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The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried (original 1990; edition 1990)

by Tim O'Brien

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8,530232360 (4.2)511
Title:The Things They Carried
Authors:Tim O'Brien
Collections:Your library
Tags:Vietnam war, truth, stories, PTSD

Work details

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

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English (230)  Spanish (2)  All languages (232)
Showing 1-5 of 230 (next | show all)
This is easily one of the best books I've ever read. Tim O'Brien recounts his time in the Vietnam War. However this is a telling of the facts of what happened, but rather the emotions. Many times he tells you a whole story but then says not all of it is true. He strips away all truth and leaves you just with the emotion. He's truly an amazing author. This isn't one long novel, but instead a collection of short stories. Not all of the stories are about war either, but all convey a strong emotion. Tim O'Brien will also randomly throw in a comment that makes you go back and read it twice just because its out of the ordinary. This really keeps his readers engaged. The only negative thing I have to say about this book is language. Their is a lot of swearing, I wasn't really bothered by it, but I know some people would be. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about war and what a soldier feels, assuming they would be alright with reading strong language. ( )
  RickyHaas | Nov 6, 2015 |
Appreciation of Veterans should be enforced in this country. Most days, American citizens do not even realize how lucky and how grateful they should be to be walking around with the amount of freedoms, rights, and liberties they have today. These freedoms, rights, and liberties are upheld by the soldiers who fight for this country. Most soldiers are proud of their success. However, multiple time in The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien admits that he was not that proud of his involvement in the war.
However, it is okay to not agree with a war. It is okay to have your own opinion on a country’s necessary actions in a war. However, to me, O’Brien comes off above being an average citizen in the United States of America. He claims to be very smart graduating top of his class, etc. Which is all great. But, there is an obvious absence of O’Brien’s love for this country. Not everyone has to be always excited and loving every second of life in this country while carrying around a flag, etc., but it is disrespectful to feel that you are above the war. It is disrespectful to humbly boast how well you ended up compared to your war friends after the war. Some people react negatively to war. Some of O’Brien’s friends had PTST and other dangerous conditions. However, in this book, O’Brien humbly brags that he was not affected by it. He writes stories in each chapter of how he performed better than others after and during the war. But the most anger provoking action O’Brien performed was claiming that he was a coward for joining the war.
An American citizen is not a coward for joining a war. The chapter On the Rainy River made me want to stop reading the book. One needs to have pride for one’s country. One needs be brave for one’s country. In this book, O’Brien does not have pride for his country nor was he truly brave for America. On the contrary to O’Brien’s statement, he is not a coward for joining the war. He is a coward for feeling he is above standard duties of citizens and for feeling that escaping to Canada would solve all of his problems.
This novel tells the story of Tim O’Brien and his long journey in the war. Beware of O’Brien’s lack of dedication to his own country. The place that gave him freedom. ( )
  TommyGodric | Nov 5, 2015 |
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien is a semi-autobiographical novel of O'Brien's tour in Vietnam. O'Brien writes this book brilliantly, often retelling the same story from another point of view, or with details changed, to show that you don't know what's true in war. I've heard that this book is one of the best works of fiction about Vietnam, and I agree with that. War is hell, and I thought this book showed how some soldiers must get through it. Highly recommended for book discussion groups. ( )
1 vote Mathenam | Sep 30, 2015 |
In war, as in this book, reality bumps head-on with perceptions, and a skewed reality. There are some parts of this book that I really, really hope are the author's imagination, but I fear they are not.

Part autobiographical, part fiction, real characters, whatever this book is, it is brutal and unsettling. It is not an easy book to read unless the reader is a sadist who enjoys cruelty.

Despite that, I am glad I read it. First published in 1990, 25 years ago, it is still a valid look at a brutal war. And a look at how that war changes soldiers, how it sometimes steals their souls and replaces it with cruelty. Or perhaps, for some of those soldiers, the cruelty was already there, looking for a socially acceptable way of practicing it.

The author can write, no doubt about that. And there are many examples of the things these characters, these people carried, physical and emotional.

“He carried a strobe light and the responsibility for the lives of his men.”

“They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.”

“They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could ever be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture.”

The story about a flight towards Canada, dodging a draft for a war the author didn't believe in, was as touching as the stories of the fighting, the death, the despair in Vietnam.

“I passed through towns with familiar names, through the pine forests and down to the prairie, and then to Vietnam, where I was a soldier, and then home again. I survived, but it's not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to war.”

“In many ways he was like America itself, big and strong, full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly, slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you needed him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor.”

There are so many other quotable parts of this book, but you get the idea. This powerful book, more truth in it that I would like to know, has lost none of its impact over the years. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Sep 19, 2015 |
Don't read this book in public if you don't like to be seen nodding or making faces. O'Brien's short stories about Vietnam and other deaths he's experienced are like a dot matrix printer. At first you get a glimpse and think, yup, that's it, but then he swoops back again and gives you more. Then you know it's really true. You didn't know there could be more – but there is. These are must read short stories for writers and readers who want to feel love, fear, terror, exhiliration and loss. I'd also recommend this book for writers considering the relationship between fiction and real life relationships and the question whose story can I write? O'Brien steps out of his stories often and comments on what's "true." Truth and love, I'd say, are the main themes in the book. But you'll feel ravaged after you read it. It's not light. ( )
  KristinAkerHowell | Aug 15, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 230 (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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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)

(summary from another edition)

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