewy, chewy center. You won’t be able to breathe as you get nearer and nearer and then immerse in the wily, implausible, but believable and mad, madcap, tense, intense, heart-racing, unstoppable mischievous pole vault of tomfoolery at its core. Oh, and the beauty, the unutterable beauty of the novel as a whole.

De La Pava’s novel radiates a rogue nobility and optimism through all the muck--humanity eclipsing the corruption and toxicity of bureaucracy and entertainment, Television with a capital T, justice with a capital punishment. It hits the upper and lower registers of the heart and soul with a moving potency. De La Pava can talk about anything and make it interesting. I am now well-informed about middleweight boxing, a sport I had no interest in before, but the author blends it in like allegory.

Casi is flawed, as are all these true-to-life and larger-than-life characters, but graced with a clemency and charm that is displayed when he is with his family, mostly Colombian immigrants with a rich vernacular and sumptuous recipe for empanadas. Casi’s interactions with family serve as a luminous contrast to his work life, adding a dimension of emotional vulnerability to Casi’s character that also kindles and reflects his conscience.

Imagine what this encyclopedic novel can encompass and it is probably there. Philosophy, media, crime, entertainment, love, intelligence, The Honeymooners, boxing, psychology, physics and more. The author navigates the 21st century without including cell phones, computers (and emails), and no mention of 9/11! Yay!

This book is a recipe for singular pleasure, enjoyable whether naked or clothed. Remarkable, towering, darkly comical, heartbreaking. Free of petty homilies and clichés, leave your platitudes at the door.
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Reading Progress

04/18/2012 page 30
4.0% "I'm in a nakedly anarchistic mood, seeking edgy, brutal realities. I'll give this is a go! Been waiting for this one to come."
04/21/2012 page 181
26.0% "Author is a cousin or nephew or step brother to David Foster Wallace but his own author, also. I am putty in his hands. Probably going to be my most loved book of the year."
04/28/2012 page 689
100.0% "Review pending. Is there such thing as 6 stars?"

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie Great, another encyclopedic novel that is irresistible! I see it still has only 4 reviews on Amazon, what a shame - but then, I've never heard of this book until now either.

switterbug (Betsey) Yes, this is a terrific novel. Since you are now reading IJ, I can tell you that this is more accessible--no footnotes, less obscure erudition, such as--no German avant garde films!

message 3: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Sounds like fun...and Brooklyn rules!

message 4: by Steve (new)

Steve This one is generating quite a buzz, and now I can see why. Your review makes it sound great. You would have had me even without the ties to IJ and The Wire, but now I'm really excited.

message 5: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Paganus This review is so brilliant I want to read 700 pages of you.

switterbug (Betsey) Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!

message 7: by Bill (new) - added it

Bill another truly excellent review! i just got this in the mail too!

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