The alternatives of a flight to Canada or a moral stand in a U. He has since explored the definitions of courage—moral, physical, political—in his fiction, a body of work that has, at least until recently, dealt almost exclusively with America's most unpopular war and its domestic consequences. His first book, If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home looked at the war through a collection of war vignettes that he had written for newspapers in his home state of Minnesota, and his second book was a novel, Northern Lights, that he later decried as overly long and Hemingwayesque—almost a parody of the writer's war stories.
The story of a war must be a large story, no? From the Iliad to War and Peace, from Wings to Apocalypse Now, those who have tried to present a coherent narrative of armed conflict have invariably found their accounts bursting at the seams. And even after the final page, we are frequently left with the uneasy sense that only a small microcosm of reality has managed to step forth from the battlefield and testify.
So much remains mute, buried, forgotten. And the Vietnam War, which respected no boundaries—whether in Southeast Asia or back on the home front— presents special challenges to the teller of tales. Where do you draw the line? The genocide in Cambodia? The Kent State shootings?
The military action on the ground provides just the opening spiral in the widening concentric circles that still twist and turn, in varying ways, even today. The Things They Carried belongs on any short list of great war fiction, and is one of the most compelling books yet written about the Vietnam experience.
The very substance of this book operates on a micro-scale. P can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy, cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water.
In many instances, the items are small enough to fit into a pocket. This litany of the little, which takes up the opening 25 pages of The Things They Carried, could serve as a case study for wannabe writers on the disproportionate power of the telling detail in narrative fiction.
This book breaks the rules of war fiction in many other ways. For a battlefield book, there is little actual combat, but this too enhances the verisimilitude. Flashes of gunfire from hidden places, land mines and other impersonal dangers can prove no less fatal than a flesh-and-blood assailant.
It is one of the defining characteristics of this book that its most memorable combat death comes when a character, the gentle Native American soldier Kiowa, sinks into the muck of a sewage field in the midst of a mortar attack. The author as character is a familiar post-modern ploy, and usually imparts a sense of playful experimentalism to the proceedings.
That was breaking the rules of fiction, and just wasn't cricket, according to the older scribe. For once, the realism and intensity of the underlying narrative are reinforced by the authorial intervention, and nothing could seem like less of a gimmick than the writer actually being there when ugly things start happening.
As these remarks no doubt make clear, The Things They Carried does not fall easily into the typical pigeonholes. It is not memoir, although it has many of the qualities of autobiography. It is not quite a novel, although the same characters and themes reappear in the different stories that constitute the book.
It is hardly non-fiction, although it comes across as a reenactment of real historical events.
The author mixes in shifts of chronology and geography that further disrupt the narrative flow. Yet these exceptions to familiar formulas all work to further the power of the finished product.
If anything, The Things They Carried will remind you less of other war books or movies, but rather will bring to mind the actual Vietnam vets you may have encountered in your life.
Imagine you have just settled down next to a troubled former soldier at the local bar, and after a few drinks he decides to tell you the real inside stuff about what went down in Southeast Asia—a little rambling perhaps, and likely to focus on the small things instead of geopolitics, but intensely vivid and believable.Parents need to know that The Things They Carried is a gut-wrenching combination of novel, story collection, and memoir partly based on the real experiences of acclaimed author and war veteran Tim O'Brien during the Vietnam War.
Focusing on the physical horror and emotional destructiveness of warfare, the book grapples with heavy questions about mortality, trauma, honor, cowardice, and the .
They make this an annoyingly arty book, hiding more than not behind Hemingwayesque time-signatures and puerile repetitions about war (and memory and everything else, for . Mar 11, · THE THINGS THEY CARRIED.
By Tim O'Brien. pp. Boston: Seymour Lawrence/Houghton Mifflin Company. $ The Things They Carried Tim O'Brien, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt pp.
ISBN Summary Selected as a New York Times Book of the Century. One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to.
The Things They Carried is a collection of linked short stories by American novelist Tim O'Brien, about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War. His third book about the war, it is based upon his experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division.
This is my review and thoughts on The Things They Carried By Tim O’Brien. Rating system: God, I wish I had that time back in my life = 0 Eh, it wasn’t the worst book .