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The Names

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  2,256 ratings  ·  175 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 339 pages
Published July 17th 1989 by Vintage (first published 1982)
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A Fan's Notes by Frederick ExleyBright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerneyCathedral by Raymond CarverSelected Stories by Andre DubusRock Springs by Richard Ford
Best of Vintage Contemporaries
10th out of 53 books — 21 voters
White Noise by Don DeLilloUnderworld by Don DeLilloLibra by Don DeLilloMao II by Don DeLilloEnd Zone by Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo ranked
6th out of 15 books — 5 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ian Heidin[+]Fisch
Designated Driver

Have you ever got the impression that, when an author started a book, they had no idea where it would go or how it would end?

That they would just slide into the front seat and let the book take over?

This is not such a book.

Instead, I got the impression that DeLillo was so firmly ensconced in the driver’s seat here that he wouldn’t have got out if a crew of firemen arrived to rescue him from his burning vehicle.

It was win or die, so he had to pull out all stops.

When he started,
...more
Drew
Dec 29, 2010 Drew rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: hardcore delillo fans
Don DeLillo gets major points for style. Seriously, he's one of the all-time greatest American prose stylists; his knack for catching the rhythms of (educated, disaffected) speech is uncanny, as is his always-apt use of the interrogative-with-no-question-mark, which I've not seen effectively used in most writing but hear in speech every day. And he always picks good themes, if you want to call them that: technology, language, consumerism, intellectualism, violence, etc.

So why is it that he so ra
...more
Greg
I can't figure out what to write about this book. This review does have a soundtrack though, it's a Leonard Cohen song, listen to it here.

With the exception of The Players, I feel like I'm through with what I think of as the 'early Delillo'. Next up is White Noise, which I feel is vastly overrated but which I'm going to give another try, and then there is Libra, a departure from what I normally think of Delillo but a pretty awesome historical novel and then his novel about a Pynchon-like author
...more
John
Dec 07, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers who want to know the world in its noisy entirety
Recommended to John by: many other writers & readers
This man's got all sorts of work to celebrate. Start w/ GREAT JONES STREET, DeLillo's vision of the banality that suffocates the famous, more pertinently American rock royalty, & continue right through to FALLING MAN, his fable of 9/11 & an America in which every tower is a deck of cards. Too long, my Goodreads space has languished w/out him, & I've got to go w/ this early-80s novel, a well-night flawless performance, the initial breakthrough to his creative peak. THE NAMES astounds ...more
Scott Gates
“A shaved head would do wonders for this group.”

Parts of The Names read like a tract of linguistic idealism. One of the characters, Owen Brademas, (who is obsessed with alphabets, the shape of words, and a cult that kills people based on their initials’ matching place names) posits that ancient structures were erected, tombs built, in order to have a place for the words. “The river of language is God,” he says, which is pretty close to Nietzsche’s “Without grammar, God is not possible” (or was i
...more
D.
i've tried and failed several times to put into words the fullness of my admiration for this author. then:

DON DELILLO DROVE ME INSANE BY MAKING MY BRAIN EXPLODE AT REGULAR INTERVALS. THEN HE WOULD REEL ALL THE PIECES BACK IN AND WEAVE THEM TOGETHER...ONLY TO BLOW THEM UP AGAIN WITH THE NEXT PARAGRAPH!! I DIDN'T EVEN REALIZE I WAS IN A FOREST, FOR ALL THE TIMES I WOULD GO BACK AND READ THAT ONE TREE, JUST THAT ONE TREE, OVER AND OVER BEFORE I WAS ABLE TO TEAR MYSELF AWAY AND MOVE ONTO THE NEXT PA
...more
Robert Jacoby
Here is a caveat: I read poetry, novels, and short stories for both pleasure and work: to enjoy the writer's use of language and to learn how the writer did what he or she did, and to take away from the experience lessons for myself in my own work. As a writer, I give this novel 5 stars; as a reader, I give it 3 stars.

As a writer I stand in awe of DeLillo's use of language. He is constantly surprising you with his quirky and inventive use of words and phrases.

As a reader, be prepared to find n
...more
Ben Loory
somewhere between borges and patricia highsmith. but, like, the most boring version of that possible.
Mary
I tried with this one, I really did. I think I dove into DeLillo with the wrong book.

The premise is intriguing. An estranged American/Canadian couple raising their son in Greece. There's mysterious murders. There's "cultured world travelling" friends who pop in and out to have wine fuelled discussions about world events and political upheaval. The protagonist is removed, detached, sad, always thinking, thinking... The descriptions of Athens and the Greek Islands are spot on, it really captures
...more
Ricardo Lourenço
Sétimo romance de DeLillo, precedendo a publicação de Ruído Branco, que impulsionou a sua ascensão no panorama literário internacional, Os Nomes, apesar das críticas favoráveis, continua a ser um título imerecidamente menosprezado dada a sua qualidade, mas também por se desprender da crítica à sociedade americana pela qual o autor é reconhecido, para nos apresentar uma meditação política e espiritual do início da década de 80.

"When I work," he goes on, "I'm just translating the world around me i
...more
Mike Gross
I don't think this was his best book. My lit theory prof (a DeLillo specialist or whatever) back in undergrad told us that this is his most brilliant work. We were supposed to read it, but our class schedule got off-course, and we were encouraged to read it on our own. 3 years later, I read it. And disliked it.

I guess I haven't read DD in a while, but what's with his voice interjecting way too much philosophical qualification into the text? Does he do that with everything? I can't remember. At l
...more
Spiros
Jan 10, 2008 Spiros rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of Graham Greene and THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET
I came back to this book for a couple of reasons; first, because I am about the lose my "Staff Favorite" pick at work (feckless customers who don't realize what a wonderful book Kurosawa's SOMETHING LIKE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY truly is!) and am thinking about using this as a replacement, and secondly, because I recently read YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH, which, however flawed it is as a novel, shares some of the linguistic concerns that inform DeLillo's novel.
Set in the period just before and during the 1979 r
...more
Wordsmith
Thank you Mr. Graye for recommending this book as my next Don DeLillo read, as I navigate thru his body of work, this being my fourth. There are few authors who have received the gift of perfecting every sentence laid down, absolutely right in the place they belong, throughout the length of the entire novel. Of course DeLillo is one of these artists, and he doesn't disappoint here. Sheer perfection throughout.

Honestly, uhhh, well, no, never mind. Some things are better left unsaid, left to the
...more
Lindsay
I started off liking the book, but about halfway through I was bored and annoyed by the characters' distanced, anthropological view of themselves and each other. Every connection explored was done so through intense analysis, but seemed to lack true feeling. It became really hard to care about any of the characters since they seemed so blase, even when discussing emotional ties. That combined with a meandering plot that was based more on mood and worldly observations than a narrative arc, made t ...more
Jeremy
This is the first Delillo novel I've read that I think I've actually enjoyed. His obsessions with American history and American mythology can be so cornily portentous that a lot of the time it seems like the only thing he wants to convince you of is his how important his books are. But somehow this novel, which is set almost entirely in the eastern Mediterranean, in a world of early 1980's American expats idly wandering around pictaresque Greek islands and middle eastern desert ruins half-follow ...more
Ruth
Mar 28, 2014 Ruth added it
Shelves: general-fiction
I apparently read this book, though when I can only guess that it was during my time in Cyprus (TRNC), which being a 15-year block, doesn't help much. My post-it is missing. What is there though is a long (for me back then) ramble of thoughts the book evidently triggered. I reproduce them here:

He (DeLillo 1982:41) mentioned violence; shit smeared on walls, protuberances removed. I had met with little violence in my time here [as an instructor at Eastern Mediterranean University, TRNC]. Not to sa
...more
Jon
Mar 06, 2007 Jon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of beauty, loss, pain and barest hope.
Mao II and The Names are tours de force of elliptical language, bracingly visceral imagery and the post-art centered world where terrorism is the new means to the hearts and minds of the masses. A deep melancholy stains every page and the climaxes are at once hushed, claustrophobic and explosively open. I'm not sure if my contradictory reviews make me or Delillo more Buck Mulligan, but either way, it's all here.
aidan w-m
its couple of noticeable flaws mar a masterful novel, but ambition necessitates risk. in many ways anticipates the airtight white noise, deserves to be the subject of similarly strenuous literary criticism.
Troy
I suppose like most avid DeLillo readers I divide his work into three periods - his somewhat obscure work in the 70s, his 80s/90s commercial and critical peak, and his elusive post-"Underworld" output. From what I understand "The Names" is something of a transitional work between phases 1 and 2, although it's easily the most esoteric DeLillo novel I've read (I've made it through probably 60 percent of his bibliog.), with most of the plot, to the extent it exists, advancing secondhand through ret ...more
Paul
This has to be the densest DeLillo novel I've read. There's a large cast of characters, multiple plot-lines, and some serious theoretical/thematic stuff going on, all in under 350 pages. The one thing DeLillo gets criticized for the most, it seems, is that he's prone to letting style run rampant, leaving his novels empty and vapid. I've never really felt this way about any of his books, though this one seemed to come the closest. All the characters are kept at a great distance from the reader, e ...more
Schuyler
I struggled with this book. And if anyone loves DeLillo's lesser works, it's me, but this one (of the 10 DeLillo novels I've read) was by far the most abstract, confusing, and for the most part, boring of his works. Kinda empty feeling too. All the reviews and blurbs I've read talk about The Names being the novel that launched his literary career but I'm not seeing it. That being said, DeLillo followed The Names with four stunning works, White Noise (1985), Libra (1988), Mao II (1991), and Under ...more
Howard
First the positives - Delillo packs his 1982 novel with interesting fact / opinion on subjects such as the CIA, terrorism, multinationals and being an expat. Some of the descriptive passages are superb - marred slightly by what seems an attempt to avoid cliche by playing with grammatical form. It's my first Delillo and I've never finished a Hemingway. This book reminded me of Hemingway - the narrator / writer seems eager to remind us he's not only a heavyweight intellectual but he's macho too. A ...more
Clifford
The Names by Don DeLillo is a fascinating but somewhat fuzzy book. Set primarily in Greece, it tells the story of James Axton, an American who develops risk analyses, those odd-sounding reports used by international investors and insurers. When the book was published in 1982, would readers have suspected that Axton worked for the CIA? It was the first thing I thought of.

But Axton's work is only a part of this intricate story about language, alphabets, secrecy, and cultural identity.

See the rest
...more
Al
DeLillo is a tough author at times, he can also be fantastic. Underworld is a masterpiece and i loved that. Fortunately or unfortunately, that was the first DeLillo I read and ever since I have been trying to rediscover the brilliance of that novel. Nothing has matched it, but a lot have been interesting: white noise, libra, falling man and now The Names. I think he is such an American writer and I like that about him.

the names made me think and seems remarkable that it was written in the early
...more
T.J.
Terrorism. Mysterious murders. A sinister cult. Expatriates having wine-fueled conversations in exotic locales. Religion. Language. International intrigue.

It's got everything I love! I should love this novel. But I don't.

If White Noise is a postmodern masterpiece and Cosmopolis is un-readable dreck, than The Names falls right in the middle, comparable to Mao 2, another mid-period DeLillo that deals with politics, uncertainty, and global events and never quite satisfies.

Stylistically, DeLillo's p
...more
Aaron
The book's sole flaw - (if you discount its lack of popular "entertainment value") - is the device of the murders among DeLillo's otherwise brilliant political commentary and incisive investigation into relationships, "Americana" and language itself. The murders, and the ensuing speculative dialogue surrounding them, however, clank and clunk through the novel's otherwise perfect structure and superior phrasing.
Elizabeth
Aug 04, 2007 Elizabeth rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not many
NOT GOOD! i read it out of obligation bc it's don delillo but dang, it was boring. even though it was interesting (international finance, murder cult, fascination with labels, all hot topics for moi) it was so flippin boring. sorry don.
Sam L
The Names shares many themes and character dynamics with White Noise, which is not so surprising since WN was published only a few years later. On the whole I'd say WN is the more rounded book, though I'd not hesitate to recommend The Names to anyone who enjoys authors like DeLillo. What is different is the setting - while WN takes place in small town America The Names is more international in scope, passing through Jordan and Rajasthan in addition to its primary locations: Athens and the Greek ...more
Stephen
I stopped trying to figure out what DeLillo was getting at with language, words, and the titular names about halfway through. Something about a cult that's killing people in an attempt to erase modern language from the world. Yes, it's important, and yes, I feel a little dumb for not really grasping it. But as with Gravity's Rainbow, I think a first read of The Names should be about just getting the gist of the thing. It's a dense, maddeningly obscure book at times, and I found a deep read to be ...more
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Constant Reader 17 63 Jan 19, 2013 08:32PM  
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Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American
...more
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“How I would enjoy being told the novel is dead. How liberating to work in the margins, outside a central perception. You are the ghoul of literature.” 381 likes
“To be a tourist is to escape accountability.” 9 likes
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