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A Naked Singularity: A Novel [Paperback]

Sergio De La Pava
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

11 May 2012
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.

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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: 22.6 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 353,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"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"

About the Author

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
By Jennifer Cameron-Smith TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mephistopheles and Faust for our age? 6 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a complex and very individual novel which will not be to everyone's taste - but then what is?
The writing style is full of conversational voices, and there are digressions - even someone not into boxing can still find the stuff on that engaging - it is a mark of the writer's conviction that this can be so. We see things (not always reliably, or at least not literally so) from the narrator's point of view - and he does have strong views and convictions which explain the high comedy and satire of the courtroom scenes - but here the effect is not without a sense of real outrage, a sense of moral purpose. The link with Faust - well, here is one clever, perceptive and concerned young man at odds with the world he has chosen to work in and the way it treats the people he, as a public defence lawyer, works with and for. So when a siren voice challenges him, when he is at his most vulnerable ... what else are we to make of a man who manages to avoid being seen by others, who relishes the cold of freezing New York instead of the heat of "down there" - which may or may not be just Florida?

This is a gripping tale, despite the meanders and it is very well written. Some people have spoken of an influence from Thomas Pynchon, but the great voice that I almost hear is that of the artist of spoken American -- William Gaddis. They share a moral outrage at the failure of justice as well as considerable comic gifts!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Naked Singularity 4 Jan 2013
By Sayanne
This book is one of the best I have read in my entire life. The style in which it is written, though initially seeming quite slow and drawn-out, later itself teaches you how to properly read the book in a way which reminds me of "A Clockwork Orange". Once you are drawn into Casi(the protagonist)'s world, you can not even think about leaving. I for one consumed nearly 700 pages in a matter of days. I found myself longing for it like I have not done for any novel for years. Were it not for an ending which I personally found disappointing, I would say this is the best book I have ever read.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Born innocent - found guilty 28 Feb 2014
By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars complelling in places but definately original
This could have been five stars with a good edit, however it still holds it own against most modern fiction. Read more
Published 5 days ago by georgek
2.0 out of 5 stars Long winded
There were some funny moments, interesting characters, and occasional lovely writing, but nothing like enough. Read more
Published 5 days ago by SusieH
1.0 out of 5 stars it takes all sorts
i bought it on the strength of the reviews, which are fulsome in the extreme. the greatest book i have ever read etc. Read more
Published 2 months ago by RichardP
4.0 out of 5 stars An addictive, adrenalin-rush of a book
This is a fast, furious and sometimes crazy book that has all the creative energy and addiction of New York itself. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Roman Clodia
3.0 out of 5 stars Oddly compelling but naive
This is a book of three halves, only two of which are necessary. A compelling read with well formed characters and ideas but only a limited idea of where it is going at any time. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Paula Grgich-Warke
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent read
A very original writer, many disparate items woven together with skill and conviction. Humorous. Humane.Maintained tension throughout its considerable length.
Published 4 months ago by Dr Kathleen Hinds
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime and punishment for Casi
Surreal is an overused description but probably best sums up this highly readable novel.It is long and took many sessions but deserves four star status for its creative energy... Read more
Published 4 months ago by J. Burrows
5.0 out of 5 stars Crazy, clever writing
Unrelenting and long with so many highlight-able quotes, this compelling story intrigued me from 20 pages in and hooked me by about page 100. Read more
Published 5 months ago by C. R. Spencer
5.0 out of 5 stars Will this be the first US novel to reach the Booker shortlist?
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. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Sue Kichenside
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable book
Much has already been written in praise of this book so I can only add that it is one of the most remarkable pieces of modern literature that I have read. Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. Simpson
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