A Naked Singularity (Paper) - Sergio  de la Pava Much like the title suggests, themes collapse in on themselves in De La Pava’s self-published 700 page novel. It revels in digressions and ambiguity. Maybe a little too self-consciously at times and there’s definitely some obscurantism going on. What was left unanswered for me at the end was whether it was done to mask the lack of cohesion in themes or whether I’m just an idiot.

Casi is a public defender and De La Pava gets the voice spot on. Which makes sense. De La Pava is a public defender as well. From the first 40 pages where Casi is working late night bail hearings, to the trial transcripts, to the meetings with clients, to the battles with the court and DA, he captures the essence of the job. Though he brushes on several layers of wit to make it all look a lot more clever.

But that’s not really what the book is about. Even though it gives some great commentary on the death penalty and justice in general, it’s background noise. The plot evolves into something more page-turning and can’t-put-down worthy though I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers. But that’s not really what the book is about either.

It’s in the digressions where the book really seeks its soul. Lengthy passages on the boxer Willifred Benitez, moments with family, non sequiters with the dudes living down the hall and the subtle influence of Television (yes, I capitalized it because he does). It’s about the pursuit of perfection which in turn is the pursuit of meaning which gets boiled down to the pursuit of our own role in all of this. A search for identity in the noise.

For the philosophy junkie, there are plenty of references which can add a layer or two and justify a major. Some explicit rationalist vs. empiricist conversations are at play through most of the book. Tantalizingly, there is a vague shift in Casi’s view and the events in the book which seemed best summed up here:
David Hume was his favorite Alyona once said. This was during one of our first real conversations, at the end of which I think we exchanged keys to our respective apartments although I almost immediately misplaced his. I said I guessed there was nothing wrong with Hume provided it was acknowledged that Descartes was The Man. At the end of the conversation I went home and made this list:

1. Descartes
2. Kant
3. Wittgenstein
4. Kripke
5. Lewis
6. Hume

A list which I would now strenuously disagree but I am merely reporting what it was at the time.Pg. 499
There’s a lot which can be read into A Naked Singularity without getting too pulled away from what is a fairly compelling plot in the middle. Sure, I would have preferred having a better sense of what de La Pava was after in the end, but there’s plenty left to chew on even if it wasn’t what he prepared.


Note: I was impressed I wrote this without mentioning Infinite Jest and David Foster Wallace.