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"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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This was part of a school reading list. My child liked the book, but I did not read it.Published 2 days ago by Tracie Dvis
Tim O'Brien is one of our greatest living authors. He is the essential story teller of the Viet Nam war. Read morePublished 2 days ago by JM Harvey
Sometimes too wordy which led me to skim, but certainly became a more interesting story as the writer became more personal about the characters.Published 2 days ago by Jenifer Brucks
Very difficult book to read because of the hell these soldiers go through. Couldn't put it down!Published 3 days ago by baysidechick
Thought provoking, especially for anyone who reached soldiering age during the Vietnam era. The author's unique style takes getting used to, but the book holds your attention. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Edward Hillman III
I really enjoyed this book when I had to read it for high school. I did my IB Oral Report on this book. It's a great novel about the war and it puts a lot of things in perspective.Published 8 days ago by Mary Mott
One of the best written about war time, for those who want a personal feel of men in the midst of horrific wartime experiences.Published 8 days ago by Joyce
Well written. Gives a different view of the Vietnam war than others I have read.Published 8 days ago by R. E. Hansen