Saturday, February 23, 2019

Review: "Lost Empress" by Sergio De La Pava

It won’t take an experienced bibliophile very long to find out what two writers influenced Sergio De La Pava’s second (first with a major publisher) novel Lost Empress. In its length, it scope and in its complexity, comparison to David Foster Wallace and William Gaddis are par for the course, with its settings very reminiscent of Infinite Jest and its habit of involving its characters in long swaths of dialogue with denoting who is speaking being a trademark of Gaddis’ difficult novels. But what really sets this apart is how De La Pava, sometimes, not always, allows the story to breath and goes down smoothly for the reader, a quality the two aforementioned authors are sometimes guilty of not doing. It is both the book’s strength early on and its detriment as the story progresses, with its early scenes filled with humor and a ridiculous yet cohesive story lulling me into a false sense of security when the book becomes a harder, less enjoyable read as it is bogged down in didactic diatribes and clunky narrative elements. The novel centers on two very different aspects of American culture: football, represented by the floundering Paterson Pork indoor football franchise that Nina Gill, daughter of the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is determined to turn into a sports mega power, and the criminal justice system, represented by Nuno DeAngeles, a famous criminal whose fight for justice is constantly interrupted by powers he can’t control. It’s easy to see the parallels between these two entities and the tennis academy and the halfway house in Wallace’s novel. Both books act as a summation of a great theme two, and try to contextualize complex American themes. And much like these kinds of books, it can be terribly uninteresting in parts, be way longer than it needs to be and sacrifices its more engaging aspects for browbeating that can or cannot be eloquently written. I ended up liking parts of it, like the poor saga of Travis Mena, and a climax that had me thinking about DeLillo’s opening to Underworld, but as a whole it is a still a mystery, and I know some people who enjoy that level of disconnect in their fiction, if you do, than this book is for you. 
Rating: 4/5

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