Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award.
A New York Times Notable Book for 2000.
Voted one of the Top Five Novels of 2000 by Salon.com.
Synopses & Reviews
The acclaimed author of Jesus' Son
and Already Dead
returns with a beautiful, haunting, and darkly comic novel. The Name of the World
is a mesmerizing portrait of a professor at a Midwestern university who has been patient in his grief after an accident takes the lives of his wife and child and has permitted that grief to enlarge him.
Michael Reed is living a posthumous life. In spite of outward appearances he holds a respectable university teaching position; he is an articulate and attractive addition to local social life he's a dead man walking.
Nothing can touch Reed, nothing can move him, although he observes with a mordant clarity the lives whirling vigorously around him. Of his recent bereavement, nearly four years earlier, he observes, "I'm speaking as I'd speak of a change in the earth's climate, or the recent war."
Facing the unwelcome end of his temporary stint at the university, Reed finds himself forced "to act like somebody who cares what happens to him." Tentatively he begins to let himself make contact with a host of characters in this small academic town, souls who seem to have in common a tentativeness of their own. In this atmosphere characterized, as he says, "by cynicism, occasional brilliance, and small, polite terror," he manages, against all his expectations, to find people to light his way through his private labyrinth.
Elegant and incisively observed, The Name of the World is Johnson at his best: poignant yet unsentimental, replete with the visionary imaginative detail for which his work is known. Here is a tour de force by one of the most astonishing writers at work today.
"To put the matter simply, Denis Johnson is one of the best and most compelling novelist in the nation." Elle
"Denis Johnson's topsy-turvy novella pulls with G-force....The book's headlong momentum may thrust you back against your chair for its whole 129-page run." Newsweek
"Concerned with sorrow and the task of continuing in a world riven with loss, where perfection always decays, The Name of the World is still often shrewd and funny....Johnson is the kind of writer who's so good you don't notice how good he is. There's no effort to reading this novel -- it just sort of slips in, less like reading than breathing in the cool dry air of winter." Laura Miller, Salon.com
"The events of this academic novel flirt with predictability: the faculty scheming, the learned freeloading, the abruptly terminated position, the professor's sexual attraction to a graduate student....Explosions don't last, and Denis Johnson's radioactive wine holds up best in small bottles, before the decay of rhetoric sets in. this novel about anomic grief thirsts for tears...." John Updike, The New Yorker
"How easy it is to forget, with all the trivia in print cluttering our lives, that words can be this supple a vehicle for transcendent healing." Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Denis Johnson is one of the few American writers who could legitimately be said to possess a visionary sensibility, a nearly Blakean appreciation of the territory of the human soul." Newsday
"Johnson's prose conjures up a world that is as tangible as it is magical. He is an utterly brilliant and original talent, a novelist who reminds us just how wonderful fiction can be." Philadelphia Inquirer
In this elegant and incisively observed book, Johnson, author of Jesus' Son, tells the story of a soul-dead academic who makes unexpected contact with ahost of characters in his small university town.
About the Author
Denis Johnson is the author of The Name of the World, Already Dead, Jesus' Son, Resuscitation of a Hanged Man, Fiskadoro, The Stars at Noon, and Angels. His poetry has been collected in the volume The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly. He is the recipient of a Lannan Fellowship and a Whiting Writer's Award, among many other honors for his work. He lives in northern Idaho.