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Lost Empress
Cover of Lost Empress
Lost Empress
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
From the acclaimed PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize-winning author of A Naked Singularity, a shockingly hilarious novel that tackles, with equal aplomb, both America's most popular sport and its criminal justice system

From Paterson, New Jersey, to Rikers Island to the streets of New York City, Sergio de la Pava's Lost Empress introduces readers to a cast of characters unlike any other in modern fiction: dreamers and exiles, immigrants and night-shift workers, a lonely pastor and others on the fringes of society—each with their own impact on the fragile universe they navigate.

Nina Gill, daughter of the aging owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was instrumental in building her father's dynasty. So it's a shock when her brother inherits the franchise and she is left with the Paterson Pork, New Jersey's failing Indoor Football League team. Nina vows to take on the NFL and make the Paterson Pork pigskin kings of America. All she needs to do is recruit the coach, the players, and the fans.

Meanwhile, Nuno DeAngeles—a brilliant and lethal criminal mastermind—has been imprisoned on Rikers Island for a sensational offense. Nuno fights for his liberty—while simultaneously planning an even more audacious crime.

In Lost Empress, de la Pava weaves a narrative that encompasses Salvador Dalí, Joni Mitchell, psychiatric help, emergency medicine, religion, theoretical physics, and everything in between. With grace, humor, and razor-sharp prose, all these threads combine, counting down to an epic and extraordinary conclusion.
From the acclaimed PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize-winning author of A Naked Singularity, a shockingly hilarious novel that tackles, with equal aplomb, both America's most popular sport and its criminal justice system

From Paterson, New Jersey, to Rikers Island to the streets of New York City, Sergio de la Pava's Lost Empress introduces readers to a cast of characters unlike any other in modern fiction: dreamers and exiles, immigrants and night-shift workers, a lonely pastor and others on the fringes of society—each with their own impact on the fragile universe they navigate.

Nina Gill, daughter of the aging owner of the Dallas Cowboys, was instrumental in building her father's dynasty. So it's a shock when her brother inherits the franchise and she is left with the Paterson Pork, New Jersey's failing Indoor Football League team. Nina vows to take on the NFL and make the Paterson Pork pigskin kings of America. All she needs to do is recruit the coach, the players, and the fans.

Meanwhile, Nuno DeAngeles—a brilliant and lethal criminal mastermind—has been imprisoned on Rikers Island for a sensational offense. Nuno fights for his liberty—while simultaneously planning an even more audacious crime.

In Lost Empress, de la Pava weaves a narrative that encompasses Salvador Dalí, Joni Mitchell, psychiatric help, emergency medicine, religion, theoretical physics, and everything in between. With grace, humor, and razor-sharp prose, all these threads combine, counting down to an epic and extraordinary conclusion.
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  • From the book Because it will remain true, even then: that we will only see before affect after, only sense the immediate, and dumbly feed on the invis­ible other.

    And in 2042 a woman with indeterminately colored eyes will suffer the first known case of mass reverse amnesia (codified thereafter and for the first time in DSM-XI). Meaning she will one day wake to find that while her perception of her surroundings is unchanged, she's now perfect stranger to all who knew her. This absence of external recog­nition both perfect and consistent.

    She will look in mirrors. It will still look like her; will still be her, right? She will move through confusion and space. Her head will hurt as if from a blow. Everything will look the same but nothing will cohere into meaning. Yet this absence of meaning will clearly apply to her alone. The clockwork of the world will continue to grind forward and she will more and more feel like disinterested observer.

    Although there will be freedom too. Because if no one knows who you are today that means no one knows who you were. Magnifying greatly the power of self-reinvention inherent in something like start­ing a new job or moving to a new school. Also the freedom that comes from realizing it may all just be a game. After all, if you can wake one day to find you've been converted into a complete unknown, then it seems fair to posit that, when it comes to existence, really anything at all is in play.
    She'll agonize, through tears, about whether life is screwball com­edy or soap opera, will feel like those are the only two options. But how truth could equally underpin both.

    Let me explain. Was Mathematics invented or discovered?

    Formalists (invented) and Platonists (discovered) will still not have agreed (true advancement will not come where you'd like, it will stay confined to things like pixels). Of course, the only reason the question will remain relevant is that Math will continue to be so unreasonably effective at describing the natural world. So, to take a classic example, Newton will seemingly invent calculus (some debate, Leibniz?) and others, centuries later, will discover that it accurately, to an extreme level, depicts our physical reality, which reality of course is decidedly not a Newtonian invention. See? One possible explanation is that although it felt like an invention what Newton was actually doing was discovering a truth and that's why his invention has persisted.

    The afflicted woman will focus intensely on this issue but ulti­mately conclude that Life is neither, it's endurance. Your new reality is formed hourly or even more frequently and the universe has approxi­mately zero interest in how you feel about that fact, only what you emit in response.

    She will look into a still, standing body of water and address her reflected self.

    She will conclude that, finally, it's Beauty will destroy us all.

    She will, she'll decide, endure.
About the Author-
  • SERGIO DE LA PAVA is the author of A Naked Singularity and Personae. He is a public defender in New York City.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 2, 2018
    In his extraordinary new novel, de la Pava (A Naked Singularity) weaves together several story lines centered around Paterson, N.J. Nina Gill is a preternaturally gifted football strategist. She stands to inherit the Dallas Cowboys, but instead ends up with the family’s far less desirable Indoor Football League franchise, the Paterson Pork. However, an NFL lockout gives Nina the opportunity to build an absurd alternative for showcasing the sport she loves. A few miles from Paterson, Nuno DeAngeles sits imprisoned in Rikers Island. An out-of-place intellectual, Nuno is able to manipulate his lawyer and eventually lands in the somewhat cushier Bellevue Hospital while he conspires with his fellow inmate Solomon to commit a mysterious crime. Between these two worlds, de la Pava takes readers into the lives of ordinary Patersonians who work as EMTs, 911 operators, and a pig-suit-wearing mascot. Like his previous work, de la Pava’s novel employs a variety of narrative forms, including legal briefs, sermons, phone transcripts, and the text of a prison handbook. De la Pava is a maximalist worldbuilder, and the incredible multiverse he constructs in this book establishes him as one of the most fearsomely talented American novelists working today.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from April 1, 2018
    If Thomas Pynchon and Elmore Leonard had conspired to write North Dallas Forty, this might be the result: a madcap, football-obsessed tale of crossed destinies and criminal plots gone awry.You know you're in fictional territory when the Dallas Cowboys are portrayed as a winning team; the world is veritably upside down when things like that happen. That's one of many conceits de la Pava (Personae, 2011, etc.), New York City public defender by day and shaper of the modern canon by night, plays with in this loopy yarn, which embraces surrealist art, the law, theoretical physics, politics, and just about everything else under the sun. But especially football: At the heart of de la Pava's shaggy dog tale, overlong but not overworked, is an unabashed love for pigskin. Young Nina Gill hauls up the underdog Paterson Pork team from deepest obscurity in a scenario out of a gridiron version of King Lear after having been shoved aside from inheriting said Cowboys after her father dies; in grim revenge, Nina decides to take the indoor-playing Pork to the NFL championship, an impossibility, of course. She's an encyclopedia of the game: "Before 'seventy-eight defensive backs could hit receivers with impunity all the way down the field provided the ball hadn't been thrown," she tells sidekick Dia Nouveau, who's scrambling to keep up with "the various permutations of football knowledge that woman is essentially compelling her to acquire." Dia has bigger fish to fry, though, and so does Nuno DeAngeles, street philosopher and would-be crime lord, who's gotten himself tucked away on Rikers Island and finds that his "only ally now is René Descartes," inasmuch as Cartesian dualism allows his mind to flow freely out into the boroughs to work mischief until his body can catch up. Parts of the story are seemingly the standard aspirational sports rah-rah, but turned on their head, and the caper that plays out alongside Nina's championship run, laced with philosophy and cornerbacks, is a blast to watch unfold.A whirling vortex of a novel, confusing, misdirecting, and surprising--and a lot of fun.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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A Novel
Sergio De La Pava
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