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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
8,348225371 (4.19)498
  1. 70
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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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    Beaufort by Ron Leshem (SqueakyChu)
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    Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (andyg227, chrisharpe)
    andyg227: An incredible journey of soldiers fighting and dying in the Vietnam War.
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    The Five O'Clock Follies: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway? by Theasa Tuohy (Preatarius)
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  10. 11
    The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (ateolf)
  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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» See also 498 mentions

English (224)  Spanish (2)  All languages (226)
Showing 1-5 of 224 (next | show all)
The writer is the narrator, as an author puzzling over his feelings when confronted by his daughter with the question, "did you ever kill anyone?" What items did he and his fellow soldiers carry? What else did they carry? do the burdens of the past ever get laid to rest?
I enjoyed the writing- a different angle- an introspective retrospective. ( )
  HelenGress | Apr 11, 2015 |
I understand this book is fiction and that the author made up most of the different stories within the book, but the book still made you think about what the Viet Nam War was to many of the young women and men who had to endure it. I missed the war by about three years. When I read this book, it made me think about how I would have handled being in the shoes of some of these characters. Knowing what I was like at eighteen years old, I probably would not have handled the war very well, at all.

One of the characteristics of good fiction is pulling the characters into the story and this book did that to me. Two thumbs up. ( )
  branjohb | Apr 5, 2015 |
This book is one of the best books I have ever read. I am not a big reader and was not thrilled when I saw the size of the book. I started reading and realized that the more I read the better the book got. Before I knew it I was already done with the book. The format of the book is strange. It is a bunch of short stories about the war based upon events that the author faced himself. While some stories were good and others were bad the bad stories were still very entertaining. My advice is to read this book and then just reread stories every now and then. that's how good the book is, so good you will want to read it again and again. ( )
  Jackd180 | Apr 1, 2015 |
Horrible to contemplate a brilliant young man headed to Harvard Graduate School, shipped off to the jungles of Vietnam--but to say this is to demean the wasted lives of thousands of less talented young men who are made into cannon fodder in meaningless, doomed foreign conflicts. O'Brien memorializes some of these young men, for "casualties" are impersonal but individual dead soldiers are real. The only one I can't feel anything for is Rat, because of the baby buffalo episode. My favorite is Kiowa. The greatest horror--apart from the sheer carnage--is the narrowed distance between Tim and Azar by the end, and the thought of what war makes men into, and the question of whether it can be ever completely unmade.

The writing is amazing, not least because of the nearly impossible subject matter. If not for the author's propensity to tell the same stories over and over with the same words--compelling at the beginning, annoying by the end--this mind-searing mortar shell of Vietnam metafiction would be Pulitzer material. ( )
  JMlibrarian | Mar 3, 2015 |
Reddit asked: "What books of today will be classics of future?"
Reddit answered: "The Things They Carried"
Librarything listened. Listened during jetlag. Listened in the dark of night.

Having some good luck with books these days...No, not just my mood. This is actually a really cool book.

OBrian takes a war story and turns it grisly, tells the ugly side of the story in a way as to negate any virtues or valor in heroism. It's a compilation of engrossing tales in an interesting narrative style, the latter probably my favorite aspect of the book. Not sure what the style is called, but it is definitely different/innovative. Think of how Slaughterhouse Five spun things up. Now spin it for nonfiction and calm it down.

Other reviews will reveal more about the story. The telling is what I'll point you to. ( )
  mortensengarth | Jan 28, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 224 (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.
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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