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A Naked Singularity: A Novel by Sergio De La…
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A Naked Singularity: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Sergio De La Pava

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3061436,480 (3.84)17
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Title:A Naked Singularity: A Novel
Authors:Sergio De La Pava
Info:University of Chicago Press (2012), Paperback, 678 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:crime, legal, lawyers, drugs, boxing, family, immigrants, new york city

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A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava (2012)

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Casi is a public defender in NYC. His stories about the inside workings of criminal justice system--the types of clients he gets and their crimes, the back and forth with prosecutors, his droll musings on the differences (and sometimes similarities) between what the law states and how it works out in real life, and the the frequent inequities in the law as applied--are always entertaining, but never lose sight of the fact that these are serious matters. To this extent, the book sometimes feels like non-fiction, albeit humorous and very readable non-fiction. For example, his explanation of how criminal defendants have been given, and why they need their Miranda rights is told in such a tongue-in-cheek way that even non-attorneys will get a kick out of reading his musings. As a retired attorney, (albeit one in a field with far, far less trial practice and with more affluent clients) I very much identified with Casi's descriptions. For example, this description of what it feels like to know you have a case that is going to trial instead of settling really spoke to me:

"...a case that goes to trial is a hideously deformed corporal appendage that forces you to hunch down in deference to its weight. Always on your mind despite your best efforts, but you don't dare kill it for fear that you, the host, will join in its demise..."

and at trial:

"...{there is a} legitimate response to observers who question a trial attorney's particular decision or action during trial. The response in distilled form is that things happen a lot faster in the well than they do for someone sitting on the fat ass in the audience."

However, the book is also a compelling work of fiction. Casi is driven and ambitious; he has never lost a case, and wants to carry the largest case load in the office. Then Dane, another obsessively competitive attorney in the office, proposes, at first in theory only, the idea of a perfect crime--if you knew you could never get caught, would become immensely wealthy as a result of your crime, and would hurt no one (other than perhaps drug dealers) would you commit that crime? It's not long before Dane proposes the commission of an specific crime, and soon Dane and a reluctant Casi (who still sees the idea in theoretical terms only) are working out the details.

The book is full of pop culture references which I had fun working out (i.e. "Come and knock on our door"--does anyone recognize that? Or how about "To the moon, Alice, to the moon"? And do you remember Father Mulcahey?) It's also a very leisurely, in a manic sort of way, book, and some might think it needs some brutal editing. I'm one who enoyed the Robin Williams like riffs on a wide variety of subjects with one exception. In the second half of the book, there are long digressions about boxing, and particularly the life and times of a particular boxer, Wilfred Benitez. (Is he real?) My personal view is that these boxing passages felt out of place and added nothing to the book. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 19, 2017 |
A huge unruly mess of a novel. I stuck with it to the end (although I started skipping bits) because there is some very good writing. The story is slight to non-existent and the main event doesn't get going until three quarters of the way through. Otherwise, it's an overdetailed list of very authentic-sounding New York court cases written by an ex-public defense lawyer. This might be ok for a non-fiction description of a public defender's life but it doesn't make a novel. In between all this, there's some very lengthy tortuous dialogue that could have come from Seinfeld except that it's not very funny and a lengthy history of world champion boxers of the 1970s and 80s. It's a mess (a nearly 900 page mess). ( )
  stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
4.5 stars. Justice system, crime and boxing stuff great--Television and wacky neighbor stuff not so great. Should be a Coen brothers movie one day. ( )
  AThurman | Dec 7, 2014 |
Got to about page 500 when I finally admitted to myself that I didn't like the book at all and it was time to jump ship, Not often I abandon a book before finishing but time is precious.
  PossMan | Nov 19, 2014 |
Enjoyed being dumped headfirst into the opening pages. For me the book had only one voice. The various characters were well described but once they had to argue a point their voice was an echo of Casi. I soon ceased to read any of the discussions. because it was Casi in stereo. Philosophical discussions do not make for great story telling. Pity there was so much of it. Congrats to Casi for being so well educated and having so many well educated friends,

And as for the boxer - this was great blocks of filler, more showing off as to how detailed the research was. There again maybe he made it all up, who knows? How many people can name a single PR boxer? Unless you are really into boxing all of the boxing tales are simply in the way of the narrative.

Did I enjoy it - yes. Did I finish it - yes, but only because I flicked over numerous pages of digression. The end? What choice did the author leave himself? Boredom, or lack of imagination, had Casi put down as a mad dog. Kept thinking of Alice Through The Looking Glass. ( )
  quilgar | Feb 15, 2014 |
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Book description
A Naked Singularity tells the story of Casi, a child of Colombian immigrants who lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan as a public defender--one who, tellingly has never lost a trial. Never. In the book, we watch 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 huge, ambitious novel clearly in the vein of DeLillo, Foster Wallace, Pynchon, and even Melville, and it's told in a distinct, frequently hilarious voice, with a striking human empathy at its center. Its panoramic reach takes readers through crime and courts, immigrant families and urban blight, media savagery and media satire, scatology and boxing, and even a breathless heist worthy of any crime novel. If Infinite Jest stuck a pin in the map of mid-90s culture and drew our trajectory from there, A Naked Singularity does the same for the feeling of surfeit, brokenness, and exhaustion that permeates our civic and cultural life today. In the opening sentence of William Gaddis’s A Frolic of His Own, a character sneers, "Justice? You get justice in the next world. In this world, you get the law." A Naked Singularity reveals the extent of that gap, and lands firmly on the side of those who are forever getting the law.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0226141799, Paperback)

A Naked Singularity tells the story of Casi, a child of Colombian immigrants who lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan as a public defender--one who, tellingly has never lost a trial. Never. In the book, we watch 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 huge, ambitious novel clearly in the vein of DeLillo, Foster Wallace, Pynchon, and even Melville, and it's told in a distinct, frequently hilarious voice, with a striking human empathy at its center. Its panoramic reach takes readers through crime and courts, immigrant families and urban blight, media savagery and media satire, scatology and boxing, and even a breathless heist worthy of any crime novel. If Infinite Jest stuck a pin in the map of mid-90s culture and drew our trajectory from there, A Naked Singularity does the same for the feeling of surfeit, brokenness, and exhaustion that permeates our civic and cultural life today. In the opening sentence of William Gaddis’s A Frolic of His Own, a character sneers, "Justice? You get justice in the next world. In this world, you get the law." A Naked Singularity reveals the extent of that gap, and lands firmly on the side of those who are forever getting the law.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:04 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"A Naked Singularity tells the story of Casi, a child of Colombian immigrants who lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan as a public defender--one who, tellingly has never lost a trial. Never. In the book, we watch 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 huge, ambitious novel clearly in the vein of DeLillo, Foster Wallace, Pynchon, and even Melville, and it's told in a distinct, frequently hilarious voice, with a striking human empathy at its center. Its panoramic reach takes readers through crime and courts, immigrant families and urban blight, media savagery and media satire, scatology and boxing, and even a breathless heist worthy of any crime novel. If Infinite Jest stuck a pin in the map of mid-90s culture and drew our trajectory from there, A Naked Singularity does the same for the feeling of surfeit, brokenness, and exhaustion that permeates our civic and cultural life today. In the opening sentence of William Gaddis's A Frolic of His Own, a character sneers, 'Justice? You get justice in the next world. In this world, you get the law.' A Naked Singularity reveals the extent of that gap, and lands firmly on the side of those who are forever getting the law"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 2 descriptions

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