An Eternal Economic Recession: An Interview with Sergio de la Pava

Ben Shore: Many maximalist works, including Lookout Cartridge, J R, Underworld, and even your debut A Naked Singularity take place in New York. What aspects of the city do you feel lend itself to this particular writing style?

Sergio De La Pava: I guess there have been times in my life where the place felt pregnant with artistic possibility. Now it mostly feels like a place where rich people gather to try and get richer. The place is probably same as it ever was, with only the observer changed.

BS: Humor is very prevalent throughout A Naked Singularity, particularly a new sense of humor that starts from early post-modernism to post-post-modernism, as in the works of David Foster Wallace. Where does your comedic influences come from?

SDLP: There’s really no species of humor I won’t at least dabble in at some point, that deep is my fascination. But in that novel I think you have mainly gallows humor, which, out of grim necessity, has been around seemingly forever.

BS:  Chaos seems to permeate throughout books where, despite the amount of planning or consistency, foreign elements arise for no discernable reason. Do you agree with the post-modern idea that cause and effect is a tenuous relationship or does that purely lie in the literary medium?

SDLP: I think stability is a luxury item now, like privacy or stillness. Cause and effect remain as strong as ever, just not crazy about the effects we keep getting.

BS: Though your stories take place in our reality, they often have fantastical elements, such as characters trying to psychologically become one with the honeymooners. Is it for pure literary aestheticism or a more philosophical commentary?

SDLP: I don’t draw the harshest line between an invented character and what we generally call reality. So I suspect this was my way of tentatively existing in that realization for a while.

BS: As a writer, you have a unique background with your legal practice. Did study and experience in that field lead you to postmodernist writing or did you find those sensibilities were always with you? How do they overlap if at all?

SDLP: If those are my only two choices, I would say that my internal experience is more that I do the things I do because of who I am rather than those things forming me. But that doesn’t mean I’m accurate, and maybe everyone deludes themselves this way.

BS: Given the variety of topics you cycle through—from law, sports, immigrant life, and popular culture—how do you decide which topics take precedence and the length of time you focus on each? In the context of maximalism, is it about exhausting each topic?

SDLP: Anything that is not about the aesthetic experience of the novel is invalid. Operate differently and you’re in the world of nonfiction; and that’s a world I’m only intermittently interested in visiting.

BS:  Your debut was published during the time of the 2008 economic crash. Has this recession changed the trajectory of your literature or those of your peers in anyway?

SDLP: The life of the novelist is that of an eternal economic recession so no.

BS:  What are some of your fears and hopes with adapting a novel of this length into a two hour feature. Are their specific aspects you are excited to see on the big screen?

SDLP: I’ve adapted nothing myself. And when control addicts find themselves with no control over situations they’re inextricably linked with, excitement is not the term I would use.

George Salis: What is a novel that deserves more readers?

SDLP: So many, but let’s start with anything by Laura Restrepo.

GS: The Lost Empress was published by Pantheon Books. What was your experience like working with the editor(s) there? Do you feel that you had less creative freedom?

SDLP: I know I would never countenance any diminution in that prized element. And with the brilliant Tim O’Connell at my side, it never came up.

GS: Your first two novels were self-published, somewhat unique considering that they are not genre works but literary and artistic. Would you recommend self-publishing to writers who are also writing artistic, experimental, non-conforming works, or is it better for the potential audience of the writer to wait years if not longer for a suitable publisher?

SDLP: But what if that suitable publisher never steps forward? I personally know of novels that should be published but aren’t. And I make no effort at all to inform myself on the topic so the mind races. There are so many variables at play, so search for a constant I would say. For me, that constant was my lifelong relationship with art merged with my contempt for convention but that’s obviously not for everyone.

BS:  I posit the theory that the singularity at the end of your novel is a meta-commentary on plotlines in the story reaching a climax, but also the act of closing a book and compressing all the pages together. How off base am I with that theory?

SDLP: I don’t think it’s even possible for you to be wrong when you theorize like that. It would be as if I explicitly invited you to tell me which of two pieces of music you preferred then declared that you were wrong. My question to you is a form of abandoning authority. Same with writing that kind of novel.

Photo by Sharon Daniels

Sergio de la Pava is the author of the novels A Naked Singularity, Personae, and Lost Empress. His website is here.

Ben Shore is a YouTube critic whose primary focus includes postmodernism and erotica. His channel can be found here.

George Salis is the author of Sea Above, Sun Below. His fiction is featured in The DarkBlack DandyZizzle Literary MagazineHouse of ZoloThree Crows Magazine, and elsewhere. His criticism has appeared in IsacousticAtticus Review, and The Tishman Review, and his science article on the mechanics of natural evil was featured in Skeptic. He is currently working on an encyclopedic novel titled Morphological Echoes. He has taught in Bulgaria, China, and Poland. Find him on FacebookGoodreadsInstagram, Twitter, and at

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