After reluctantly putting down Sergio De La Pava’s A Naked Singularity for the night, about a hundred pages into the novel, I thought, This could be one of my favorite books. Two hundreds pages in I thought, I think this is one of my favorite books. After finishing it last night I thought, This is definitely one of my favorite books. Holy fuck, I love this book.
I first came across A Naked Singularity in 2010 thanks to a post on The Millions. Here was a self-published tome that was garnering attention not from some savvy self-marketing campaign but by the far more exciting word of mouth. In the post was a link to a review in The Quarterly Conversation. I didn’t read it. Around this time I ceased reading book and film reviews until after reading or watching the work reviewed so as not to spoil anything. (Music reviews were fine though.) I added the book to my reading list.
And it sat there until earlier this year when the University of Chicago Press picked up the novel and published it in April. Along with UCP’s publishing, I saw posts from a pair of respectable gentlemen, and thought the time was right. (Especially with that new, optical illusion cover. You can’t judge a book by its cover but you can certainly pass over it for a time.)
I could tear my own head off for waiting.
This ridiculously-awesome book is about Casi, a twenty-four-year-old guy of Colombian descent, living in Brooklyn, working in Manhattan as a public defender, and “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 lot funnier than that sounds. A Naked Singularity is hilarious. And not hilarious in the traditional literary sense where you acknowledge the humor but don’t actually laugh. You will laugh out loud when reading this book. It is the coveted fucking hilarious. Just check the passage that Miles Klee excerpted in the link above. That’s what sealed the deal for me, when I read that passage.
But this isn’t strictly a work of humor. De La Pava’s book is also astoundingly erudite, joyfully digressive, and surprisingly compassionate. There’s a reason why “DFW” gets thrown around in reviews.
And speaking of influences, you’ll also hear “Pynchon”, “Coover”, and “Gaddis”. I’ve only read “The Babysitter” by Robert Coover thus far—which was stunning—so I can’t say much about that comparison. I have read those other jokers though and I can say De La Pava’s got dialogue and intelligence like William Gaddis and expanse and comedy like Thomas Pynchon. Like David Foster Wallace, he’s learned from these post-modern titans and used that knowledge to construct his own excitingly-modern voice and create a novel that is big with ideas yet entertaining as hell. Whether philosophical workplace dialogue, fascinating biographical sections about boxer Wilfred Benitez, comically-nightmarish court hearings, a thrilling heist, or empathetic exchanges between Casi and a death row inmate with the mind of an eight-year-old, De La Pava crushes it.
I’ve recommended things here before. I don’t think I could recommend A Naked Singularity enough. I think this novel gets to something important about us and our times—like White Noise and Infinite Jest before it. I think it’s going to be a Classic. You should read this fucking thing. Seriously. Shit will alter your space-time.
[Buy A Naked Singularity here.]