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The Things They Carried [Kindle Edition]

Tim O'Brien
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,696 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling. 
 
The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O’Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.
 
Taught everywhere—from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing—it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.

The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize; it was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice.... Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to."

A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried marks a subtle but definitive line of demarcation between Tim O'Brien's earlier works about Vietnam, the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone and the fictional Going After Cacciato, and this sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three. Vietnam is still O'Brien's theme, but in this book he seems less interested in the war itself than in the myriad different perspectives from which he depicts it. Whereas Going After Cacciato played with reality, The Things They Carried plays with truth. The narrator of most of these stories is "Tim"; yet O'Brien freely admits that many of the events he chronicles in this collection never really happened. He never killed a man as "Tim" does in "The Man I Killed," and unlike Tim in "Ambush," he has no daughter named Kathleen. But just because a thing never happened doesn't make it any less true. In "On the Rainy River," the character Tim O'Brien responds to his draft notice by driving north, to the Canadian border where he spends six days in a deserted lodge in the company of an old man named Elroy while he wrestles with the choice between dodging the draft or going to war. The real Tim O'Brien never drove north, never found himself in a fishing boat 20 yards off the Canadian shore with a decision to make. The real Tim O'Brien quietly boarded the bus to Sioux Falls and was inducted into the United States Army. But the truth of "On the Rainy River" lies not in facts but in the genuineness of the experience it depicts: both Tims went to a war they didn't believe in; both considered themselves cowards for doing so. Every story in The Things They Carried speaks another truth that Tim O'Brien learned in Vietnam; it is this blurred line between truth and reality, fact and fiction, that makes his book unforgettable. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

Weapons and good-luck charms carried by U.S. soldiers in Vietnam here represent survival, lost innocence and the war's interminable legacy. "O'Brien's meditations--on war and memory, on darkness and light--suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel," said PW. 60,000 first printing.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 735 KB
  • Print Length: 259 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 13, 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002TWIVNA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,586 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
435 of 457 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ". . . stories can save us" November 11, 2001
Format:Paperback
Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is a book that transcends the genre of war fiction. Actually, it transcends the genre of fiction in general. Although labeled "a work of fiction" on the title page, the book really combines aspects of memoir, novel, and short story collection. I think you could use Audre Lorde's term "biomythography" to describe this book.
The first-person narrator of this book (named, like the author, Tim O'Brien) is a writer and combat veteran of the Vietnam War. The book actually deals with events before and after the war, in addition to depicting the war itself; the time span covers more than 30 years in the lives of O'Brien and his fellow soldiers.
"The Things They Carried" is an intensely "writerly" text. By that I mean that O'Brien and his characters often reflect directly on the activities of storytelling and writing. As a reader, I got the sense that I was being invited into the very process by which the book was created. This is an extraordinary technique, and O'Brien pulls it off brilliantly.
This being a war story, there are some truly disturbing, graphic, and violent scenes. But there are also scenes that are haunting, funny, surreal, or ironic. O'Brien depicts a memorable group of soldiers: the guilt-wracked Lieut. Cross; Kiowa, a Native American and devout, Bible-carrying Baptist; the sadistic but playful Azar; and more.
While this book is a complete and cohesive work of art, many of its component stories could stand alone as independent pieces of literature (in fact, I first encountered the title story in an anthology). But however you classify it, I consider "The Things They Carried" to be a profoundly moving masterpiece.
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253 of 266 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece February 8, 2001
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was first introduced to this book as part of a U.S. & Vietnam History course in college. The other novel the course required was The Quiet American by Graham Greene. Tim O'Brien's book is every bit as good as Greene's, and all the more timely.
As a former soldier, and a veteran of Desert Storm, whose father avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, the book taught me that no matter what other people say about the war, no matter what I learn, I can never make any value judgements on an individual level. I was not there, and for better or worse, I am only a specator.
I am currently re-reading the book, which I often use in teaching my creative writing class. I share the story-chapter, "Style" every year with my students. I also find the book essential to learn about the nature of fiction, which O'Brien challenges with every page of this book.
For anyone looking for a book to read on the Vietnam experience, this book makes my short list every time. Not only of "Vietnam" books, but of any book worth reading. This book is simply essential.
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207 of 218 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Vietnam Primer for a 1969 baby... April 2, 2000
Format:Paperback
I was born in 1969. I missed Vietnam. The war was over and I never knew about it. For an event that had such significance in American history, it was as though it had never happened.
When I was in High School and we studied American History, our class always ended with WWII. We never discussed "modern" events -- the 60s, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement.
When I got to college, I made a point of taking a class on the 60s. Still though, I gained a textbook introduction to the Vietnam war -- I never had a true sense of what the horror was, why people protested, why it was such an important historical event. My generation has never faced a war in which we were drafted to fight.
And then I read "The Things they Carried"...
This book was/is an education for me. Visceral, haunting, provoking, gripping -- the stories Tim O'Brien tells rip into you. He puts you on the front line facing the man you just killed -- on the Canadian border deciding that you aren't brave enough to escape to Canada to avoid the draft -- back in Vietnam watching your best buddy slowly sink into a field of mud as sniper fire rains all around you -- back at home with no sense of purpose surrounded by people who don't know how to welcome you home.
This book is the best education on Vietnam this literal child of the 60s ever received.
If, like me, you don't understand what all the fuss is about, read this book and you will...
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89 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Turns you inside out ! February 29, 2000
Format:Paperback
I am writing this review about a month or so after having read it. I am a veteran of the Vietnam war and after serving two tours with the U.S. Navy in the Mekong Delta..found this book to be very good at pulling you inside out...taking someone who hasn't been there and transporting you to walk the trails and carry the weight of being a soldier.
Tim O'Brien is an outstanding author, he captures your imagination and doesn't let go until his fasinating stories have drained you of any resistance against reading on till the end. I'm not a big reader and certainly NOT into war books. But this book tells so much more about the characters lives and how they were forever impacted by there experiences. I have recommended to some fellow comrades who also served in the Nam to read it. My own personal experiences still haunt me, the memories and nightmares continue..and reliving some of the experiences though somewhat different...the "feel" of Mr. O'Brien's book, has given me a somehow more settled attitude. I highly recommend that anyone who has either been to war, know's or is related to anyone who served in the Nam or any other war...do yourself a big favor ~ READ THIS BOOK! Don't miss it...it's worth every minute spent.
A real winner!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent detail of the life of a VN infantryman
Published 5 hours ago by william m dalehite jr
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Story of the Emotions in War
Well-written book gives a pretty clear picture of what it must be like to experience the horrors of fighting in a war and the heartbreak involved. It's a powerful story. Read more
Published 5 hours ago by F. Thomas Ott
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener
It was a copy my husband had purchased. This is an incredible book. I didn't know what to expect when I first started reading it. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Marlene Gray
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 3 days ago by Drew
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Needed for school
Published 3 days ago by John A Scarpantonio
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Excellent Book! Buy the audible book companion too. It is read by Bryan Cranston. WOW! I am a Vietnam Veteran as well, and the book stirred up a lot of memories.
Published 3 days ago by Bill 51773
5.0 out of 5 stars insightful and reflection provoking.
Great book, reading this book a second time as a veteran was quite emotional.
Published 3 days ago by Jonathon Heiser
4.0 out of 5 stars Read & Reread
I have read this book several times over the years, many of which were for educational purposes. I always enjoy the story and the discussions that come from it with others. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Well Read
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazingggg
One of my all time favorites! Simply phenomenal!
Published 5 days ago by Savannah
5.0 out of 5 stars Read It
So many things have already been written in praise of this book that there's not much I can add. Having come of age during the late stages of the Vietnam war (but escaped the... Read more
Published 7 days ago by Gulf16
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More About the Author

TIM O'BRIEN received the 1979 National Book Award in fiction for Going After Cacciato. His other works include the acclaimed novels The Things They Carried and July, July. In the Lake of the Woods received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was named the best novel of 1994 by Time. O'Brien lives in Austin, Texas.

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