J.W. McCormack

  • culture November 01, 2013

    Personae by Sergio de la Pava

    Personae is a hodgepodge consisting of, among other things, a crime report, obituaries, and a short story that a character has scrawled in the margins of an old TV Guide. At times, it reads less a novel than the kind of manifesto a crazy person binds with a rubber band and mails to NASA or the Library of Congress. The book is also the most galvanizing meditation on the possibilities and ramifications of artistic process in recent memory.

    "The ensuing is the report of one Detective Helen Tame. I am Helen Tame, the ensuing is my report, and it is not true that this second sentence adds nothing to the first." So begins Personae, the second novel by Sergio De La Pava. Whereas the famous sleuths of golden-age television and airport mystery novels were preeminently concerned with justice, Detective Tame's obsession with "Truth in its multifarious instantiations," and her infatuation with this capital-T subject goes well beyond the letter of the law. Tame's report, concerning the apparent murder of a 111-year-old Colombian writer