A few years after losing his wife and daughter in an automobile accident, Michael Reed finds himself working at a university for a nameless humanities department with a specialty so vague it’s impossible to imagine what he does for income, if anything. Not that Mr. Reed isn’t busy. His insights into humanity’s rougher edges are realized by a relentless labor of the mind. He’s strenuously alert to the injustices of middle age, the sublime beauty of reckless youth and the absence of the two people who once defined his life.
Acute physiological awareness is something author Denis Johnson does incredibly well. In The Name of the World he offers observations so clear and precise they approach the revelatory. He’s an author I would encourage anyone to read who likes complicated characters and a fair amount of realism – he’s extraordinary.