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

by Tim O'Brien

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9,102269329 (4.19)549
Member:lindagm
Title:The Things They Carried
Authors:Tim O'Brien
Info:
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Vietnam war, truth, stories, PTSD

Work details

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

  1. 71
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (chrisharpe)
  2. 10
    Beaufort by Ron Leshem (SqueakyChu)
  3. 10
    Chickenhawk: Back in the World. Life After Vietnam by Robert Mason (chrisharpe)
  4. 21
    The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh (ateolf, chrisharpe)
    chrisharpe: A similar novel, just as powerful - from the North Vietnamese perspective...
  5. 00
    A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo (mcenroeucsb)
  6. 00
    The Five O'Clock Follies: What's a Woman Doing Here, Anyway? by Theasa Tuohy (Preatarius)
  7. 00
    What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes (TooBusyReading)
  8. 00
    Adjusting Sights by Haim Sabato (SqueakyChu)
  9. 11
    The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer (ateolf)
  10. 00
    Loon by Jack McLean (SqueakyChu)
  11. 22
    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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English (267)  Spanish (2)  All languages (269)
Showing 1-5 of 267 (next | show all)
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 |
At a handful of rare moments in your reading life, you pick up a book that you can't put down until you finish it. This is one of those books. O'Brien's stories of Vietnam, post-Vietnam, and the narrator/author's own childhood are written in such an effortless manner that the pages fly by quickly without even a single sentence that confuses you and requires re-reading. And yet this isn't simple prose. It is filled with emotion, perfect dialogue, characters, and settings--one in particular--that you will feel have crept into the room with you and are performing on a small stage in front of you. The effect is very pleasurable, despite the graphic, aching nature of most of what O'Brien has to say about war and men (and one woman) in war. The blending of truth and fiction is complete and even when the author tries to say what is true and what isn't, he hedges his bets. His point is that truth isn't necessarily what happened. Most of these stories, which are more like a plot-light novel told out of order, reach into you and don't let go. It is also the right length. It's hard to see how the author could have achieved his effect any better. This is a book that lives up to its hype, although I would advise reading the multiple pages of extremely laudatory reviews in this paperback edition after you read the book itself. If you're the cynical type, reviews so positive will have you hunting for every tiny flaw in the book. And there are some very small ones--but after a while, you realize the truth is it doesn't matter. This is a "coming to grips" book where the author/narrator repeatedly turns the focus back on his own failings, which in turn makes us reflect upon our own. It's nice to be able to do it from a comfortable couch and not in a field of mud. ( )
  datrappert | Sep 9, 2016 |
After reading the book, I feel like I didn't get it. I understood the stories. I understood many of his feelings about the war and why he went to the war. But there is a whole section about war stories and what makes a true war story. I feel like I didn't really get that whole part. ( )
  KamGeb | Jul 24, 2016 |
Good but tough read, emotionally, for me. ( )
  bookczuk | Jul 6, 2016 |
I do my reviews on www.librarything.com and then they get posted to Facebook. This book was published in 1990 and is considered one the best books ever written about Viet Nam and war. My review is the first one in Library thing. Not sure why that is. Maybe because of when the book was written and the age of this website. This book should be read by everyone. O'Brien wrote "Going After Cacciato" also about Viet Nam which won the National Book Award. The Things they Carried is about his time in Viet Nam and he uses his own name in it but it is a work of fiction. Although the stories are fiction, the essence of the stories are true. Reading this book will really give you an insight into what a soldier goes through. Those who have served will have their own reality, but after reading this no one should blindly go ahead and endorse armed conflict when they are sending other people's sons and daughters into combat. I was so curious about this book that I went onto You Tube and saw some interviews with O'Brien about this book. I have read other books by him and I am glad that I finally got around to this book. It is 230 pages and a must read. ( )
  nivramkoorb | Jun 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 267 (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 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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 10 descriptions

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