My second novel may not get quite as much attention as my other two novels (with pretty females on their covers), but Naked Singularity is my personal favorite and I’m happy to announce that it’s finally available on Kindle. The subject is dark — euthanasia — but heavy as it is, it’s also darkly comic. Here’s a thoughtful review from poet Gerrit Henry published when the novel first appeared in 2003.
Alexander, Victoria N. Naked Singularity.The Permanent Press, 2003, Sag Harbor. 189 pp. 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 a proverbially brilliant one. Alexander–holder of a PhD–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.