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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
9,237273324 (4.19)564
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    Chickenhawk: Back in the World. Life After Vietnam by Robert Mason (chrisharpe)
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    The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh (ateolf, chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: A similar novel, just as powerful - from the North Vietnamese perspective...
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    The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (ateolf)
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    Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (andyg227, chrisharpe)
    andyg227: An incredible journey of soldiers fighting and dying in the Vietnam War.
  12. 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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Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
An evocative, visceral, meditative look at being part of the Vietnam war and the aftermath it leaves in one's life.

It reads like non-fiction, but the author's conversations with you tell you that it is a somewhat fictionalised account. And I like his discussion and meditation on his craft, it adds immeasurably to the book.

The structure of the book is non-linear and works wonderfully, with interlinkages throughout and a thread of linearity to keep you grounded.

Highly recommended. ( )
  devilish2 | Jan 6, 2017 |
The reviews of this book would lead you to believe that an epic journey into the mind set and daily ritual of the American soldier in Vietnam awaited. It wasn't. The book delved into observation ... somewhat dreamy observation and quick-ended description of memories. Nothing new and certainly nothing more. ( )
  MikeBiever | Dec 29, 2016 |
The Things They Carried is a fictionalized war story. The story line goes something like this: an American boy named Tim O'Brien, a left-leaning teenager, gets drafted for the Vietnam War. He goes on a trip which is almost like a salvation; it stops him from defecting to Canada. The story then goes on to show the horrors of war, personal experiences of his life, like his childhood girlfriend Linda, and living life with shell shock.
I have very mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I don't like the over dramatization of the war. The author focuses on very intricate details that more than anything distracted me from the actual story. Also i do not like the fictionalization of the Vietnam War. The book created war stories of epic proportions that to me seem disrespectful to the many veterans who served in the war. On the other hand, the book introduces a widely unpopularized disorder linked with soldiers. PTSD or post dramatic stress disorder is a very common neurologic and emotional disorder in our troops. This book refers to the disorder many times in many different perspectives. In one perspective they even show a soldier who killed himself later in life because of what he was living with. The statistic that really makes this story appeal to me is twenty-two veterans kill themselves every day. For the reason of public awareness of this disorder, I like the book. But because of what I view as over complicated writing, I can only say that the book is good and not great. ( )
  mberoza18 | Oct 27, 2016 |
Yeah, I think my students are going to need to read this ... ( )
  Sareene | Oct 22, 2016 |
Tim O'Brien's semi-autobiographical work on the Vietnam War is a collection of beautifully written, melancholy short stories set both during the conflict and decades years later.

My brother recommended this book years ago. He has a habit of enjoying books that are poetic and lyrical, reflective and very sad. So I put it off, deciding I needed to be in the right mood. This year, my library's book discussion choices were the final push I needed to finally put it on the top of the "to read" list. I am really glad I did. It is very sad, and violent at times, which I expected. I was not prepared with how bowled over I was, by the characters, the writing, the exploration of "truth" vs. "fact," the working through of a terrible war by writing stories. I found myself slowing down, reading only two or three stories at a time so that I could really take each one in. Each story is placed carefully, so they each tell a story and they each illuminate the others. I have so much to think about and talk about in discussion tomorrow, and I took far more copious notes than I usually do, even for a book discussion book. Highly, highly recommended. ( )
  bell7 | Sep 20, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 271 (next | show all)
"...he not only crystallizes the Vietnam experience for us, he exposes the nature of all war stories."
"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."

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tim O'Brienprimary authorall editionscalculated
Cranston, BryanNarratorsecondary 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)

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)

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