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A Naked Singularity: A Novel Paperback – 11 May 2012

34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 696 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (11 May 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226141799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226141794
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 593,520 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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"

From the Inside Flap

Casi is a 24-year-old public defender working on the front line of America's War on Drugs. So far he's on the winning side. He's never lost a case. But nothing lasts forever, and pride like his has a long way to fall. Funny, smart and always surprising, A Naked Singularity speaks a language all of its own and reads like nothing else ever written. In De La Pava's hands, the labyrinthine miseries of the New York Justice System are as layered and diabolical as Dante's nine circles of Hell. But the Devil doesn't hog the best lines. There are plenty here to go around.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Sue Kichenside TOP 500 REVIEWER on 2 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Invest in some wrist supports or download. This book is 860 pages - 860 pages! - of such singularly good writing that you may even wish it were longer.

24-year old New York public defender Casi is like a young Rumpole on speed! Spend time with him and the myriad dregs of humanity that wash up at the courthouse. Listen to his friends' discourse on everything from the philosophy of drugs, religion and planning the perfect crime to the joys of Television (always spelt with a capital T; De la Pava is Very Clever with his use of capitals and lower case). Hang out with his Columbian family (they're so warm, they're sure to invite you in. Feed you, even). Glaze over a bit when Casi recalls snatches of his dreams. Compare his many detours to the boxing-ring with the gladiatorial aspect of the courtroom. Follow the minutiae of his cases, both serious and trivial. Don't look for too much plot. Just sit back and enjoy New York doing what New York does best. Throwing up character after character, situation after situation, all seen through the eyes of your brilliant narrator Casi. Possibly the most genuine guy you've ever met on the page. Certainly the most remarkable book you'll read this year. Wrists allowing.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Cameron-Smith on 29 May 2013
Format: Paperback
This novel is narrated by a public defender named Casi - and there's a story in his name as well, but I digress. Casi , the child of Colombian immigrants, is a public defender. In between sharing his thoughts on many different topics - including the existence of God, boxing and how to make empanadas, he works on the cases of the accused - all of who appear to be guilty - who come through his office. Casi has never lost a case - so far.

`Everyone has to lose eventually.'

Casi is also working pro bono on a death penalty case involving a client named Jalen Kingg. And, when he goes home, his downstairs neighbours are working on some interesting psychological experiments of their own. Then Casi gets caught up in something else: the other side of crime. The majority of the novel is in dialogue, and the early part is mostly focussed on Casi's interactions with the people he's been assigned to defend, his appearances in the courtroom and his discussions with colleagues. As the story unfolds, with its numerous stories and with often amusing digressions, it becomes increasingly difficult to put it down. Part of the pleasure of reading is in not knowing what will happen next: even if an outcome seems clear there's nothing predictably linear about the path taken to reach it. This may be a crime novel/legal thriller (or is it?), but it's unique. The first half (roughly) of the novel could be heading almost anywhere - with its meandering sprawl, but then, when it becomes apparent where the novel is heading, the momentum increases.

It took me a while to appreciate Sergio De La Pava's writing style - I had to concentrate in order to make sense of the converging (and diverging) stories. But it was worth it.

'What we're headed for is what theorists call a naked singularity.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Feb. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A Naked Singularity is a strange novel. It is narrated by Casi, a maverick and very junior defense attorney in New York state. Casi is of Colombian heritage and goes to some effort to conceal his last name. He has a distinctive voice that he uses both to discuss the minutiae of his life (creating a feeling of being "Almost There") and to depart into lengthy digressions.

Overall, the novel is very good, has an unusual feel and creates atmosphere well.

Remarkably, considering it has been shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize, A Naked Singularity was first released as a self-published novel. And in some ways it does show. Firstly, the novel is way too long. At 860 pages, the reader has long since got the basic idea and by the end, it does feel a bit like being beaten about the head by the same good ideas, over and over again. Speaking of being beaten about the head, there are lengthy sections about middleweight boxing. This might be an indication of Casi's non-white, non-middle class background or it might be an extended metaphor about people who hang on too long, but the boxing takes up way too many pages on what is basically straight biography. The pacing, too, is wrong with the plotty bit being compressed into a short piece near the middle, arriving way too late and finishing too soon, leaving pages and pages of psychobabble to wind up the novel.

These failings are obvious, but can be forgiven to some extent by the overall quality and feel of the novel. It does have a kind of crime/thriller element but it is so much more. The great length and enormous detail allow a study of a man and the seamy, slippery world he inhabits.
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By Kosmische on 21 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a frustrating mix. Some of it is utterly compelling, some of it the mind-numbing boring and utterly banal.

The book is about the trials and tribulations of a New York public defender identified only by his first name. The sections about his professional life tend to be the most interesting apart from the account of a heist about which more later...

However,we are treated to endless accounts of boxing matches involving a particular boxer which just serve as pointless digressions when you the story to move forward. And in this book, a great story emerges and the pages carrying this are often unputdownable.

Then there's the poetry..

Then there's the attempts at surrealism (lots)...

And an almost verbatim account of a burglary trial. Now I used to be a criminal legal aid lawyer and this particular case is about as interesting as any of my breach of the trials at Glasgow District Court, which is to say, not really.There pages and pages on this.

As to the writing, if you want character, well forget about it. Most of the characters talk the same way which is admittedly a fault you could also direct at any number of critically-acclaimed writers like Don De Lillo. It tends just to remind you of other way better writers you've read like David Foster Wallace, Joseph Heller and so on. I therefore can't say the author has a nakedly singular voice. As I mentioned earlier, the main character isn't even given a second name, which just seems like a lame attempt to give the book some kind of off-kilterness, some undeserved heft.
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