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A Naked Singularity: A Novel Paperback – 19 Apr 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; Reprint edition (19 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226141799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226141794
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 792,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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."--;i>Review of Contemporary Fiction"--Tim Feeney "Review of Contemporary Fiction "

""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."--Miles Klee", The Notes"--Miles Klee "The Notes "

"Weird, brilliant."--;i>The National"--Steve Donoghue "The National "

"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

""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."--Miles Klee "The Notes "

"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."--Miles Klee "Flavorwire "

"Weird, brilliant."--Steve Donoghue "The National "

"I strongly encourage you to overcome whatever hesitation the phrase 700-page self-published novel may inspire in you and pick it up. It is a beautiful monster of a book, a novel that left this reviewer, at least, feeling like maybe there's some point in reading novels--and writing them--after all."--Paul La Farge "Barnes and Noble Review "

"A propulsive, mind-bending experience. . . . The novel's chaotic sprawl, black humor and madcap digressions make it a thrilling rejoinder to the tidy story arcs portrayed on television and in most crime fiction. . . . Whatever the book loses in polish it amply repays in its uncompromising originality."--Sam Sacks "Wall Street Journal "

"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

"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

""A Naked Singularity" is not about physics. It's about the American criminal justice system in a large and chaotic city, a place slowly crushed by hopelessness in the same way that an ancient star is gradually crushed by gravity. . . . The novel is a densely packed and offhandedly poetic 678 pages. . . . It is about a city that teeters on the edge of total collapse and complete disaster, but that has the capacity to right itself (whew!) at the last possible second. . . . The novel is a cross between "Moby-Dick "and "Police Academy." Between Descartes and Disneyland. Between Henry James and Henry Winkler."--Julia Keller "Chicago Tribune "

"This book is ambitious. It's 678 octavo pages--about 13,000 tweets. It's the sort of book you write if you're not sure anyone will ever let you write another one. . . . Even while the lives it describes are often bleak, the book is funny, consistently so. . . . The heist is discussed so exhaustively that when it finally transpires it's thrilling. Casi's defendants, all messes, are lovely and authentic. I could have done with a whole book about them, or rather I enjoyed the whole book about them I read in the middle of this much larger book about other things. A story of a death penalty case begins drenched in irony and grows ever more serious. . . . It's a fine thing for an author to bring forth something so unapologetically maximalist."
--Paul Ford "Slate "

"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."--Tim Feeney "Review of Contemporary Fiction "

"Casi's voice is the combinationof 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 "TheRecognitions" as legal thriller, a glorious mess with dashes of Powers, minorPynchon, and "WhiteNoise," among many others. . . . [I]n its ambitions and shortcomings and shaggy glory, "A NakedSingularity" is perhaps most reminiscent of "The Broom of theSystem." So that bodes well."--Tim Feeney "Review of Contemporary Fiction ""

"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 "The Quarterly Conversation ""

From the Back Cover

WINNER OF THE PEN/ROBERT W BINGHAM PRIZE
SHORTLISTED FOR THE FOLIO PRIZE.
Casi is a hotshot public defender working on the front line of American'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. When his hot streak is cut short by a lost cause, he turns his planetary intelligence to new pursuits - a pro bono quest to save a mentally impaired inmate from death row, and a Faustian pact to execute the perfect crime...

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
'Precision in language is the most critical of human endeavors.'

I disagree with those who say this huge novel was in need of a strict editor. It's precisely the sprawl of it that appeals, allowing witty detours into everything from boxing to theology. Dazzling language and all sorts of philosophical thinking sit alongside the plot – successful young lawyer finally loses a case, plans perfect crime, and tries to save a man on death row. It's clever and funny, but warm too – not a cold postmodern experiment. The scenes with Casi's family are warm and moving. There's so much in it – such richness – that it's definitely a book that would be worth reading twice. The author delights in the use of language and the exploration of ideas. The dialogue is sparklingly witty. And what seem like digressions are arguably just as important as everything else. A masterpiece.
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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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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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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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