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A Naked Singularity: A Novel [Paperback]

Sergio De La Pava
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 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: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 505,916 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"

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 15 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A singular stylist 16 Sep 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This hooked me immediately - I can get quite boshie when confronted with 'difficult' first pages but this is just so clever. The novel, written by a New York public defender, focuses on the work of a New York public defender, Casi. The insanity of the system and its gross inequalities are brilliantly depicted, as the plot ricochets the book into a mad crime novel and ends up in fantasyland. What I really loved about this was the lack of that perfectly formed-honed-crafted-courtesy-of-writing-by-numbers-courses feel. This is the real thing - chaotic, moving, compelling. The awkward transitions and occasional false notes - who cares? The energy carries you on and up - great stuff.
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5 of 6 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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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cracking the System 1 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Sergio de la Pava's painfully detailed study of the law in action amongst the underclass in New York is an insightful examination of court procedure and the conscience of the poor. Social and moral questions thread their way through the protracted dialogues between attorneys and clients. How can you defend a man who is a liar, a betrayer and a recidivist criminal? How and why? Well, Cassi, the more or less narrator believes it's his duty to do the best for his clients, selected mainly from the scum of society. He works frighteningly long hours with unpromising material for a derisory reward. He does his best in a hopeless situation, for drug enforcement laws are sacred in NYC. Society must be protected and criminal locked up for as long as possible.

As a novel this book is something of a disaster. Interminable speeches are interspersed with almost equally interminable dialogues, between client and attorney, between the attorneys themselves. Light relief, if that's what it is, is offered by immaculate transcripts of judicial procedure. There is all the material for a fine novel here, a cri de coeur for something more sensible and humane in the justice system, but the pain of digging it out is as hard as Cassi's self-imposed daily torture.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars To begin with I really didn't like this book or La Pava's style
To begin with I really didn't like this book or La Pava's style. So much so that I put it down and read something else. Read more
Published 30 minutes ago by Disgruntle
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting voice, but the book quickly became long-winded
This started out a s real page-turner, as the author takes you inside the NYC justice system, where you can see how dismal and uncaring the system is. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kirk McElhearn
4.0 out of 5 stars Crackles with intelligence
This novel would certainly qualify as what Henry James described as a 'loose and baggy monster'. It could have stood to be more tightly crafted, but that might have lost the... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Helen Barnes
2.0 out of 5 stars The dialogue sections were the bits I enjoyed the most even if it was...
I bailed out about 25% through which is very rare for me but it was starting to irritate me with it's overlong descriptive and narrative paragraphs. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Southern Softie
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
rather hard going but interesting
Published 1 month ago by sparror hawk
1.0 out of 5 stars Bought it as a gift for son who reads extensively ...
Bought it as a gift for son who reads extensively. He found the writing puerile and very trite. Most unimpressed and didn't finish the book. A rarity for him.
Published 2 months ago by Evening
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 6 months 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 6 months 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 8 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 8 months ago by Roman Clodia
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