Quotes from The Names

Don DeLillo ·  339 pages

Rating: (3.3K votes)


“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.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“I've come to think of Europe as a hardcover book, America as the paperback version.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“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.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“To be a tourist is to escape accountability.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“These are among the people I've tried to know twice, the second time in memory and language. Through them, myself. They are what I've become, in ways I don't understand but which I believe will accrue to a rounded truth, a second life for me as well as them.

Cracking jokes in the mandatory American manner of people self-concious about death. This is the humor of violent surprise.

How do you connect things? Learn their names.

It was a strange conversation, full of hedged remarks and obscure undercurrents, perfect in its way.

I was not a happy runner. I did it to stay interested in my body, to stay informed, and to set up clear lines of endeavor, a standard to meet, a limit to stay within. I was just enough of a puritan to think there must be some virtue in rigorous things, although I was careful not to overdo it.
I never wore the clothes. the shorts, tank top, high socks. Just running shoes and a lightweight shirt and jeans. I ran disguised as an ordinary person.

-When are you two going to have children?
-We're our own children.

In novels lately the only real love, the unconditional love I ever come across is what people feel for animals. Dolphins, bears, wolves, canaries.

I would avoid people, stop drinking.

There was a beggar with a Panasonic.

This is what love comes down to, things that happen and what we say about them.

But nothing mattered so much on this second reading as a number of spirited misspellings. I found these mangled words exhilarating. He'd made them new again, made me see how they worked, what they really were. They were ancient things, secret, reshapable.The only safety is in details.

Hardship makes the world obscure.

How else could men love themselves but in memory, knowing what they know?

The world has become self-referring. You know this. This thing has seeped into the texture of the world. The world for thousands of years was our escape, was our refuge. Men hid from themselves in the world. We hid from God or death. The world was where we lived, the self was where we went mad and died. But now the world has made a self of its own.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names



“Say heat. Say wet between my legs. Say legs. Seriously, I want you to. Stockings. Whisper it. The word is meant to be whispered.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Vanity is a defensive quality. it contains an element of fear.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Air travel reminds us who we are. It’s the means by which we recognize ourselves as modern. The process removes us from the world and sets us apart from each other. We wander in the ambient noise, checking one more time for the flight coupon, the boarding pass, the visa. The process convinces us that at any moment we may have to submit to the force that is implied in all this, the unknown authority behind it, behind the categories, the languages we don’t understand. This vast terminal has been erected to examine souls.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“I began to think of myself as a perennial tourist. There was something agreeable about this. 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 walk 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, dysenteric, thirsty. There is nothing to think about but the next shapeless event.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“This was worse than a retched nightmare. It was the nightmare of real things, the fallen wonder of the world”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names



“The white marble surface was inlaid with semiprecious stones in seamless floral designs and in chaste calligraphy, shaped stones, jeweled stones, delicate and free-figured. The surface ran cool and smooth. Traceries of black Koranic figures covered the longer sides of the tomb with a smaller group on top. My hand moved slowly over the words, feeling for breaks between the inlay and marble, not to fault the craftsmen, of course, but only to find the human labor, the individual, in the wholeness and beauty of the tomb.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“This is what love comes down to, things that happen and what we say about them.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“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.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“If Greek and Latin characters are paving stones, Arabic is rain.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“I want to put your voice back inside your body, where it belongs.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names



“In this century the writer has carried on a conversation with madness. We might almost say of the twentieth-century writer that he aspires to madness. Some have made it, of course, and they hold special places in our regard. To a writer, madness is a final distillation of self, a final editing down. It’s the drowning out of false voices.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“The alphabet is male and female. If you will know the correct order of letters, you make a world, you make creation. This is why they will hide the order. If you will know the combinations, you make all life and death.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“We must be equal to the largeness of things.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Is a cardigan what women wear when they don't want to talk about themselves?”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“I think pleasure is in the moment more than in the thing.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names



“I see them in the primitive silkscreen the brain is able to produce, maybe eight inches in front of my closed eyes, miniaturised by time and distance, riddled by visual static, each figure a dancing red ribbon. These are among the people I've tried to know twice, the second time in memory and language. Through them, myself. They are what I've become, in ways I don't understand but which I believe will accrue to a rounded truth, a second life for me as well as for them.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“The TV was a rage-making machine, working at him all the time, giving him direction and scope, enlarging him in a sense, filling him with a world rage, a great stalking soreness and rancour.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“I move past the scaffolding and walk down the steps, hearing one language after another, rich, harsh, mysterious, strong. This is what we bring to the temple, not prayer or chant or slaughtered rams. Our offering is language.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Pleasure is not diversion but urgent life, a social order perceived as temporary.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Objects are what we aren't, what we can't extend ourselves to be. Do people make things to define the boundaries of the self? Objects are the limits we desperately need. They show us where we end. They dispel our sadness, temporarily.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names



“I see my son in the small tumult of the moment. He knows he has to handle this alone and does it conscientiously enough, shaking the man’s hand, nodding madly. He is not experienced at hearty rapport, of course, but his effort is meticulous and touching. He knows the man’s pleasure is important. He has seen this everywhere on the island and he has listened to his mother. We must be more precise in the details of our responses. This is how we let people know we understand the seriousness and dignity of their feelings. Life is different here. We must be equal to the largeness of things.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Miracles share the landscape with death.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Her sweat is a rank reminder, the only one, that she exists, that she is separate from the things that surround her.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


“Memory is the faculty of absolution. Men developed memories to ease their disquiet over things they did as men. The deep past is the only innocence and therefore necessary to retain.”
― Don DeLillo, quote from The Names


About the author

Don DeLillo
Born place: in Bronx, New York, The United States
Born date November 20, 1936
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