The Names

ISBN: 0679722955
ISBN 13: 9780679722953
By: Don DeLillo

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About this book

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

Reader's Thoughts

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 PAGE. IN CASE YOU DIDN'T NOTICE, I HAVE TO USE ALL-CAPS WHEN TALKING ABOUT DON DELILLO, BECAUSE IF I WAS TELLING YOU THIS INSIDE OF REAL LIFE, I COULD LIKEWISE ONLY DO SO WITH INCREASED VOLUME. AS I WAS BEING DESTROYED BY THIS BOOK, I WAS FORCED TO EXERCISE A NAUSEATING LEVEL OF SELF-CONTROL, FOR EVERY NOW AND THEN I WOULD ENCOUNTER A PASSAGE SO DEVASTATINGLY PROFOUND, I WAS TRANSLATED INTO A RAVING LUNATIC WHOSE "ONLY" ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE WOULD HAVE BEEN TO YELL AND SCREAM AS LOUD AS I COULD. EVEN AS I WAS HOLDING BACK MY CRAZY VERBAL OUTBURSTS I WOULD FEEL A STING OF GUILT FOR INSULTING THIS BOOK BY NOT PRAISING IT THE WAY IT SHOULD BE PRAISED; BY SCREAMING AND YELLING LIKE A MADMAN. TOO MANY TIMES I ACTUALLY HAD TO CLOSE. THE. BOOK. AND WALK AWAY, ELSE RISK HAVING A SEIZURE. A SEIZURE, PEOPLE! A SEIZURE!and that is what i thought. if the term 'thinking' even applies in this case, and i'm quite sure it did not. the actual scope and story of it all, the forest, i could care less about, except where the actual themes are concerned (the names?). our protagonist wanders around, and has some conversations and thinks about some stuff. i dunno, i guess some things happen. i suppose my brain was too busy exploding.

Jon

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.

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 of my review here

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 in what seems to be straightforward terms. For my readers, this is sometimes a vision that's not familiar. But I'm not trying to manipulate reality. This is just what I see and hear."in GuardianSuperficialidade é algo que não encontrarão neste romance. Embora apresente um estilo analítico, algo que se deve ao carácter do narrador, o executivo James Axton (simultaneamente o principal protagonista), as descrições de DeLillo são detalhadas, procurando sempre atingir um significado mais profundo, revelar uma ideia que não é aparente. Esse nível de detalhe é transportado para os inteligentes diálogos, cuidadosamente construídos e muitas das vezes entrecortados pelas divagações de James.“Começava a considerar-me um eterno turista. Havia nisto qualquer coisa de agradável. Ser turista é fugir da responsabilidade. Os erros e os defeitos não se colam a nós como em casa. Somos capazes de vaguear por continentes e línguas, suspendendo a actividade do pensamento lógico. O turismo é a marcha da imbecilidade. Contam que sejamos imbecis. Todo o mecanismo do país hospedeiro está adaptado aos viajantes que se comportam de um modo imbecil. Andamos às voltas, aturdidos, olhando de esguelha para mapas desdobrados. Não sabemos falar com as pessoas, ir a lado nenhum, quanto vale o dinheiro, que horas são, o que comer ou como o comer. Ser-se imbecil é o padrão, o nível e a norma. Podemos continuar a viver nestas condições durante semanas e meses, sem censuras nem consequências terríveis. Tal como a outros milhares, são-nos concedidas imunidades e amplas liberdades. Somos um exército de loucos, usando roupas de poliéster de cores vivas, montando camelos, tirando fotografias uns aos outros, fatigados, disentéricos, sedentos. Não temos mais nada em que pensar senão no próximo acontecimento informe.”Os Nomes foca-se, sobretudo, na importância da linguagem para a humanidade e no distanciamento da realidade, na ausência de paixão que afecta James. Separado da sua família, e sem um rumo definido para a sua vida, James acaba por se interessar pelo mistério que envolve os assassinatos ritualistas, sendo esse o principal motor da narrativa, que quebra a rotina do analista americano impelindo-o a compreender esse seu interesse e, através do conhecimento das razões por detrás dos seus intentos, perceber-se melhor a ele próprio.“Sabemos que havemos de morrer. Isto é, em certo sentido, a nossa virtude redentora. Nenhum animal sabe isso excepto nós. É uma das coisas que nos distingue. É a nossa tristeza particular, este conhecimento, e, por conseguinte, uma riqueza, uma santificação.” Não deixa de ser impressionante verificar como, através da complexidade inerente às questões existenciais com que personagens se confrontam, entre as profundas reflexões políticas, sociais, religiosas e linguísticas, Don DeLillo consegue dar liberdade ao leitor no que a conclusões diz respeito, como que entreabrindo a porta que permite alcançar as respostas, enquanto diminui as distorções que afectam o nosso raciocínio, submergindo as vozes enganadoras que nos tentam desencaminhar constantemente.“- Neste século, o escritor tem mantido uma conversa com a loucura. Podemos quase dizer que o escritor do século vinte aspira à loucura. Alguns conseguiram-no, evidentemente, e ocupam lugares especiais na sua consideração. Para um escritor, a loucura é uma destilação decisiva do eu, uma edição decisiva. É o submergir das vozes enganadoras.”

John

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 & scarifies even w/out the crowd scenes that tend to define DeLillo at his most breathtaking. This one's a divorce story, to begin w/, & the writer fires up hurting-love dialog of scorching rarity. There's an illicit seduction scene, on the downtown sidewalks of midnight Athens. More moving, though wildly different, is the phone conversation between the protagonist James, committed to Athens because of his cutting-edge work in "corporate risk-assessment," & his former wife, the evening she commits to divorce & to taking their preteen son to live with her in Seattle. DeLillo weeps! He pleads for love! Yet elsewhere we've got busy & cold-eyed passages, in a alacritous poetry bordered w/ concrete & ranking w/ his very best, full-throat oratorios of overwhelming humanity, of threat & its hair's-breadth escape. James becomes an homicide investigator malgré lui, drawn into making sense of a series of cult murders, & so this Italian-American's version of the return to the Old Country (most immigrant cultures have such stories, but this ethnic group especially) -- anyway, DeLillo's version avoids all sentiment as it excavates the axial lines of one family's collapse & what it has to do w/ the larger cultural moment. It swims the Greek Aegean rather than the Neapolitan Tyrhennian, & more significantly, it never fails to suss out the close allegiances between affection & murder, love & madness, transcendence & depravity. THE NAMES reminds us that, for the most honest "risk-assessment," we need to go into the wilderness & ask the howler in his cave.

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 Underworld (1997). So I can see why The Names is cited as the beginning of DeLillo's finely tuned aesthetic, though I think his debut novel, Americana (1971), a seriously underappreciated work in his oeuvre, was just as telling as what was to come. Anyway, here are a few interesting paragraphs from The Names:"How big the world is. They keep telling us it's getting smaller all the time. But it's not, is it? Whatever we learn about it makes it bigger. Whatever we do to complicate things make it bigger. It's all a complication. It's one big tangled thing...Modern communications don't shrink the world, they make it bigger. Faster planes make it bigger. They give us more, they connect more things. The world isn't shrinking at all. People who say it's shrinking have never flown Air Zaire in a tropical storm...No wonder people go to school to learn stretching and bending. The world is so big and complicated we don't trust ourselves to figure out anything on our own. No wonder people read books that tell them how to run, walk and sit. We're trying to keep up with the world, the size of it, the complications."pg. 323"Travel is a kind of fatalism...at my age, I'm beginning to sense the menace ahead. I'm going to die soon, goes the refrain, so I'd better see the bloody sights. This is why I don't travel except on business.""You've lived everywhere.""Living is different. One doesn't gather up sights in quite the same way. There's no compiling of sights. I think it's when people get old they begin to compile. They not only visit pyramids, they try to build a pyramid out of the sights of the world.""Travel as tomb-building.""He listens in. The worst kind of dinner companion. Chooses his moments." He made a fist around his cigarette. "Living is different, you see. We were saving the sights for our old age. But now the whole idea of travel begins to reek of death. I have nightmares about busloads of rotting corpses."pg. 54

Aidan Watson-Morris

its couple of noticeable flaws mar a masterful novel, but ambition necessitates risk. in many ways anticipates the airtight white noise.

Lemunty

I would hesitate to call this book a thriller, though it appears, from the surface that one could. James Axton, risk analyst, expatriate American living in Greece, is fascinated with a cult that appears to be murdering people, choosing them by the intials of their names. The book is complicated, more so because the plot evolves in the background of intense character development. I found it difficult to read, at times bordering on tedious, but nevertheless, I'm impressed because it is not easy to sustain so many characters and keep them all interesting. The crew of American and British expatriates that Axton hangs out with, the archaeologist, Owen, that his estranged wife works with, and most of all, Axton's son, Tap, who is six years old but is writing a novel that is based on Owen's life. It's fascinating, because Delillo ends the book with an excerpt from Tap's novel, and he confesses in an interview in the New York Times that he based Tap on Atticus Lish, the young son of a friend of his. Parts of Tap's novel are borrowed from Atticus' own book, leading Delillo to confess, wryly, "In other words, I stole from a kid". Despite Delillo's immense oeuvre, this the first book by him that I'm reading. It's interesting because is politically plotty, but simultaneously a rather fine study of human relationships and families - Axton and his estranged wife, Axton and his son, Owen's solitude, parents, children, lovers, marriages. Underneath it all, Delillo's narration seems to convey a sense of the real solitude of human beings, the internal lives that play out in our heads. In other words, not a book to read alone at 3 a.m., but a book to read, nonetheless.

Mariano Hortal

Publicada en http://lecturaylocura.com/los-nombres...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 proporcional al tiempo gastado en leerlo: si alguien se “engancha” a un libro suele leerlo en tres sentadas, sin dormir prácticamente y, a continuación, busca como sea otro libro de las mismas características. ¿Esto es malo? No, claro. Que un libro te dé ganas de leer es bueno. El problema es que otro tipo de lecturas no te “enganchen” y la frustración origine que abandones otros libros más retadores.Según uno lee y lee libros se da cuenta de muchas peculiaridades. Una de estas es el ritmo de lectura. Evidentemente, unos libros se leen más rápido que otros, todos los que leemos lo notamos. Es parte de su personalidad, cada libro exige una forma de leer: velocidad, atención, … algunos te solicitan calma, reflexión, una atención total cuando estás en su lectura. Otros te piden marcha, velocidad, atención más dispersa. En el caso de Don Delillo nos encontramos con lecturas sosegadas, tranquilas, reflexivas. Él mismo lo comenta en su estupenda novela Body Art (2001):“Se llevó a la boca una cucharada de cereales y olvidó saborearlos. En el intervalo transcurrido desde que se llevó la comida a la boca hasta el desdichado instante en que lo tragó hubo un momento en que perdió el gusto.”Si extrapolamos está metáfora a la literatura podríamos decir que, hoy en día, falta un poco saborear los libros, centrándose la mayoría de lectores en el hecho de “tragar novelas” sin más reflexión.Delillo escribió Los Nombres tras su experiencia vivida en Grecia, por la contraportada (“asesinatos rituales de una secta obsesionada por el lenguaje“) podríamos deducir que se trata del típico best-seller conspirativo, paranoico y cargado de acción e investigación. Pero, muy al contrario, es un simple pretexto, ya que el objetivo es estudiar el lenguaje (“Era el propio alfabeto. Les interesaban las letras, los símbolos escritos que formaban una secuencia fija“) y los límites de la cultura afectados por el uso del lenguaje.Pasando por los diferentes ambientes que nos propone en diversas localizaciones (una isla del Egeo, el Peloponeso griego, un desierto en la India..), la persecución de la secta que origina estos asesinatos rituales desembocará en el estudio deconstructivo del lenguaje y sus implicaciones en la cultura y en la identidad de la persona; así, el escritor habla en el capítulo del desierto, ya llegando a la parte final del libro que “en el desierto todo cuenta. La palabra más simple contiene un enorme poder. Cada sonido corresponde únicamente a un signo. Ahí reside la genialidad del alfabeto. Simple, inevitable.” En una memorable y desconcertante coda, todo se desmonta, el lenguaje es fallido como expresión, como signo de identidad, es necesario reinventarlo (“Haz lo que tu lengua te diga que debes hacer. ¡Entierra el antiguo lenguaje y libera el nuevo“) para definirnos nosotros mismos.Todo ello realizado con la calma de la que hablaba en el principio, deleitándonos con lugares paradisíacos y con el monólogo interior de los personajes, hay miedo a la muerte, y superioridad por tener ese conocimiento. Hay crítica de la sociedad que nos rodea, hay maestría para expresar todo esto.Delillo es uno de los mejores escritores actuales, el postmodernismo en su plenitud, si estás dispuesto a dedicarle tiempo, ese tiempo que sus novelas requieren, parafraseando al escritor: a “no olvidar saborear sus novelas”, es más que probable que no te decepcione, muy al contrario, será tan estimulante que, posiblemente, no quieras parar de leerlas.

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 it the other way around?).Lurking throughout the book is the Wittgenstein-ish idea that there is no meaning behind words or events but just the speaking of the words themselves, an act itself. The same character referenced above wants to run the hadj (yes, how Western) in spite of the fact that he does not believe in God. Belief is irrelevant, it’s the act that counts etc. etc. I guess that’s pretty much standard existentialism, isn’t it.More so than in any other Delillo novel, it doesn’t matter at all who is saying any given thing. There are a lot of different characters, and a fair amount of time is spent making clear who is who, yet each is wholly defined by the comments he/she makes over drinks. I think this was done purposely. Late in the book the narrator concludes that when people visit a sacred place, the main thing they have to offer is language. And this is for sure the most talk-ridden Delillo book. "Americans choose strategy over principle every time and yet keep believing in their own innocence. . . . The Americans learned to live with the colonels very well. Investments flourished under the dictatorship." The usual story of the US stomping out democratic uprisings and supporting ruthless militants when it serves its interests (i.e., when the leader will do whatever the US wants).So there’s some real prescient stuff on the way world hates the US. The narrator (to alleviate guilt?) talks of the US’s position in the world in mythic terms, with the US serving as a needed archetype for the rest of the world’s fears. The characters in The Names are risk analysts, investors, economists, actuaries, spies, operatives; aloof from the turmoil and grievances of the regions they’re involved in, they dabble in them and move on. They scout out places of political turmoil and violence to see if corporations’ investments are safe; they have interesting conversations over dinner. They hoard rugs for profit and talk about the interesting things that happened to them the last time they were in Tehran. Kind of repulsive.But these people are offset by the borderline lunatics of the book: the narrator, James Axton, and Owen Brademas. In literature, as often in life, it’s best to support the lunatics. It’s clear Delillo does. These two concoct whole other narratives for the regions they visit, and while maintaining your usual Delilloan ironclad grip on clear thought they push their thinking to out-of-bounds places. There is the tendency to draw profound conclusions from pretty much anything phenomena throws at them. “Everything is connected.”When Delillo’s name is on a book you can bet your ass the writing will often be astounding. Throughout, often when you don’t see it coming, the writing will reach a crazy pitch. Plus the structure of The Names is just weird. It makes you feel as if you’re not quite thinking about it the right way, and that if you did you’d see the book differently.

Pang

This is probably the hardest book I remember reading in a long time. I got zero enjoyment out of it. The book was considered one of the classics, though I just didn't get it. I didn't get if there was any plot, and the story was almost unreadable. I felt like it was babbling on and on. The suspense just wasn't that suspenseful. There was no significance about the murders, or the significance of Jim's job. I did get that he was led to believe something that may not had been... but it wasn't that big of a deal in relation to the entire book. The mystery about the murders just fizzled out somewhere in the middle. His writing was very descriptive, I give him that. He made me feel like I was in Greece, or anywhere else, with him. Also the political undertone was interesting. Still, they weren't enough to capture my attention.One quote that really stuck with me was when Jim met up with Ann and they waited for Ann's son."... I think I perceived solitude as a collection of things. Being alone has components. I felt I was being put together out of these nameless things. This was new to me. Of course I'd been traveling, running around. This was the first quiet moment I'd had. Maybe that's all it was. But I felt I was being put together. I was alone and absolutely myself."

Derek

blogged about it here: http://www.5cense.com/13/anger.htm

Joey Diamond

I have this problem with books that have a mystery element to them.. I never bother thinking about what's going on or trying to solve the puzzle. I just figure, if the author wants me to know stuff they will let me know. It works ok with crappy crime fiction but I wonder if I'm missing some of the joys and intricacies of this book.Mostly I really loved the descriptions of Greece in here, and of other places too. Gave me big time wanderlust. I love the way Delillo does dialogue, and how he writes about family, love and desire in such a sparse and detached way. I always enjoy how nobody is too likeable in his books."It was only when she'd finished talking that she turned her attention to Frank, grabbing a handful of hair at the back of his neck and twisting his head so that he might see directly into her gray eyes. Their public affection was reserved for the times when they heckled and mocked each other. It was an automatic balance, the hands and eyes as the truth-tellers of love, the things that redeem what we say."Mostly though, I feel too lazy to do interpretation of The Names and I want someone to explain to me what it was all about.

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 an exercise in frustration.What I loved about the book was its long, drunken, nighttime conversations held by its ex-pat characters. Often funny, always bizarre, the dialogue never latches onto a single subject, instead flowing between topics like the red wine fueling it. Or the vicious passive-aggressive banter between the protagonist and his wife. Or the gibberish language spoken by his son. When characters talk, the book is at its best. But then there's also the many poetic descriptions of Greek cities, the hallucinatory Indian desert sequence, the wonderful evocations of life in a foreign country. And one incredible final chapter. There's so much to admire here that understanding it all isn't even important.

Michael Flick

This works better for me as a kind of travelogue--especially fine in conjuring up Athens--than as a novel. The narrator and the broad cast of characters are kept at a distance. That's because of the dialogue--and the novel is at least half dialogue--that is alien to the spoken word and uniform. You can't tell one character from another by they way they speak. It's like attending a lecture. Pedantic. Preachy. The only exception is the narrator's son, Tap, but he shows up in the last chapter sounding pretty much like everyone else.The narrator's wife and son fade as the novel progresses, and the cult-murder plot never really gets off the ground.It's wholly out of character when mid-way in the book the narrator rapes Janet Ruffing, an expatriate amateur belly dancer he barely meets. Very off-putting. Repellant. Incongruous.The "ugly American" in the Middle East theme is prescient. To say the least.The major themes concerning names and alphabets and language are drummed in at the end, but maybe too late. And without subtlety or any real depth.Read this for the powerful prose, not the dialogue.

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