Naked Singularity Big Read: Conclusions

For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here.

This is the last post in the Naked Singularity Big Read, as per our schedule. Whether or not you liked the book, I hope everyone who participated had a good time.

Starting next week, we’ll be having a bunch of guest posts from participants in the read. And I may also chime in with some more thoughts on the book.

Now on to some concluding thoughts on our final chunk of prose.

In response to all the guilt and fear and sadness that Casi now associates with his and Dane’s plan and the very serious ways in which it seems to be biting him back, Casi pours himself into the brief for the Kingg case. He writes what is described as a very long book, which may in fact be the book that we are reading (although it could as well not be too). He gives it to Toom to read, and Toom, while being very impressed by the document (he calls it “astonishing”), says that it is not art:

I think what ultimately denied it that lofty status was the work’s selfish prescriptivism if that makes any sense, its innervating desire for a specific result. True art, by contrast, seems marked by a generous susceptibility to extrapolation. Your work, understandably, is not sufficiently oriented in that direction to constitute art and has more in common with something like advertising. Advertising of course, despite the activities it often subsumes, is not art and neither, regrettably, is your document. [617]

I’d first like to ask whether or not you think the Kingg brief is the book A Naked Singularity. I’ll also point out that many things that we now consider art, for instance great works from the medieval period in Europe, began as a kind of advertising, by Toom’s definition. And, of course, many kinds of art from the 20th century purposely conflated advertising in a way that would upset the dichotomy Toom is attempting to establish here. These remarks should also be read in light of De La Pava’s ongoing statements about television throughout the book.

After the Kingg plot ends, we reach Casi’s trial for various alleged misdeeds around his job. This, I think, will be one of the more controversial parts of A Naked Singularity. It obviously is being told in a highly ironic way, and its relationship to what actually is happening during these trials is tenuous at best. I’d like to ask what exactly you think all this means, how you think Casi is processing all this information, and, most of all, if this section of the book worked for you.

Then we get a last little bit about the boxer Wilfred Benitez. I think that the concluding paragraphs in the story De La Pava tells about Benitez give us some idea of why he has chosen to tell it to us. In part he says,

Today Wilfred lives in Saint Just, Puerto Rico, the barrio where his boxing career began in that makeshift backyard ring. The father who in those days put his arm around his seven-year-old son and showed him what to do is now dead. The wife he had when he was one of the strongest men int he world has abandoned him. He has few friends and fewer fans and his name is rarely mentioned anymore outside his house. [665]

De La Pava goes on to tell us that, “he is not, however, alone. Clara Benitez is with him, feeding and cleaning her son.” [665]

There is a lot here to think about. Conclusions to stories are rarely as romantic as the stories themselves, and sometimes it happens that people end up alone and unloved, but for the abiding affections of their mother. This ending to the Benitez story, which De La Pava needn’t have told us, seems to be here to point out that Casi may very well end up like this, despite his genius and the substantial chunk of money he may have access to.

Of course, Casi’s story needn’t end like this. The last lines of A Naked Singularity are very ambiguous. Something profound is about to happen. We do not know exactly where Casi will end up in life. The purpose of the book has been, in part, to show us that moment of transformation, of possibility, which may very well resemble a naked singularity for how it re-orders our world. I hope you have enjoyed reading it. I look forward to your own interpretations of the novel, your verdicts on its quality, your questions, and where you see yourselves going next as readers.

For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here.


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One brief observation about the ending: it clearly alludes to the ending of Moby Dick, a book that De La Pava has said has been influential. Casi turns to meet The Whale, and then all is sucked up into the vortex of the naked singularity. Having finished the book, I’m interested in going back to see if there are other allusion to MD.

This book is a sloppily written and under-edited legal thriller with pretensions to a greatness it doesn’t possess, or maybe it does, but it very small doses, not nearly enough to justify all the hosannahs that have been thrown its way. You seem to have mistaken size and length for depth and intelligence. What a waste of my time. Thanks for the recommendation.

He dies at the end (i think).

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