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Picks and Pans Review: The Names

updated 11/29/1982 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/29/1982 01:00AM

by Don DeLillo

This novel, by the author of End Zone and Ratner's Star, is about Americans who work and live abroad. Like Henry James, DeLillo believes he can describe them better in a foreign setting. The hero is a "risk analyst." He travels, observes and charts the dangers of investing money in far-off places. The hero's estranged wife digs up the past on a Greek island. Their 9-year-old son is writing a novel, using the stories he is told by an elderly archaeologist. The hero begins to study an odd cult of dirty young people interested only in alphabets—not in meanings. They kill the old and crippled when the victim's name and the site of the murder have the same initial. The main characters are chic, the settings are chic, the dialogue is impossible, but fascinating. Everyone tries to say meaningful things: "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...Modern communications don't shrink the world, they make it bigger...The world isn't shrinking at all." The Names is not easy, not "real" in any sense because its symbols constantly are being forced upon the reader. But for those who like serious, ingenious fiction by one of America's most interesting writers, The Names makes compelling reading. (Knopf, $13.95)

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