Synopsis: 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 and she is forced to accept the help of a manipulative male nurse, adding further complications and a slow and painful end.
“Best of 2003: Best Locally Produced Literary Figure” –Dallas Observer
“A painful tale about euthanasia. The emotions are raw at times, but there’s a cool tone of postmodern post-mortem throughout as well, raising hackles and sympathy from first to last.” –Kirkus Reviews
“Alexander takes on a gut-wrenching topic and writes eloquently about the family’s daily emotional pain, leading up to a lurid, macabre ending and a climax that is so true, it is barely believable.” –Publishers Weekly
“deeply intellectual,” “extremely sexual” –Ethical Culture Review
“Beautifully written” –Texas Books in Review
“Alexander takes the reader down an intriguing road loaded with questions and choices, none of them easy…. Naked Singularity is sad, touching and heartfelt, a taut story about love and living, hate and dying.” –Curled up with a Good Book Review
“Woven into Naked Singularity‘s metaphors and narrative is a profound understanding of chaos and complexity. It renders esoteric constructs concrete, and in a setting none of us can escape.” –J. P. Crutchfield, co-author of “Chaos,” Scientific American.
Excerpt from Chapter Eleven
That night in bed I was restless. I had forgotten what it was like to feel fear so empty, as I had most poignantly at three or four, realizing for the first time that I couldn’t understand what it meant to begin or end.
Outside my window, mockingbirds were swirling around the parklight catching insects. The noises they made. Meaningful noises. You might call it genius, art, the way they can sound uncannily like the bells of St. Paul Le Jeune, which they have never heard.
There was the consolation one needed. I turned, gaining a cooler patch of pillow. I imagined my father awake in his bed too, feeling not just the family edifice crumble, but also the whole world. Grabbing at the cold comfort that there may be other universes to continue if ours should end in the Big Crunch. And wondering why it should make a difference that this one continue. Clearly it does. If not I, then at least my young, my genetically reminiscent self, would go on. If not I, then my children, or someone else’s children, or if not humans, then extra-terrestrials, and so on. There was something in that, yes. Or better yet, my contribution might continue in the form of thought, a philosophy more solid than any rock, longer lasting than any Rembrandt, more robust than any old god’s dogma.
Why should it matter to me that something survive the Big Crunch or heat death? Why does continuity feel so important? The scaffolding up of good will, so that somehow, someway, progress may come of every human life and the whole business of living be somehow worthwhile.
Continue my work. One wants a bright graduate student to continue one’s theories, even change them if necessary so that they work better. Make some use out of them. That’s the thing.
Lately, Candice had mentioned, Dad had become interested in selecting out various things that he thought one of his daughters could use. Every time Candice went to throw out an old table or can opener, he would say, “Maybe one of the girls could use that.” What really bothered him, I supposed, was that something he had sweated for should go to waste. Our cities and poems erased.
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I’ve never read any of your previous books but I’m going to read this one. The topic is so relevant. I look forward to it.
Thank you. I hope you find the book interesting. There aren’t any easy answers.
I HAVE to read your books! You are very beautiful and a talented artist!
I’m a creative writing teacher in NYC and I want to tell you how much your work has inspired me.
Naked Singularity is clearly a memoir. Why didn’t you at least call it a fictional memoir or a non-fiction novel or something like that? With all these novelists lately trying to pass off their fiction as biography (Three Cups of Tea, Love and Consequences)…
This is a really important topic that everybody needs to think more about. I’m like Hali, the heroine in the novel, I don’t know how I would feel if this were an issue in my family. But it does seem like it is something that we just aren’t facing as a culture. Why is it so horrible to let suffering people die? I’m not saying it isn’t. I’m just asking why. Victoria Alexander writes beautifully about it. I don’t think a more sensitive story could be told.
I’ve read two of your books now, this one and Trixie. I love them both. I’m going to buy Smoking Hopes now.
I am absolutely stunned by your writing. You just don’t find contemporary writers using truly poetic language these days. I will read all your work.
innovative and impressive writing.
I feel very passionate about euthanasia and assisted suicide. I am an RN, but I do not work in hospice care, mostly because there is a lot of prayer and such with family member’s. I work in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Years ago I worked with adults on a medical/surgical floor. The most honorable, loving and privledged moment in my career was giving a man, that was dying of cancer, his last dose of morphine. I ended his suffering. It is heartbreaking to watch someone, whose death is imminent, loose their dignity because they can no longer control their bodily functions or they’ve lost some or all brain function and to see the uncontrollable pain is unbearable. People do not hesitate to euthanize their pets because they don’t want them to suffer. Why in the whole universe would we not do the same for our loved ones or honor their decision to die with dignity? If only people could shift their perspective and see euthanasia as the ultimate gift of love.
I just found your site, and I think I’m going to pick up at least one of your books as they appear to be a perfect edition to my summer reading list. I have a couple of questions for you as well:
1. What do you think about the right to suicide when illness is not a factor, but a person simply wants to die? When I was a graduate student in sociology, I heard about another student doing a genealogy of suicide/the right to suicide/illegalization for his Ph.D. thesis. It sounded fascinating and I would love to hear your POV.
2. This is more related to your first novel (after reading only the description), but are you familiar with Japanese feminist crime author Natsuo Kirino? If not, check her out! I lived in Japan for some time as a young teenage girl, and I find her take on women in Japanese society absolutely cunning, hilarious, and tragic, all at once.
I am an aspiring writer myself, and I would love to ask for advice (and I suppose I just did in an implicit way…:O) but I won’t bombard you.
Suicide always makes me sad, no matter what the circumstances are. It’s less sad if the person is very old and terminally ill. It’s much more humane, I think, to quietly pull the plug on the patient, saying “goodnight” instead of “goodbye.” Although I think its silly — more than silly, absurd — that suicide is illegal in some states, I wouldn’t want to defend one’s right to kill oneself just because one is unhappy. I couldn’t see myself holding up that “suicide is a right” picket sign.
Perhaps euthanasia is not a decision that should be made in the courts but at the bedside amongst family. Sometimes laws can get in the way of our making good emotional decisions. Moral issues are always emotional. We need to be able to ask ourselves, What do I feel is right? Then we should act, with dignity, and suffer the legal consequences if they come.
In our legal system, we can challenge a harmful law by breaking it. This is what Kevorkian did and the judge who sentenced him did not understand this at all. See her statement is a travesty of justice: http://www.nytimes.com/1999/04/14/us/statement-from-judge-to-kevorkian.html
I don’t know Kirino, but that description sounds compelling.
And as for advice on writing, write what you need to write, never write what you think will sell. If you follow this advice, you will be happy, but poor.