Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Sergio De La Pava's expanding universe

Tuesday April 2


Finishing Naked Singularity which is heartbreakingly good.  And fine.

5:45 pm  Finished the novel about twenty minutes ago, scanned some commentary on Conversational and then took a crap, unusual time of day for such and somehow related---in terms of the old thinking of the body approach.

Back to De La Pava's novel.  Real sense of Over-ness haunting me now.  hanging on.  Very powerful work.  Might be better than Infinite Jest.  Too soon to say but it comes to mind. 

Weds  April  3 
Paula came early this morning.  Final packing things.  Super bright and sunny but really cold and still high winds. 

Thinking about how thrilling De La Pava's book is.  Wonder if he took the use of swords from MarĂ®as's Your Face Tomorrow?  Vol 2.  Even if not, he sure knows what he's doing.  If only Salvatore's first novel had been this wonderful, this splendid and spectacular.  Both took ten years to write. 

Contrast ANS with the little book of Walser's that I read a few weeks ago.  Walser's inimitable style and modes, yes, but still, early 20th C airy slightness, Peter Panism, until I read a few more of his works to get a better take on them.  Meanwhile, De La Pava's work is certainly "after David Foster Wallace"--half a generation? after it.  But perhaps greater than it.  Huge books by young men out to prove their moves.  Pava's is so much warmer and human.  Infinite Jest I read so long ago that my memory of it is not reliable, but what I do remember, and the remembered experience of it, is that exhausting sense of brilliance at high pitch, the exploding nebula of amazing brightness---and coldness.  The best scene is where the Quebec wheelchair terrorists put mirrors up across highway I-93 in the dark of night to bewitch drivers.  Of course that stuck with me because I live close to the very scene and enjoyed the whole local referentiality.  No need to go on trying to compare the works.  Better to just say that ANS does succeed in expanding itself outward and the whole "deconstruction," to use an really old-fashioned word, of what it started out to be---a legal thriller, a lawyer-esque detective work, the spiraling explosion of genres, once we've lived through the incredibly enjoyable and intense heist movements, keeps going upward into if not a sublime then a contemporary version of exaltation where love land fear embrace to erase victory and loss.  Or maybe to merge with all of those and all the other terms we can think of. 

I read one commentary yesterday that said that after the sword scenes the reader then felt let down by the remaining hundred pages or so of the novel.  But I didn't and I don't think so.  There is a natural denouement after climax, yes, De La Pava follows the conventions and he manages to break them open at the same time and the denouement moves themselves become almost a new novella/epilogue in which resolution issues morph into nearly new revelations of character and relationship and human connectedness.  We have family, children, sister and mother, love, and fear of retribution which itself becomes turned inside out into some indefinable cosmic embrace.  And it is none of it as hokey as this run-down surely makes it sound to someone who has not yet read the book. 

At key places you can say to yourself, oh boy, is Tarantino going to die to make this a movie and you also say, no, this is so much better than what mess he would make of it because I am reading it and De La Pava's implied narrator is pacing us through it in ways that only a supreme writer can do. 

Another lasting impression concerns the ways De La Pava takes the risk of describing madness and near-madness and pulls it off.  Various sorts of distortions of experience that we recognize and don't recognize, have felt ourselves or can tell others have felt, De La Pava portrays those, conveys what they are like, has his protagonist, Casi, live through them, live with them for a time, and we find them credible and moving, especially in hindsight.  As the story moves along we can look back and recognize what that was, perhaps in ways that Casi himself cannot, and yet, this might be a major achievement, our experience of these effects do not seem to involve irony.  At least not in the ways that have become standard as "dramatic irony" or "literary irony."  Nor are there the now standard "post-modern irony" or other such effects.  Instead the book hangs on a few ordinary armatures---legal procedure, the history of boxing in the 80s, crime, some violence, oh, and memorable characters, expansive, big, complex characters, like Toom and Dane. 

Casi's voice carries the rich brew.  De La Pava's incredible mastery of idiom, rhetoric, street talk, talk of every sort, rushes the book forward.  Language rich to a breaking point, never cute, never just clever, language handled so poetically it disappears, taking us into the naked singularity of poetry.  That title phrase is from physics and I assume the concept gets used and explained clearly and astonishingly---assume, because everything else I can judge gets handled that way.  The history of western philosophy, yep, in there, forgot to mention that.  Literary theory, even television theory, of sorts, without extraneous chat about pop this or that, and without superfluous big thoughts about politics or history, but they are there too. 

Melville hovers around the edges.  One character named Ballena and bigger than all get out.  Confidence men, ambiguities, uncertainties and shifting realities in which we wander enchanted isles.  

Philsophy, hence theology and spirituality.  Character named Aloyna.  Hmm, Dostoyevsky.  The list goes on.