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The Names

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  2,578 ratings  ·  189 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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White Noise by Don DeLilloUnderworld by Don DeLilloLibra by Don DeLilloGreat Jones Street by Don DeLilloMao II by Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo ranked
6th out of 15 books — 24 voters
A Fan's Notes by Frederick ExleyBright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerneyRock Springs by Richard FordCathedral by Raymond CarverSelected Stories by Andre Dubus
Best of Vintage Contemporaries
10th out of 54 books — 23 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ian Agadada-Davida
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,
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
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
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
Ben Loory
somewhere between borges and patricia highsmith. but, like, the most boring version of that possible.
i've tried and failed several times to put into words the fullness of my admiration for this author. then:

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
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
There you are sitting with your handful of friends and acquaintances you managed to scavenge in a foreign country, drinking local wine and talking about the politics of your own country. You experience alienation from your country after being away for so long and still feel foreign where you have currently planted your roots in. Its a weird limbo to be in. Add traveling to the mix, you are living out of suitcases and hotel rooms, dangling conversations in airport bars, flirting while changing la ...more
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
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
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
Luís Blue Yorkie
Language, specifically the names of things, is a theme from all angles in this book which manages to unsettle the reader until the last word.

In a nutshell the story follows an American former journalist, now risk analyst, who is living in Greece. James is separated from his wife but they start the story in close proximity working at an architectural dig on a nearby island. The dig is looked after by Owen Brademas a figure who is central to the plot although rarely takes centre stage.

Language com
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
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
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
DeLillo's writing is so pretentious. He disregards plot in order to create art, which is a noble effort to make but leaves many readers, including me, wanting more. The rape scene was also extremely distasteful and added nothing to the plot, only establishing the main character as a misogynist asshole. Necessary? No. I've heard that White Noise is better, but after reading The Names, I don't want to read any more of DeLillo's work unless academics compel me (which was the case for this one).
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
Mircalla64 (free Liu Xiaobo)
i novemila nomi di Dio e il peso della conoscenza

James è un analista di rischio in Medio Oriente negli anni settanta, non che si stesse meglio di adesso, era solo l'inizio di quel che c'è ora, ha una serie di amici che fanno i banchieri, gli imprenditori e altre cose vaghe, sono tutti insieme al momento in Grecia, con le mogli che fanno vento e polvere per distrarre gli spiati dall'attenzione degli spioni e viceversa...vanno a cena, chiacchierano domanda più frequente che
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Oct 04, 2015 Brandi is currently reading it
I read this years ago and didn't like it and I'm re-reading now for class and it's even more boring than I remembered.
Found this one hard to put down as I was fascinated by the cult mentioned in the story. I've never understood the lure of cults but I'm not a religious person, so I can't imagine myself ever following someone who claims to have all the answers.
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Constant Reader 17 67 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
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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.” 390 likes
“These are among the people I've tried to know twice, the second time in memory and language. Through them, myself. They are what I've become, in ways I don't understand but which I believe will accrue to a rounded truth, a second life for me as well as them.

Cracking jokes in the mandatory American manner of people self-concious about death. This is the humor of violent surprise.

How do you connect things? Learn their names.

It was a strange conversation, full of hedged remarks and obscure undercurrents, perfect in its way.

I was not a happy runner. I did it to stay interested in my body, to stay informed, and to set up clear lines of endeavor, a standard to meet, a limit to stay within. I was just enough of a puritan to think there must be some virtue in rigorous things, although I was careful not to overdo it.
I never wore the clothes. the shorts, tank top, high socks. Just running shoes and a lightweight shirt and jeans. I ran disguised as an ordinary person.

-When are you two going to have children?
-We're our own children.

In novels lately the only real love, the unconditional love I ever come across is what people feel for animals. Dolphins, bears, wolves, canaries.

I would avoid people, stop drinking.

There was a beggar with a Panasonic.

This is what love comes down to, things that happen and what we say about them.

But nothing mattered so much on this second reading as a number of spirited misspellings. I found these mangled words exhilarating. He'd made them new again, made me see how they worked, what they really were. They were ancient things, secret, reshapable.The only safety is in details.

Hardship makes the world obscure.

How else could men love themselves but in memory, knowing what they know?

The world has become self-referring. You know this. This thing has seeped into the texture of the world. The world for thousands of years was our escape, was our refuge. Men hid from themselves in the world. We hid from God or death. The world was where we lived, the self was where we went mad and died. But now the world has made a self of its own.”
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