Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried is a set of related short stories, most of them about the author's service in the Vietnam War.  Many of the same characters appeared in the stories, but each story could stand alone (although they were related enough that you wanted to read all of them).  My favorite story was On the Rainy River which told about the author receiving his draft notice and struggling with the decision of whether to report for duty or go to Canada.  Many people believe that going to Canada was the cowardly way out, but I've always believed that it took great courage to leave behind your home, family, friends, your entire way of life, knowing you could never return.  This story showed just how difficult a decision that was for young men during this time in our history.

In Spin, the author states:

"Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a lifetime ago, and yet remembering makes it now.  And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever.  That's what stories are for.  Stories are for joining the past to the future.  Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are.  Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story."

And in Good Form, the author explains the differences between "happening-truth" and "story-truth.

I haven't read very many books about Vietnam, but of those I've read, Tim O'Brien is my favorite author.  This is my 4th book for the Vietnam War Reading Challenge.  I rate this book 5 out of 5.


Anna said...

Tim O'Brien is an awesome writer. I haven't read this yet, but I can't let the challenge end without reading it.

We'll get this posted on War Through the Generations soon.

Serena said...

Tim O'Brien is one of my favorite authors of Vietnam War Lit. He's also a very nice man in person. Thanks for this great review.

Heather J. said...

Thanks for giving me the link to your review - I love getting other perspectives on something I've read recently.

I can't say that I enjoyed it as much as you did, but it was definitely worth reading.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Thanks for linking to your review. The quote you pulled from Spin is one of my very favorites in the entire book because it's such a great way of articulating the importance of stories.