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The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
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The Things They Carried (1990)

by Tim O'Brien

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8,126220390 (4.2)474
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    chrisharpe: A similar novel, just as powerful - from the North Vietnamese perspective...
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    Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (andyg227, chrisharpe)
    andyg227: An incredible journey of soldiers fighting and dying in the Vietnam War.
  10. 01
    The Five O'Clock Follies: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway? by Theasa Tuohy (Preatarius)
  11. 28
    The Iliad by Homer (jrgoetziii)
    jrgoetziii: Because The Iliad is a classic war story and The Things They Carried is not, but took a number of passages almost directly from The Iliad (one of these is the catalog in the first book, but there are many others, too). The Iliad covers significantly more range and depth, and its themes are timeless.… (more)
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English (218)  Spanish (2)  All languages (220)
Showing 1-5 of 218 (next | show all)
I really didn't expect to like it, knowing it was fiction from the beginning was distracting, but he addresses it beautifully and makes clear through the lies he admits he's telling that you can't tell a war story. Surprisingly touching. ( )
  rockinghorsedreams | Nov 13, 2014 |
I read this book over the summer and enjoyed it very much, so much so that I read it in three days. What I appreciate so much about this book is the narrative. I love the way the stories are told and how the book analyzes each man in turn. The only thing I didn't like was that it did not make clear what really happened and what did not. This is one of the most powerful anti-war novels. It shows how bloody and awful the Vietnam War was. And it shows that romantic notions about war are false. This is the Vietnam War you won't learn about in a text book. Reading this, you'll feel like you were actually there, and that is one of the greatest things an author can do. Great writing! ( )
  jburkett16 | Nov 2, 2014 |
The Things They Carried is a remarkable novel about the Vietnam War. It is a mixture between non-fiction and fiction that is told from various perspectives. It tells of the awful way in which the soldiers in Vietnam truly lived and how unwanted the war really was. The stories that are told range from tragedies, to dark comedies. While each story is slightly different, There is a clear and connection between the characters and their experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and not only was it very informative about the horrendous conditions that these men endured during the war, but made their suffering tangible in a way that cannot be fully explained. The reader was able to see the war through many different perspectives in an interesting and creative book.
  matiacone | Nov 2, 2014 |
This was our book club's pick for September. What a great read! I'm not the type of person to read stories about war but this book of stories was very interesting. The stories were compiled of the author's time in Vietnam. Definitely eye opening and to me very realistic that I could mentally visualize the situations.

For the rest of the review, visit my blog at: http://angelofmine1974.livejournal.com/79807.html ( )
  booklover3258 | Sep 23, 2014 |
Oh my. This one, it’ll make you think.

Well, it made me think anyway. It made me think about peace and war and what it would be like to be drafted. It made me think about soldiers and brotherhood and sacrifice. It made me think about the lengths that one might have to go to survive in a war—to have to kill or be killed. It made me think about having to live with the memories when it’s all said and done.

“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do.”

Tim O’Brien is a phenomenal writer. Had I been reading this on my Kindle, I would have been highlighting every page. As it was, I practically read the whole book aloud to my husband because I just loved the way that O’Brien put his words together. There’s this gravity to them that makes you sink into yourself and really feel the weight of his stories. Most of them are brutal and painful and just plain awful. Some of them are bittersweet. And while all of them are fictional, thus making them not true, they all have a truth to them that’s almost devastating.

“I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”

I did. I felt it, and it moved me to tears. In fact, I may or may not be misting up right now as I write this. That’s the kind of impact this book had on me. Because this wasn’t just a book about war—if that’s all you take away from it, as the author says, you weren’t listening. It’s also about trust and friendship and love. It’s about remembering the good stuff in spite of the bad. It’s about keeping the memory of those who were lost alive.

“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.”

At 246 pages, The Things They Carried is a quick read and it’s one I’ll not soon forget. It’s probably not for everyone, but then again, neither is war. I recommend reading it anyway. Step out of your comfort zone. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Help carry a bit of the weight, because remembering is a burden that one should not have to shoulder alone. ( )
2 vote dkgarner95 | Aug 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 218 (next | show all)
"Many people think this is the best work of fiction ever written about Vietnam. Some even think it is the best work of fiction ever written about war. Both are right, and they were right 20 years ago when this book came out for the first time."
 
"As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on, O’Brien’s powerful depictions are as real today as ever."
 
"...he not only crystallizes the Vietnam experience for us, he exposes the nature of all war stories."
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tim O'Brienprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cranston, BryanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
This book is essentially different from any other that has been published concerning the 'late war' or any of its incidents. Those who have had any such experience as the author will see its truthfulness at once, and to all other readers it is commended as a statement of actual things by one who experienced them to the fullest.
-- John Ransom's Andersonville Diary
Dedication
This book is lovingly dedicated to the men of Alpha Company, and in particular to Jimmy Cross, Norman Bowker, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Henry Dobbins, and Kiowa.
First words
First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They werre not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack.
Quotations
It was my view then, and still is, that you don't make war without knowing why.

I was a coward. I went to the war.
Garden of Evil. Over here, man, every sin's real fresh and original.
"Well, right now," she said, "I'm not dead. But when I am, it's like . . . I don't know, I guess it's like being inside a book that nobody's reading."
I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth. Here is the happening-truth. I was once a soldier. There were many bodies, real bodies with real faces, but I was young then and I was afraid to look. And now, twenty years later, I'm left with faceless responsibility and faceless grief.

Here is the story-truth. He was a slim, dead, almost dainty young man of about twenty. He lay in the center of a red clay trail near the village of My Khe. His jaw was in his throat. His one eye was shut, the other eye was a star-shaped hole. I killed him.

What stories can do, I guess, is make things present.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0767902890, Paperback)

"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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:18 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

This depicts the men of Alpha Company. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have… (more)

» see all 10 descriptions

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