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The End of Oulipo?

The End of Oulipo? My book (co-authored with Lauren Elkin), published by Zero Books. Available everywhere. Order it from Amazon, or find it in bookstores nationwide. The End of Oulipo

Lady Chatterley’s Brother

Lady Chatterley's Brother. The first ebook in the new TQC Long Essays series, Lady Chatterley's Brothercalled “an exciting new project” by Chad Post of Open Letter and Three Percent. Why can't Nicholson Baker write about sex? And why can Javier Marias? We investigate why porn is a dead end, and why seduction paves the way for the sex writing of the future. Read an excerpt.

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Ever wonder what English is missing? Called "a fascinating Life Perecread" by The New Yorker, Translate This Book! brings together over 40 of the top translators, publishers, and authors to tell us what books need to be published in English. Get it on Kindle.

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Naked Singularity

Summer Read: A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava

Fans of Gaddis, Pynchon, DeLillo: A group read of the book that went from Xlibris to the University of Chicago Press. Info here. Buy the book here and support this site.

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Tale of Genji

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Interviews from Conversational Reading

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See this page for interviews with leading authors, translators, publishers, and more.


  • A Treatise on Shelling Beans by Wiesław Myśliwski March 9, 2014
    A man enters a house and asks to buy some beans, but we aren’t given his question, only the response: humble surprise from the narrator and an invitation inside. This modesty, though it remains at the core of the narrator throughout, is quickly overwhelmed when his questions, his welcoming explanations, flow into an effort to tell his whole life story, from […]
  • The Gorgeous Nothings by Emily Dickinson, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin March 9, 2014
    The Gorgeous Nothings, the dedicated work of visual artist Jen Bervin and author Marta Werner, presents in large format the first full-color publication of all fifty-two of Emily Dickinson’s envelope writings. As such, it opens up an aspect of her craft that suggests she was, in the so-called late ecstatic period of her career, experimenting with creating te […]
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    The Mehlis Report follows the architect Saman Yarid on his daily perambulations around Lebanon's capital, where his memories of the city's past and his observations of the high-rises that have emerged from the ruins of the nation's civil war dominate the faint plot. But the book transcends Beirut: Jaber writes about what is left behind when pe […]
  • The Fiddler of Driskill Hill by David Middleton March 9, 2014
    Middleton’s sensibility as poet and man is thoroughly Christian, Southern (or rather, Louisianan), and traditional, but he’s no unreconstructed romantic Rebel reliving the Civil War. His manner is meditative and elegiac, not rancorous or redneck. In a rare useful blurb on the back of the book, the North Carolina poet and novelist Fred Chappell describes Midd […]
  • The Fata Morgana Books by Jonathan Littell March 9, 2014
    After The Kindly Ones, the nine hundred-page long Goncourt Prize-winning “autobiography” of a Nazi, fans of the Franco-American writer Jonathan Littell may heave an inward sigh of relief at the sight of The Fata Morgana Books. A slim collection of “studies” (as some of these stories were called in their original French incarnations), The Fata Morgana Books n […]
  • Novelty: A History of the New by Michael North March 9, 2014
    There is no better way to ensure the early demise of a form or a style than to proclaim its newness; fewer epithets are as old as “new.” A well-known work by Italian artist Maurizio Nannucci reads, “All art has been contemporary”—we may wish to amend it, for present purposes, and have it read, “All art has been new.” Yet surely this is something of a truism. […]
  • A Life Among Invented Characters: A Tribute to Mavis Gallant March 9, 2014
    Two things immediately come to mind when remembering Mavis Gallant: her unique sense of humor—stories always told with a wry half-smile—and her near-comical stonewalling when confronted with leading questions about her craft in interviews and with audiences. The first time I was in her simple three-room apartment on rue Jean Ferrandi, a mere three blocks fro […]
  • The Guy Davenport Reader March 9, 2014
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  • [SIC] by Davis Schneiderman March 9, 2014
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  • The Ben Marcus Interview March 9, 2014
    I do tend to generate a lot of pages when I’m drafting something, and I cut as I go. I make strange noises out of my face, on the page, and they are for the most part not worth keeping. Some of the stories don’t take shape until I overwrite and pursue every cursed dead-end I can think of, which clarifies everything I don’t want the story to become. But I don […]

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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More from Conversational Reading:

  1. Naked Singularity Big Read: Boxing and the Disintegration of Reality For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. Throughout the last 50 or so pages of this week’s section we see...
  2. Naked Singularity Big Read: Possibilities and Potentials For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. In my mind, the chunk of this week’s read that deals with Casi’s...
  3. Naked Singularity Big Read: About that Title For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. Hello everybody and welcome to our summer Big Read: A Naked Singularity by...
  4. Naked Singularity Big Read: Revolutions For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. So to start this week’s section, let’s actually go back to the last...
  5. Naked Singularity Big Read: Beyond the Zero For the rest of the Naked Singularity Big Read posts, click here. To start this week’s section, we are once again with Casi and Dane...

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3 comments to Naked Singularity Big Read: Conclusions

  • 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.

  • John Wesley

    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.

  • Sarah

    He dies at the end (i think).

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