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When Hali‚ s father asks her to help him commit suicide to spare the family the misery of a long illness, she reluctantly agrees. Hali‚ s family insists on letting ‚ God‚ s will‚ decide. While Hali, brooding upon the idea of predetermination and an afterlife in way that is both challenging and deeply moving, is ultimately unable to do what her father wishes. She is forced to accept the help of a manipulative male nurse, adding further complications and a slow and painful end.
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One of the many dark beauties of Victoria N. Alexander's new novel is that, not only is it the proverbial good read, it is also an aproverbially brilliant one. Alexander-holder of a Ph.D in English from CUNY, Graduate School-has dished up a heart-stoppingly beautiful heroine who holds similar degrees in teleology (the study of why) and she thinks, and writes, like a dream. Witness this sample from a soliloquy by Hali on death: "You had thought death would at least be romantic, but now you realize there is nothing to be thankful for-how vacuous, how colorless, how without pity, how without regard for your intentions . . . . " This, from a piece of popular fiction, is almost asking too much in the matter of sheer, unabused style.
Unfortunately, both narrator and author have run up against that same ontically insurmountable obstacle as described above: Hali's beloved father, former pipe fiend Dave MacDonald, is, as we join the proceedings, being slowly undone, in sickbed and out, by a gross cancer that proceeds from mere discomfort of the throat areas to grueling pain of the neck and head, a progression unforeseen by his bubble-brained doctors to the utter despair of this wife and three daughters, including Hali.
There's darker to come. On one of her trips to Texas from New York-where Hali resides with her husband Seth, a slightly noble, thus not completely understanding, type-Hali's father asks her, his youngest, if she will privately assist him in bringing about his death, before nature can take its grisly course. Hali-perhaps more to the reader's surprise than her own-agrees, not wanting to see her father reduced to the level of disfigured effigy, long-suffering or short. 'Tis a consummation, they both agree, devoutly to be wished, and brought about. And full, it must be added, of misjudgments and misintentions, not so much on the part of Hali, but the tortured psyche of slim-hipped, drawling, East Texas night nurse they're hired to while away Dave's nocturnal hours. In ungracious cahoots with Hali, Thomas, as pictured by Alexander, does for euthanasia what Raskalnikov did for murder: Dave MacDonald is subjected to a steady stream of lethal drugs (injected through a feeding tube implanted in his stomach) including morphine, Valium, Vicodin, Dilaudid, even Nyquil-all without any effect except to plunge Hali's father into one faux-coma after another.
At times, the coloring of the whole affair becomes so dark as to make us believe we're in the midst of some whopper of a black comedy. But as Dave's wife and daughters begin to fall apart, singly and collectively, as Hali spends her afternoons running ten miles at a clip, and blackmail abruptly becomes more than a subtext, we begin to see far more clearly the true themes of Alexander's novel: the savage intractability of life, equaled only by the dauntless superiority of death, the terrible malfeasance that seems to have brought all of it on, and the state of ontological vacuum resulting, with each as culpable as the next, and no one safe from death except death itself.
I'm not going to reveal the conclusion of Naked Singularity except to wonder out loud if Hali is ever going to be free of Thomas, even with that noble Seth-noble, and newly nasty-standing by. I promised you a good read, and guarantee you'll get it. But you'll also get much more, much of it existentially inconvenient, much more lagniappe for the soul. --Gerrit Henry, author of The Mirrored Clubs of Hell
Victoria N. Alexander, Ph.D. is a novelist, philosopher of science and co-founder of the Dactyl Foundation in NYC. She has just finished a new political-satire novel, Locus Amœnus, her favorite authors are Vladimir Nabokov and Stanislaw Lem, and she lives on a small organic sheep farm upstate with her husband and son. Alexander's fiction is published byThe Permanent Press. Her nonfiction, The Biologist's Mistress, is published by Emergent Publications.
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Book Description Permanent Press (NY), 2003. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1579621058