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The Names Paperback – July 17, 1989

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Editorial Reviews


'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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reissue edition (July 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679722955
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679722953
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #353,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Don DeLillo is the author of fourteen novels, including Falling Man, Libra and White Noise, and three plays. He has won the National Book Award, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Jerusalem Prize. In 2006, Underworld was named one of the three best novels of the last twenty-five years by The New York Times Book Review, and in 2000 it won the William Dean Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Letters for the most distinguished work of fiction of the past five years.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Jon G. Jackson on July 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
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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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A. Leung on August 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
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. While the majority of his novels are set in America, this one is set in the exotic premise of Greece and India, with referrals to the Middle East. This proves to be a very absorbing diversion. Overflowing with superbly crafted characters and a solidly structured plot scattered with witty and sharp insightful observations and possessing an almost irresistible writing-style, The Names deserved to be a best seller when it was released.

The novel concerns Americans living abroad, America the Myth as perceived by the rest of the world, a series of chillingly brutal cult-murders, the elusive and haunting cult itself and the concept of separation from family and on-going conflict between modern day couples. The alphabet and the metamorphosis between converging languages is also an essential component in this novel. Gripping as well is the weighty yet expertly condensed history that makes appearances. James the protagonist is a risk analyst, separated from his wife, Kathryn, who digs at archaeological sites. Their son, Tap, writes novels. Stop there. I will not give away any more about the characters involved.

These aspects provide intriguing reading material and Delillo fans will not be disappointed. For newcomers to Delillo, The Names is also a good introduction.

Perhaps what is most worthy of praise is that the prose is incandescently ingenious and profound and that this novel highlights Delillo's ability to create multitudes of characters that possess very well formed individual identities. The dialogue is also thought-provocative, believable and occasionally startling.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By W. Christeson on December 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
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 anywhere else. The book is one of those rare works which bears reading over and over and over again. It becomes incantatory after a while, which I think might please DeLillo.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Battaglia on July 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
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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