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The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried (1990)

by Tim O'Brien

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
10,260300396 (4.19)614
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    andyg227: An incredible journey of soldiers fighting and dying in the Vietnam War.
  12. 39
    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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» See also 614 mentions

English (298)  Spanish (2)  All languages (300)
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
Tim O'Brien is a true master of storytelling when it comes to sharing his experiences of the Vietnam War through writing. I use excerpts of this text for teaching characterization and find that students can really relate to the larger themes within this text even though the characters in the book would be old enough to be their grandparents now. A valuable book with valuable ideas to teach! ( )
  justagirlwithabook | Aug 1, 2018 |
The author, himself a Vietnam vet, tells a series of short stories where he recalls a variety of events involving his draft and time served in the war. It was very disturbing and heartfelt and read more like a novel than individual vignetts. I feel wrong saying that i "enjoyed" it but i think that the stories were well written and convey the horrors of war. ( )
  AstridG | Apr 29, 2018 |
A stunning set of interlinked short stories about the Vietnam War that challenge us not only to think about the human costs of war, but also *how* we remember any traumatic or difficult event through storytelling. I’ve read this book 3 or 4 times, and it has never failed to move me deeply. ( )
1 vote jalbacutler | Apr 27, 2018 |
I will have to come back later and actually write my review. This certainly was not a bad book, but to say that I liked it, doesn't seem quite right. Perhaps it is the topic, I'm not sure. I do know that I am looking at my husband who was in Vietnam for 18 months and feeling very sorry that he was a part of this experience.

I realize that I never came back to update this review. It is now a year after I read it and it is still with me. So, to say this is a powerful book may be an understatement.

I wondered if my husband would be interested in this book and he stopped reading after the first few pages. He has never really talked much about his experience during the war and I suppose that this book made everything just too real.

I am doing something that I don't do and that is changing my rating from 3 stars to 4. I recommend this to anyone with any interest in the Vietnam War. ( )
  PamV | Mar 27, 2018 |
This book of essays about the grim realities of the Vietnam War is about so much more than war. It's about love and loss, life and death, dirt and comradeship, courage and fear, and yes, about war. The author, Tim O'Brien is a Vietnam vet. The powerful stories he tells are his own.

I listened to this as audio from Audible.com, and this version end with another of O'Brien's essays read by the author. It's just as affecting as the book.

In addition to the war, O'Brien explores the magic of stories. He tells us that the best stories aren't always truth. He fills us in on enhancements he's made to certain stories. And he tells a story of his innocent 9-year-old self, and the girl who got away.

" ... I asked her what it was like to be dead. Apparently Linda thought it was a silly question. ... when I am it's like, I don't know, I guess it's like being inside being a book that nobody's reading."

His line sums it all up: "In a war without aim, you tend not to aim. You close your eyes. You close your heart." Tim O'Brien opens his heart and lets his readers climb inside the pain. ( )
  TheBibliophage | Mar 20, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
"As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on, O’Brien’s powerful depictions are as real today as ever."

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tim O'Brienprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cranston, BryanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prate, Jean-YvesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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.
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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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:48 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Contains a collection related fiction short stories with recurring characters, interwoven plot and themes told by a foot soldier retelling his experiences in the Vietnam War.

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