Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts, Books for the News, Commentary, Fiction

Sergio De La Pava’s Personae: A New Year


The second half of 2013 has been good to Sergio De La Pava. In August, he took  home the $25,000 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for his self-published (and then, ahem, republished) novel A Naked Singularity, awarded to “an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work—a novel or collection of short stories—represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.” In September, he followed-up with Personae, a slim, inventive take on the detective novel, which features psychics, ekphrasis, a short play, and the same experimental and morally astute take on justice and responsibility as his previous, maximalist work of fiction. In case you missed it, the book was acclaimed here, here, here, here, over here, here, and here, among other places.

For our last post of the year, we thought we’d point out something else about De La Pava: as many already know, in addition to his literary pursuits, he works as a full-time public defender (though, of course, he is also “a writer who does not live in Brooklyn.”). Over at the Millions, as part of their series “A Year in Reading,” they asked De La Pava for his recommendations. And, as usual, De La Pava’s response gives us all something to think about:

Imagine a country that never tires of self-identifying as the land of the free yet is actually the undisputed global leader in incarcerating its own citizens. Now imagine that this country’s program of almost-militaristic mass incarceration is being deployed in a racially discriminatory manner and almost exclusively against those who are already pathetically marginalized; and all the while almost no one with a platform or power can be bothered to utter a dissenting syllable, so entranced are they by what insulates them.

If that seems too grim an imagining to engage in, then just pick up The New Jim Crow by the equal parts brilliant and courageous Michelle Alexander. With the kind of meticulous empirical support such a title demands, Professor Alexander sets out what must become the new template for thinking productively about American criminal justice. I say must because no entity that silently countenances the fact that “[a] human rights nightmare is occurring on our watch,” can ever truly cohere.

To read more about A Naked Singularity and Personae, click here.