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The Names [Paperback]

Don Delillo
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 17 1989 Vintage Contemporaries
Set against the backdrop of a lush and exotic Greece, The Names is considered the book which began to drive "sharply upward the size of his readership" (Los Angeles Times Book Review). Among the cast of DeLillo's bizarre yet fully realized characters in The Names are Kathryn, the narrator's estranged wife; their son, the six-year-old novelist; Owen, the scientist; and the neurotic narrator obsessed with his own neuroses. A thriller, a mystery, and still a moving examination of family, loss, and the amorphous and magical potential of language itself, The Names stands with any of DeLillo's more recent and highly acclaimed works.

"The Names not only accurately reflects a portion of our contemporary world but, more importantly, creates an original world of its own."--Chicago Sun-Times

"DeLillo sifts experience through simultaneous grids of science and poetry, analysis and clear sight, to make a high-wire prose that is voluptuously stark."--Village Voice Literary Supplement

"DeLillo verbally examines every state of consciousness from eroticism to tourism, from the idea of America as conceived by the rest of the world to the idea of the rest of the world as conceived by America, from mysticism to fanaticism."--New York Times

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'A serious and complicated novel which deserves praise ... an outstandingly well-written and constructed book' Guardian 'Compelling ... strange and wonderful and frightening' New Yorker --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Don DeLillo, the author of fifteen novels, including Point Omega, Falling Man, White Noise and Libra, has won many honours in America and abroad, including the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the Jerusalem Prize for his complete body of work and the William Dean Howells Medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for his novel Underworld. In 2010, he received the PEN/Saul Bellow Award. He has also written three plays. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good primer for the later stuff July 6 2002
Delillo would get better, but those later novels prove that these early novels weren't some kind of weird writing fluke, while the novels from this period prove that he didn't exactly come out of nowhere. All of the classic elements of Delillo are already in place, the razor sharp prose that forms intricate and effortless rhythms where you think the words were always supposed to fall together that way, while the dialogue snaps back and forth like a live wire, even when the characters are talking languidly, and the characters themselves, both sharply defined and vaguely drawn, studies in contrasts. The plot here has something to do with language and a cult that is killing people for reasons that might have to do with language, while "risk analyist" James Axton ponders being separated from his wife and what all this travelling really means. What does it mean? It means the reader get a very meditative novel, carried along mostly by shifting from character study to character study, from observation to observation. For the most part it's a joy just watching everyone interact, the cult plot for the most part never becomes more than secondary and in fact most of the plot is secondary, you get more of a sense that you're peeking in on the lives of real (and very flawed) people. If Delillo wasn't such a master at crafting prose then all of this would come across as highly boring but he can make the descriptions of even the most static scenes and the most mundane thoughts crackle with a strange kind of energy, where behind the flat events sparks a vital sort of life. Read more ›
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Heights? May 20 2002
By "aowen"
Though White Noise--the academic novel meets family sitcom meets apocalyptic event--is more directly humorous and linearly plotted and Mao II--the author and the terrorist--has more immediate relevance to September 11 and Underworld--individuals in the shadow of the Cold War--operates on a grander scale, The Names may be the most successful DeLillo novel. As with the other books I've listed, don't approach The Names with the hopes that it will reach a clean resolution. But, even if somewhat infuriating, the experience will nonetheless be rewarding. DeLillo's skill at crafting sentences that stay with you, that make you laugh, that strike you as impossibly true has never been greater than in The Names. The book's "failure" may be that the individual sentences, the exchanges between the various couples are more satisfying, certainly less flat than the larger plot--the cult with their patterns. But the latter provides an element of suspense, of genuine scariness that gives the former a great immediacy. This book will stay with you if you give it a chance.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Are They Killing Americans There? July 22 2001
First, let me ask many languages do you speak? That question will take on a whole new meaning once you've read this book. The story (and there *is* one) centers around a group of American and British expatriates living and working in Greece (where DeLillo lived for a while before writing this novel). It was the last of his early novels...meaning the next one was WHITE NOISE, at which point DeLillo started to become famous. Yet, THE NAMES still remains one of my favorites. Yes, it was followed by three truly *excellent* novels (WHITE NOISE, LIBRA, and MAO II), and (after several years) by an undisputedly GREAT novel (UNDERWORLD). But, here we have DeLillo still paying his dues...and paying them remarkably well, too. In this one, he finally brought together the various disparate themes of his earlier works, and he solidified his "outsider in society" motif. It was the first of DeLillo's novels I read, and it made me an instant devotee. many languages do you speak? These expatriates I mentioned come in contact with a bizarre language cult which is responsible for a series of ritual murders in the area. Our "hero" is James Axton, a "risk analyst" who isn't exactly sure himself just who he's working for (i.e., business insurance...or CIA?). In fact, he's pretty much detached from most things in his life...his ex-marriage, his friends, Greece itself, the cult (when he finally meets them) name it. The Outsider. Wishing he could be part of something...never able to get past the *analysis* of risk. His inaction leads to serious consequences.
As always, DeLillo's intense use of language ultimately leads to something nonverbal.
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4.0 out of 5 stars fascination from a distance April 20 2001
There are, I suppose, two reasons we keep turning the pages: the plot and the prose. The most commercially popular authors tend to focus on the former, the critically acclaimed on the latter. It's a joy to find a book in which the two are successfully combined. In my view, The Names - my first Delillo book - comes close but never quite makes it. Certainly the prose is magnificent, and Delillo is a master of creating an atmosphere. And certainly the milieu is intriguing: here is the Middle East in one of its more tumultuous periods, Greece both old and new, a world of risk and uncertainty. The characters are less interesting, having that quality of being something off which ideas are bounced rather than living beings round whom the story twists. And the plot? Well, the plot, in as much as you can say there is a single plot, is intriguing too, but the reader is always at one remove. We are not involved in the deciphering of the cult of The Names; we are involved in James Axton's experience of that deciphering. The distinction is crucial and will dictate your enjoyment of the book: do you prefer the journey or the arrival? Those who read for love of language will be in heaven. But I ultimately found myself reading from curiosity rather than absorption. I couldn't help wondering what Umberto Eco, say, would have done with the same ideas.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A miss for me
I eagerly began reading The Names, my first Delillo novel, assuming I would be adding him to my rotation of can't-miss authors. Read more
Published on April 1 2004 by Dave Brooks
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Gatsby goes to Athens
I found The Names to be relatively intriguing. I was quite disappointed however, because the other reviews had prepared me to read something amazing. Read more
Published on June 22 2001 by Emilia Palaveeva
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious, complicated and intriguing.
I had read WHITE NOISE years ago and was surprised by the book's originality, depth and particularly the adeptness of the dialogue. Read more
Published on April 8 2001 by C. Middleton
The Names was the book that gave rise to Delillo's progressive fame and is probably one of Delilo's finest and most unique books. Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2000 by A. Leung
3.0 out of 5 stars A whirlwind travelogue, but not as "deep" as suggested
The Names is indeed well-written, and a sensory delight, taking the reader on believable and quite scenic travels with an international bank executive who speaks in short,... Read more
Published on July 26 2000 by Yaumo Gaucho
5.0 out of 5 stars DeLillo's best
Thinking back over all the DeLillo I have read since the 1970s, I think THE NAMES is his best. I don't recall a meditation on language being enacted so deeply and compactly... Read more
Published on Dec 11 1999 by W. Christeson
4.0 out of 5 stars Acquaint Yourself
I had never read DeLillo before and a friend suggested that if I never read anyone else again, I should read something that Don DeLillo had written. Read more
Published on Oct. 13 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars The light and language
When you travel abroad you return gratefully, happy to once again know the comfort of familiarity. That's how I felt after The Names: as if I'd returned from summer in the... Read more
Published on July 30 1998
4.0 out of 5 stars Expatriate life as ultimate dislocation, a delillo favorite
Favorite Delillo themes such as cultural dislocation and the thrill of
senseless violence are eerily embodied in a book about a divorced man
living the expatriate life... Read more
Published on Dec 18 1996
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