Synopses & Reviews
Sergio De La Pava’s A Naked Singularity
was one of the most highly praised debut novels in decades. The Wall Street Journal
called it “a propulsive, mind-bending experience,” and named it one of the ten best books of the year. The Toronto Star
did the same, calling it “a great American novel: large, ambitious, and full of talk.” In Slate
, Paul Ford proclaimed,“It’s a fine thing for an author to bring forth something so unapologetically maximalist."
This book is nothing like that one. Just look at it: A Naked Singularity was a brick of a book, 678 pages, and this one’s slim — lean and focused. A Naked Singularity locked us into the unforgettable voice of its protagonist, Casi, while Personae shimmers and shifts among different perspectives, locations, and narrative techniques.
But sharp readers will quickly see that the two books are the work of the same hand. The sheer energy of De La Pava’s sentences, his eye for absurd humor, his commitment to the idea of justice — all will be familiar here as they carry us from the tale of an obsessive, damaged psychic detective consumed by a murder case, into a Sartrean drama that raises questions (and jokes) about responsibility, fate, death, and more. And when De La Pava eventually returns us to the investigation, this time seen from the other side, the lives and deaths bound up in it feel all the more real, and moving, even as solid answers slip away into mist.
Shelf Awareness declared that A Naked Singularity "heralded the arrival of a tremendous talent." In some ways, despite its brevity, Personae is even more surprising and challenging — and, in its ambition and fierce intelligence, it’s proof that Sergio De La Pava is here to stay.
"De La Pava's (A Naked Singularity) shape-shifting latest is, in part, an upbeat existentialist comedy. We meet Detective Helen Tame (in a chapter titled 'Our Heroine and Her Work,' no less) as she investigates a crime scene, before diving into the writings Tame discovers at the victim's house. Notebook scribblings include pronouncements against 'filling with allusive arcana for dimwit professors.' Next, a short story depicts a professor musing about loss and posterity as, during a swim, the tide carries him farther and farther from shore. Then, a play, making up almost half the book, presents personae with descriptions like 'A person,' 'Another person,' 'The first person plural'; sometimes they alternate identities (Adam and Not-Adam are one and the same). The characters are trapped, á la No Exit, in an unidentifiable 'here,' debating Sartrean questions about where, who, and why they are, misunderstanding and echoing one another at a hilarious, absurd pitch. But then the novel changes tone, which is appropriate considering it's already run the gamut of perspectives, genres, and techniques. The conclusions for Helen and the victim, and especially the novella, which wraps up the book, are darker, and more touching. Game readers should have as much fun with this clever experiment as the author seems to have had inventing it, and be challenged by his more serious and troubling questions." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"De La Pava's shape-shifting latest is, in part, an upbeat existentialist comedy....Game readers should have as much fun with this clever experiment as the author seems to have had inventing it, and be challenged by his more serious and troubling questions." Wall Street Journal
"Personae is an artful, ambitious — albeit enigmatic — sampling of slice-and-dice fiction blending mystery, musical theory, existential drama, aphorisms, and numbered lists....Inventive and unconventional, De La Pava's second novel is chock-full of surprises." Daily Beast
"Personae is not an easy read....But as a meditation on literature, it is playful, ambitious, and full of imagination, a 21st-century novel-of-some-kind, well worth pondering now, tomorrow, and years down the road.” The Times (UK)
"Not so much a novel as an amalgamation of ideas. This is a difficult, disjointed book, but one that maintains its ability to captivate....The disjointed nature of Personae appears to be finely tuned and meticulously calculated: De La Pava floats his readers through a detective story, an existential drama, and even a short jaunt through musical theory all in the name of challenging the conventions of a novel....And somehow, these threads harmonize together." Booklist
"Each individual section succeeds in drawing you in....It's familiar oddness leaves a final impression of virtuosic pastiche....Personae remains an intriguing work by an exceptional new talent." Bookforum
About the Author
Despite extensive overtures from authors of trend pieces, Sergio De La Pava has not moved to Brooklyn.