Category Archives: Summer 2012 Big Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Naked Singularity Big Read: Revolutions

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So to start this week’s section, let’s actually go back to the last page from last week’s section: this is a slightly obscure phone conversation between Casi and Dane where the former accedes to Dane’s plan to snatch the drug money form the deal discussed in last week’s section. So questions immediately come to mind: Why is Casi doing this? And why does Dane want it so much for him? And do you think there’s any legitimacy to Dane comparing Casi’s decision to go along on a heist of dubious morality with humankind’s lofty aspirations to, literally, reach for the stars?

It’s interesting to note here the quote that prefaces Part Two and starts this week’s reading. It says in part: “Revolutions are ambiguous things.” And also: “Their success is generally proportionate to their power of adaptation and to the reabsorption within them of what they rebelled against.” Clearly the “revolution” here refers to Casi’s development as a person, although the part about reabsorption of what they rebelled against strikes an odd note. What exactly does that imply for Casi’s development as a person?

As Part Two begins, we’re back at Casi’s family’s house, and he almost immediately gets into a debate with a young boy named Timmy about the validity of life after death experiences. Timmy wants to refute the factuality of these experiences with the argument that all the stories are similar, but Casi rebuts that all the stories sound similar because only a certain kind of life after death narrative is ever permitted to be disseminated widely in the mass media. Again we are at the question of how our perceptions of the world are conditioned and what kind of a truth that conditions us to accept. We might profitably compare this to the vision of humanity that Dane has been feeding to Casi. This conversation also introduces the possibility that one “will never get a satisfactory answer . . . to these types of questions.” [322] As Casi is saying this to a young boy and likely going way over his head, we can take it that this as more Casi talking to himself.

Later, Casi is back in his neighbors’ apartment room, where Angus is still participating in his experiment to watch enough of The Honeymooners to make Ralph Kramden a living person. During this conversation, the idea of an advertising-only television channel is introduced. This is something of a singularity in itself, as it collapses the difference between the ostensible entertainment—TV shows—and the ads that we supposedly endure as a necessary obstacle to watching them. Of course, as the idea of an ad-only channel shows, the relationship between the two is not that simple at all: ads very much try to entertain us so as to change the way we think and sell to us better, and TV shows increasingly try to sell us products, lifestyles, and ideological points of view, in addition to offering their entertainment. Angus also introduces the idea of a “moral obligation” [333] to watch TV as a sort of repayment for all TV has done for him. The idea, as presented, is obviously satirical, but it does imply the rather serious fact that we exist in a relationship to TV and do feel certain very real obligations to it, some of which we are aware of and some of which we are not. The relationship of advertising to art is also brought up. And on page 335, De La Pava introduces the idea that “advertising doesn’t address a need, it creates it. It is self-sustaining.” This will be familiar to anyone who has read David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Art might also create various needs within us. Lastly, the idea of infinite recursion, which has ghosted throughout the TV conversation, is brought up quite explicitly with Angus’ plan to introduce a new psychological disorder: a phobia of phobias.

It’s also in this section that the narrative starts to very seriously unravel. In earlier sections De La Pava maintained a clear distinction between Casi’s professional and personal life. The writing was orderly and we could follow cases and relationships without much hassle. Now that clarity begins to cloud over. On 343 Casi reflects, as though writing this all down at some point in the future,

Was there even a supposed-to for this kind of situation? A situation where when I looked at my receding past everything seemed retrospectively marked by an extreme order and predictability yet all moments since seemed to obey, and promised to continue obeying, their own set of stochastic, undisclosed, and undiscoverable laws. . . . [S]till the known universe seemed to bend and bend inexorably inward and towards me where it awaited my next move, supremely ready to react accordingly. And how I knew that decisions I would soon make or defer would have near-Sopphoclean import and yet nonetheless it all seemed oddly irrelevant.

Was I the only one to love Casi’s extreme description of the kind of coffee he would like on page 352?

Lastly, I’m curious about the escalating stories about what happened between Casi and Liszt (pp. 353-55). Does anyone recall exactly where this incident occurs in A Naked Singularity and how De La Pava describes what might have actually occurred?

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Naked Singularity Big Read: Before the Law

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I’d like to suggest that this weekend, as an adjunct to the Naked Singularity Big Read, you have a look at Kafka’s very short story, “Before the Law,” (which is actually taken from The Trial) and, if possible, Jacques Derrida’s essay thereof, also titled “Before the Law.” (The Kafka should be easy to locate on the Web; for the Derrida, you might want to visit your local library. It’s collected in Acts of Literature.)

What made me think of this essay was a quote from Garth Risk Hallberg’s profile of De La Pava:

In the abstract, “the law is so strikingly beautiful and logical,” he says, as opposed to “the faulty process of human beings…I feel annoyed for some reason when the criminal justice system fucks up, because I feel a great attachment to it.”

Compare this to what Derrida writes in “Before the Law”:

There is a singularity about relationship to the law, a law of singularity which must come into contact with the general or universal essence of the law without ever being able to do so.

Aside from the obvious use of singularity (is De La Pava a fan of Derrida?), what strikes me about this quote is how both De La Pava and Derrida are positing the law as this ideal system, more of an aspiration toward perfection than anything humans might actually achieve. When Derrida discusses the law in the essay, there are overtones of the metaphor’s relationship to language: that is, language bears a similar relationship to reality as does our law to the “universal essence of the law.” Both are systems created by humans to mimic the perfection that we find in the “real” world.

So, in other words, again we’re being pushed toward notions of perfection and singularity, as well as being warned off with the idea that such perfection sits in a dangerous and obscure place that we do not have access to. I think, as A Naked Singularity continues to expand, we will see these themes played out.

Readers might also have a look at the last chapter of Elizabeth Costello by JM Coetzee, which is a reworking of Kafka’s “Before the Law.”

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Naked Singularity Big Read: Do Geniuses Make Mistakes?

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Earlier this week we were talking about ideas of perfection, which are introduced into A Naked Singularity at the beginning of this week’s reading, and which, I think, will come to dominate the rest of the novel, in one way or another. (And at this point I quite wholeheartedly add: feel free to disagree. My reading of A Naked Singularity is gravitating more and more toward ideas of perfection, but that is by no means the only way to read this book.)

After Dane tells his story of offering perfect representation, we’re back to Casi’s life as a public defender. (But before we get there: what do you think of Dane as a character? he clearly has some very strong opinions on things, and I find many of them distasteful, but I also think De La Pava does a good job of making him a comic enough figure that I can look past that as a reader and still enjoy his presence and his friendship with Casi.)

Anyway, Casi’s life as a PD. After and during Dane’s talk about perfection, I notice that there’s a lot of talk about errors and what could have been done differently. On page 187, in the context of a larger discussion of jurors, Dane mentions how the jurors always like to come up to an attorney after trial and explain why they voted as they did. And then again on page 191, they discuss “errors that boggle the mind in their stupidity.” We’re starting to get into some fairly thick terrain here with regard to what our concept of perfection can tolerate and exactly how error fits into it. I also note, in passing, the relevance that these questions have for our concepts of morality and justice.

After that, on page 207, we see the introduction of Wilfred Benitez, a real-life Puerto Rican “genius” boxer whose story will be fully told later in the novel. This introduction gives us Casi’s comic impression of what it must have been like for Benitez as a child, growing up with preternaturally enhanced boxing skills. It also introduces the question of what to do with genius in a capitalistic society. The answer is obvious: monetize it: “And maybe just this once, futuristic money would not be mentioned.” [208] This section also introduces the idea of making good on one’s genius, which is something Casi feels deeply in his own life.

I found Dane’s sermon on pp. 212-13 about a person being “nothing more than the sum of how he is perceived by others” as very much fitting in with the book’s emerging ideas about TV and reality, and the ensuing discussion of how that relates to dating life very reminiscent of David Foster Wallace.

And then, of course, after that we have DeLeon’s long story of an upcoming drug transaction involving an almost mythical brand of cocaine (again, legendary drugs, reminiscent of David Foster Wallace). I thought the telling of this story was fantastic, one of the book’s strongest sections. In addition to the obvious relevance this incident has to the plot of A Naked Singularity, I liked the thematic relevance. The way DeLeon’s story kept getting bigger and more complex, with so many threads that were present but could not be expanded on for continuity’s sake, all this put me in mind of a vast world operating side by side with the equally vast legal one Casi has endeavored to guide us through.

So a few questions:

1. What do you make of Uncle Sam and the monkey (pp 256-58)?

2. And something we haven’t discussed at all yet: what of the murdered child, the suspected child killers (who come out in this section), and all the truly crass media and audience participation in the incident?

3. And what about Casi’s defense of Arronaugh? How does this fit into the emerging plot threads involving Casi’s and Dane’s caper? I’m particularly curious about Casi’s defense, which relies much more on a legal loophole than any argument about guilt or innocence.

4. How’d you feel about Dane’s depiction of smoking crack? And how does his experiences therein fit into the book’s emerging ideas of being satisfied with one’s life, perfection, and justice/culpability?

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Naked Singularity Big Read: Perfection

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In chapter 3x2x1 (aka Chapter 6) De La Pava introduces one of the major concepts for this book: perfection. This and the following chapter (simply named Chapter 7) are two of my favorite chapters in the book. Dane’s story of attempting to offer one client perfect representation is, in my opinion, one of the most original, most fascinating stretches of writing that A Naked Singularity has to offer.

[Note: you should read this post all the way to the end, since at the end of it I tell you how to win the first signed copy of the Xlibris A Naked Singularity that I’ll be giving away.]

Perfection, it must be said, is something that De La Pava appears to look upon with great suspicion. You can see that in the epigraph to Chapter 3x2x1, which reads “Just think how you’ll feel when even your basest desires are quenched before they’ve even had the chance to fully form.” (A very Wallace-esque epigraph.) This could be seen as a form of perfection: perfect satisfaction. And yet, most of us reading that epigraph will not fail to notice how cynical and frankly awful it sounds, in a blatantly materialistic sense.

True to this, Chapter 3x2x1 presents us with a variety of forms of perfection. We can argue about if Dane’s version is noble or not: he decides to offer a guilty, destitute man perfect representation, which means spending inordinate resources on ensuring that the trial is perfect and that this man gets off. First of all: can perfection come in the form of a guilty man going free? And then there’s the fact that Dane’s quest is clearly much more about him and his client: should perfection be selfless? Or rather, could perfection only really be perfect selfishness in this world where we all tell ourselves we are creatures endowed with free will?

In contrast to Dane’s quest, at the beginning of the chapter Casi talks with his neighbor Angus about the second coming of Jesus, another form of perfection, at least if you adhere to Christian belief. Angus offers the opinion that “the fact that none of these pretenders [i.e. false Messiahs] effectively exploited Television is incontrovertible proof that they were not the real deal.” Angus continues for the bulk of page 133 on an interesting digression about how Jesus originally communicated his message and how he would in our times.

And then, a few pages later, the conversation in Casi’s neighbor’s apartment switches from the second coming to sex, namely, if it’s better now than it was in the 1970s. This is again an interesting question in regards to perfection, since you might consider sex as something unchanging: that is, given that we are all animals endowed with genes, hormones, etc, that have not changed significantly in thousands of years (if not more) wouldn’t the sexual act confer the same amount of gratification regardless of era? On the other side of that argument would be the possibility that Alyona raises, where cultural conditions can affect how enjoyable sex is. Again, the question of perfection—i.e. a self-contained, hermetic act that is essentially unchanging—versus an act that can be warped by outside influences.

And then again on page 139: “I now think that McDonaldland may be the purest province in our land.” This quote raises issues of the perfect society (how is it defined? crime-free? perfect equality? etc.; could McDonaldland really be it?), not to mention the question of if a human construction (i.e. a fake country created by McDonald’s for marketing purposes; or a poem) could ever really reach the status of perfection.

From here Chapter 3x2x1 gives way to Chapter 7, in which Dane explains his quest to Casi. More on that, and the rest of this week’s chunk of text later in the week. For now I’m dying to know what you make of some of the questions I’ve raised here, as well as other notable variations on this them that you’ve found in this week’s text.

And finally, here is how to receive the first signed Xlibris edition of A Naked Singularity that I’ll be giving away during the Big Read. Comment on a Big Read thread this week. That’s it. Everyone who makes a good faith attempt to participate in the discussion (I’ll be the judge of “good faith”) will be entered into a drawing for that free book.

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Naked Singularity Big Read: Responding to Some Comments

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Isabella wrote:

I did note, however, that the word singularity was used in the text (p 93): “This is why people love crime, the singularity of will involved.” So, I took the title to be using “singularity” in this more popular sense; I’m expecting the remarkable strength, focus, drive it takes to commit a crime to be laid bare.

This is an interesting point to raise. I think as the novel goes on, we’ll see concept of will come more into play, notably as will approaches a level of “singularity” or, perhaps, “perfection.” I do think this is a book very much about free will and how we choose what we choose.

Marcus wrote:

I don’t have anything to say on about your first topic but for #2 it seems like the novel is going for a guilty-as-state-of-mind approach. For example Glenda, the woman who was caught playing lookout for her husband outside the methadone clinic says:

“what could they say if I did everything right from here on out? For real, if I did everything right up to and beyond that day [the day she gives birth] would I really be that different than those moms in their soccer vans? I’d be like them and my baby, at least, would have to look at me the right way, he wouldn’t know. To him I’m just mom.”

I think this is an important distinction in the context of the book: doing things “right” versus doing things according to other kinds of logic, and seeing how they add up in outcomes. Just what is “right” in this context, anyway? And how would it differ from other paths Glenda might have chosen?

Brandon wrote:

“Frolic” is the only Gaddis novel I have not yet read, so I can’t comment on that one. That being said, I see flashes of “JR” in the passages of unattributed dialogue and near-zany satire, and the criminals’ stories (especially Glenda Deeble’s story of hardship) mostly relayed to us removed from context reminded me of “The Lost Scrapbook.” I almost see Alonya, Lou, and Traci as a 21st century “Whole Sick Crew,” but we’ll see how well those comparisons hold up in the long run. (I’m only at the beginning of chapter 3 now).

J R would be an interesting juxtaposition, for the different ways Gaddis uses dialogue (that is a book written entirely in unattributed dialog), and to contrast that book’s take on capitalism with A Naked Singularity’s.

Eric wrote:

Interesting how Casi emerges somewhat slowly as a character … more as a Virgil-like guide at first, using the second person to strong effect in those opening pages. That’s a deft authorial move where La Pava joins the digression on Miranda rights with the caveat about digression itself — almost reading the reader her rights before she’s admitted into the system/novel. I’m a sucker for these moves but I found it seductive. Later, and this gets back to Marcus’s comment, other voices are allowed into the narrative with Casi removed to the role of listener/questioner.

Nice thoughts on Casi’s dual role here as narrator. In the sphere of law and order he is something of an expert and a guide: he can claim to be something of a moral arbiter and have a strong point of view. but in other matters he is very confused and narrates from a very different perspective.

Chris wrote:

I really like it when authors use the persistence of some unusual physical/environmental/atmospheric condition—here, the unusual cold—to set a mood. The comparison that immediately came to mind for me was the, if I’m remembering correctly, giant sun and impending nuclear or environmental disaster in London Fields, but I’m sure there are others.

Mark wrote:

Re: 2) When I first read of it I thought it as bookending, in some way, this early sense of how Casi thinks about Justice—as the narrative voice says when he explains the process on the second page, “and this before anything even remotely insane had happened when I still occasionally thought about things like…the process.” Specifically I think it ties up a theme that Casi raises to his first case, Darril—that he decidedly does *not* need to believe in his innocence in any sense whatsoever to take his case. (Side note—it’s also kind of interesting, if obvious, that Casi is the one who, in the beginning, continually brings up how real-life isn’t like television—how Miranda isn’t applied as you see it in ‘popular entertainment’, how Darril is appealing to some sense of resolution akin to a television serial, blah blah..)

Interesting questions about the nature of belief, including what TV makes us believe about ourselves and our world. I think these questions will continue to grow much larger as we read on.


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Naked Singularity Big Read: Commerce and Television

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So, in the first 40 pages we talked about the title A Naked Singularity and the strangeness that it possibly indicated, the moral system De La Pava might be establishing in the court and lawyer scenes that constitute the book’s first 40 pages, and some comparison books.

After finishing his epically long night at court, Casi heads home, and we meet some of his neighbors. This is the section where I first caught a real whiff of David Foster Wallace, whom De La Pava has acknowledged as a major influence. This is pretty clear in the televisual experiment Casi’s neighbor is conducting. He’s going to watch The Honeymooners on repeat for days on end in an effort to convince himself that they are real people, by the logic that we can believe that entities that we meet on the Internet, over the phone, etc are just as real as we are. I also noted some DFW in the madcap energy between Casi and his neighbors, and in the way advertising was discussed.

Here are some things that I caught on to:

On page 47, Casi is out in the cold in front of his apartment doing some soul searching. Among other things, he thinks, “This—extreme nonconsumerism—is something that has come to be associated with illegality has it not?” If I’m not mistaken, this is the first time we encounter this sort of thought: the morality and responsibilities of a society predicated on money. This is something that will be coming up more and more throughout the book. At this point I’d like to ask to what point this is true. Is this something that the United States currently treats as illegal in any meaningful sense? What are the implications of that?

Re: television (or Television, as De La Pava always has it), on page 51 the following exchange caught my eye:

“Have you heard of a Television that turns on automatically when your favorite shows are on?”
“I don’t understand, why would you turn it off?”

Later on, on page 55, the statement “Being on Television is fast becoming the natural state” reminded me very much of David Foster Wallace’s major essay, “E Unibus Pluram.”

We also start to get some of De La Pava’s political critique in this section. On page 80, referring to law enforcement and the court system, Casi’s colleague Henry notes that “Our government controls one out of every two such young men [black men ages 18 to 35] in that area.” I found that interesting in juxtaposition to the conversation Casi and one of his young black clients, Malkum, have on pages 82-3, about how he has lost his right to vote by becoming a felon. One of the things that De La Pava is arguing here is that the current state of drug law makes it far too easy to become a felon; when you add it all up, he more or less makes the case that the current state of the War on Drugs is more about controlling a population of young man and disenfranchising a class of people than about protecting and serving the citizenry.

We might also reflect on all this in relationship to the War on Terror, which many have identified as the successor to the War on Drugs.

So some questions:

1. What do you think of the Honeymooners thing? For my own part, I found other thought experiments in the book (and other books) far more compelling; in that sense, it doesn’t like up to Wallace. Although I don’t think we’re meant to take it in isolation. I see it more as the introduction of a certain kind of philosophy that will be elaborated and made more complex as the book moves forward.

2. How are you feeling about Casi as a character? When we talk about postmodern literature, we’re often talking about ideas and technology and society and philosophy, but I think A Naked Singularity is a very character-driven novel. It is, in large part, the story of Casi’s coming of age, and we should evaluate it as such, in addition to as a novel of ideas.

3. What’s the association with Casi’s professional world of law, crime, and punishment, and his personal world of television experiments and fractured reality? There’s definitely a link here, and these two worlds come together more and more as the novel progresses, but this is something that De la Pava leaves (purposely) ill-defined, and I think it’s something we should think about more and more as we read on.

4. I don’t want to be the only one asking questions here: pose your own in the comments thread. I’ll respond to as many as I can, and I hope others will as well.

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Naked Singularity Big Read: About that Title

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Hello everybody and welcome to our summer Big Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava.

Let’s get started by talking a little about the title: a naked singularity. Singularities (not to be confused with the naked variety) are fairly common things, as astronomical phenomena go. Essentially, a singularity is the part of the black hole where gravitation becomes infinitely strong as the hole becomes infinite dense. That means is a certain part of the black hole can’t be seen, because the gravitation of the singularity is so strong that even light can’t escape. If the light can’t reach us, we can’t see it. The area that we can’t see is known as the event horizon.

A naked singularity is different for an important reason. Instead of it being invisible to us, we can see it. That is, light can escape the event horizon, something that should not be possible. As you may have already guessed, the existence of a naked singularity would violate certain cherished laws of physics. The Wikipedia entry has a useful description.

So by titling his novel A Naked Singularity, De La Pava is sending us some pretty strong signals: we’re going to see things we normally shouldn’t see. The principles of the reality on which we/the protagonist live are going to come down. There will be danger. We are going to be messing with some profound stuff.

Also, we should note for now that black holes cause some serious problems with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, otherwise known as entropy. This is a concept we’ll be returning to later in the book.

Enough about the title, let’s talk about the dialogue. We’re going to be seeing that De La Pava is a fiend when it comes to dialogue, perhaps befitting a novel whose protagonist and narrator is a lawyer. The first 40 pages are a great indication of just what he can do. Notice also that in these first 40 pages, as De La Pava introduces us to various arrested individuals that Casi will be representing, he’s beginning to put together the moral structure of the novel. It is, obviously, sympathetic to people who have committed crimes, but it is also a very practical, worldly morality. This morality is something the book will be coming back to again and again.

Some questions:

1. What do you make of the self-congratulatory remarks the judge makes on page 42, starting with “He had his chance, I said get him . . .”? I found them over the top in the very best satirical tradition.

2. What do you make of the question “How can you represent someone you know is guilty”?, which the cab driver makes on page 45, and which we’ll be hearing again and again throughout this novel. I’m thinking about this in terms of guilt and innocence, the nascent sense of reality and morality De La Pava is building, the slippery notions of right and wrong.

3. And for the postmodernists among us, who is this book the most reminding you of so far? The book reminds me most of A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis. What books would you bring in as relevant at this point?

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“One of the problems with self-published books”

I think the above statement would be equally true with or without the “self-” in there, but in the context it’s appropriate.

From the Chicago Tribune’s solid article on the ongoing phenomenon known as A Naked Singularity.

“One of the problems with self-published books,” Wilson continued, “is that the great majority of them are boring, unreadable trash by people who not only aren’t writers, they aren’t even readers — the type of people who put ‘Published Author’ bumper stickers on their cars and who don’t buy two books a year but expect everyone else to buy theirs.

“But ‘A Naked Singularity’ was obviously the work of a serious, committed writer and reader who had a vision and no intention of sabotaging his work by trying to make it appeal to what he imagined editors, publishers or readers might want.”

The Big Read starts on June 10.

Naked Singularity Big Read Prizes

We’re starting the Big Read of A Naked Singularity in just under 2 weeks. Schedule here.

And here are some images of the four signed Xlibris editions (no longer on the market) that I’ll be giving out as prizes along the way.

Naked Singularity Big Read Schedule


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Here is the schedule for the summer read of A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava. The dates correspond to the first day of the week in which we will be reading the indicated segment.

Discussion of each segment will occur during that week, probably with some looking back as we go further. And there will be four signed copies of the original POD edition to be given away at various points during the read.


June 10: Chapter 1 to Chapter 3x2x1 (1 – 131)
June 17: Chapter 3x2x1 to End of Part 1 (131 – 313)
June 24: Chapter 12 to Chapter 19 (316 – 425)
July 1: Chapter 19 to End of Part 2 (426 – 525)
July 8: Part 3 (528 – 678)

Here are clips from some of the reviews of the book so far. Interesting stuff:

Booklist: “Although David Foster Wallace fans will likely notice his influence on de la Pava, the better comparison may be to Evan Dara’s The Lost Scrapbook (1998), which, like this book, developed a major following after originally being self-published.”

Dmitry Portnoy (Amazon reviewer): “”A Naked Singularity” is the greatest lawyer novel since “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the best originally self-published novel since “Youth In Revolt,” and the third big fat great novel of this century after “Europe Central” and “The Instructions.””

switterbug (also from Amazon): “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.”

Review of Contemporary Fiction: “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.”

The Quarterly Conversation: “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”

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