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The Names

3.65  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,786 Ratings  ·  204 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 — 32 voters
A Fan's Notes by Frederick ExleyBright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerneyWhere I'm Calling From by Raymond CarverRock Springs by Richard FordCathedral by Raymond Carver
Best of Vintage Contemporaries
12th out of 55 books — 25 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Ian Not His Real Name
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 really liked it
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
Apr 02, 2012 Greg rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
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 it was amazing
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
Ben Loory
Sep 21, 2014 Ben Loory rated it it was ok
somewhere between borges and patricia highsmith. but, like, the most boring version of that possible.
A fairly impressive bait & switch, insofar as it begins as though it were domestic meditation (e.g., “What she and I needed was a way to be together without feeling there were issues we had to confront, the bloody leftovers of eleven years. We weren’t the kind of people to have haggard dialogues on marriage” (20)), but then develops through a weird set of cultic murders (“The alphabet itself. They were interested in letters, written symbols” (30)) into an espionage thriller of sorts.

Very muc
Scott Gates
Apr 15, 2008 Scott Gates rated it really liked it
“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
Jul 26, 2012 D. rated it it was amazing
i've tried and failed several times to put into words the fullness of my admiration for this author. then:

Robert Jacoby
Jul 08, 2012 Robert Jacoby rated it really liked it
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
Aug 18, 2010 Ricardo Lourenço rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vit Babenco
Jan 19, 2016 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
Citizens of the globe, expatriates, failed marriages, mismatched unions… The Names begins like a story by John Cheever
“Nothing sticks to us but smoke in our hair and clothes. It is dead time. It never happened until it happens again. Then it never happened.”
Everyone becomes a perennial tourist, an inadvertent traveler and life goes on in continuous transition…
“This is where I want to be. History. It’s in the air. Events are linking all these countries. What do we talk about over dinner, all of
Jun 01, 2012 Mary rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, 2012
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 it was amazing
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
May 22, 2016 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, american
An intelligent, mature and often quite complexing work from DeLillo who I am a fan, this is set mostly in Greece which centres on an American risk analyst staying in Athens who is slowly drawn to the workings of a mysterious 'language cult' who are obsessed with ancient alphabets and seem to be behind a number of unexplained murders. While described as an exotic thriller it's so much more than that, and tends to sway away from any conventional plot to focus more on deep and precise character stu ...more
Oct 19, 2015 Sookie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
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
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
Feb 28, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-fiction
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
Nov 04, 2010 Lindsay rated it it was ok
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
Aug 07, 2013 Clifford rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
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
Oct 08, 2015 Andrea rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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).
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
The Names are Inscribed on Rocks and Walls...

I think that Delillo's novels are the sort of novels that you either like or dislike. But then again i've read only two novels so far by him (and half a third novel), so it is still early to claim being right about this.

I liked The Names alright. I enjoyed it in the sense that it’s not a boring novel. It does not give you free information. One has to dig and decipher in order to understand what the narrator means by this or that. It makes one think a
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
Sep 19, 2009 Aaron rated it it was amazing
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 really liked it
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.
Dec 08, 2015 Ruth added it
Shelves: general-fiction, 1001
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
Mariano Hortal
Publicada en

Uno de los criterios más usados hoy en día (y de los que más desconfío) a la hora de recomendar un libro es ese vocablo, tan descriptivo y a la vez manido, que se incluye en frases como: “este libro te engancha desde el primer momento y ya no lo puedes dejar“; sí, el vocablo al que me refiero es “enganchar”.

No ya por las connotaciones asociadas a la adicción que pueda tener, sino porque este grado de “enganche” suele ser inversamente proporcio
Nov 21, 2011 Troy rated it liked it
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
Dec 23, 2009 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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
May 26, 2009 Schuyler rated it it was ok
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
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Constant Reader 17 69 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.” 393 likes
“TO BE A TOURIST is to escape accountability. Errors and failings don't cling to you the way they do back home. You're able to drift across continents and languages, suspending the operation of sound thought. Tourism is the march of stupidity. You're expected to be stupid. The entire mechanism of the host country is geared to travelers acting stupidly. You walked around dazed, squinting into fold-out maps. You don't know how to talk to people, how to get anywhere, what the money means, what time it is, what to eat or how to eat it. Being stupid is the pattern, the level and the norm. You can exist on this level for weeks and months without reprimand or dire consequence. Together with thousands, you are granted immunities and broad freedoms. You are an army of fools, wearing bright polyesters, riding camels, taking pictures of each other, haggard, dysentric, thirsty. There is nothing to think about but the next shapeless event.” 12 likes
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