Megan Harlan
July 21, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Name of the World

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Denis Johnson
publisher
HarperCollins
genre
Fiction

We gave it an A-

At just under 130 pages, Denis Johnson’s latest, lyrical book The Name of the World — in the same league as his 1992 Jesus’ Son (now a movie) — is a riveting read: a wry, intense, exquisitely written interior monologue by middle-aged history professor Mike Reed, who has felt trapped by grief since his wife and daughter died in a car crash four years earlier. As Mike numbly teaches classes, attends dinner parties with colleagues mired in their problems, becomes obsessed with a wild art student (and part-time stripper), starts to self-destruct, and faces the future, the novel traces the excruciating movement from mourning to living. By the graceful finale, his journey feels like nothing less than a rebirth. A-

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