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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
7,950213411 (4.21)454
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    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 454 mentions

English (211)  Spanish (2)  All languages (213)
Showing 1-5 of 211 (next | show all)
I had to read the title story from Tim O’Brien’s short story collection The Things They Carried in high school, and to be honest, I didn’t remember much of it. Prompted by a friend, I picked it back up this year and was astonished to find how much I’d missed. It’s a collected of often-brutal semi-autobiographical stories set during the Vietnam War, frequently narrated by a character named Tim O’Brien, who is not the author himself. From that description, you might assume you’re in for some postmodern trickery, and you’d be right. O’Brien’s subject is both the war, and the impossibility of writing about war with anything approaching honesty. The stories play around with the truth in unsettling ways, leaving the reader unsure of what is real and what is embellished: that’s exactly the point. ( )
  circumspice | Jul 16, 2014 |
The Things They Carried is an interesting look at war, and what the people in war must do to in order to survive...emotionally and physically.

Despite the topic, the book is amazingly light and easy to read. For that reason, this book is a four star book.

I opened this book expecting a series of short stories, but I'm not quite sure that's what it was. I'm not quite sure I've ever read a book like this before--O'Brien has a knack for writing in a way I have never seen before, and I commend him for it.

The book is, partially memiors, of himself and his company, partially just stories the reader is lead to believe--but then he tells us that it's not true. Any of it. As a reader, I am left wondering what, in this book is truthful or not. But, I think that is what O'Brien means to happen. To blur the lines between truth and fantasy, because that is what war is like.

A good read. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
The Things They Carried is an interesting look at war, and what the people in war must do to in order to survive...emotionally and physically.

Despite the topic, the book is amazingly light and easy to read. For that reason, this book is a four star book.

I opened this book expecting a series of short stories, but I'm not quite sure that's what it was. I'm not quite sure I've ever read a book like this before--O'Brien has a knack for writing in a way I have never seen before, and I commend him for it.

The book is, partially memiors, of himself and his company, partially just stories the reader is lead to believe--but then he tells us that it's not true. Any of it. As a reader, I am left wondering what, in this book is truthful or not. But, I think that is what O'Brien means to happen. To blur the lines between truth and fantasy, because that is what war is like.

A good read. ( )
  csweder | Jul 8, 2014 |
As a writer, this book is incredibly humbling. As a reader, this book is unforgettable. One of the best books I've ever read. ( )
  AlexTully | Jun 27, 2014 |
No matter how many books I read about the experience of war I know nothing of it. What I learn, most of all, is how far I am from even the slightest understanding what it does to our young people. And for what?

( )
  dtn620 | May 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 211 (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."
Last words
(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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