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July, July by Tim O'Brien
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July, July (2002)

by Tim O'Brien

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5791417,082 (3.43)29
Member:chuckyxchess
Title:July, July
Authors:Tim O'Brien
Info:Penguin Books (2003), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
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July, July by Tim O'Brien (2002)

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Most of my anthologies, and the three textbooks I use for my creative writing class, include the story by Tim O'Brien, “The Things They Carried.” Consequently, I have read that story numerous times. While I admired it, it never rose anywhere near any of my favorite stories. When I heard Tim O'Brien was scheduled to give a talk on “Things,” at Baylor University, I decided to attend and see if I could gain any insights into the story. His topic was the difference between “true” and “truth” in fiction. His talk was enthralling, and I decided to read a later work, his 2002 novel, July, July.

William Timothy “Tim” O’Brien was born in Minnesota in 1946. He teaches at Texas State University at San Marcos. He was drafted upon his graduation from college, and served in Viet Nam from 1969-1970. His unit was part of the platoon led by Lt. Calley of the Mi Lai massacre. O’Brien’s unit arrived at Mi Lai a year later, bewildered at the hostility of the people. He did not know about the massacre. “The Things They Carried” explores the boundaries between what was “true” – based on facts, and “truth” – the verisimilitude of events. This has become and important element of his style.

July, July relates the story of about 20 people who gather to celebrate their 31st reunion from college. An odd number, since the gathering was supposed to be the 30th reunion the year before, but the planner had forgotten, and she opted for a 31st celebration.

I was a bit daunted by the large cast of characters, especially since some occasionally went by nicknames, and I did not have enough information on peripheral family members to construct a tree. That were lots of college romances revived, lots of peculiar life styles, for example one woman was married to two men. Both men knew of the other, and accepted the eccentricity of a powerful and independent woman. She alternated weeks at the two houses. She also managed to revive an old crush, which still lingered after three decades. But as the story unfolded, I began to have a feel for the group, almost as if I was attending a reunion of my own. The major characters, I had a firm grasp of their identities and peculiarities. And, as in any reunion, the minor characters had escaped my memory.

Early in the party, O’Brien begins one of a dozen interesting descriptions of the class members. He writes, “David tapped out a cigarette, slipped it between her lips, struck a match, and watched her lean in toward the flame. Lovely woman, he thought. Steel eyes. Silver-blonde hair, cut short. Trim, No hips. No sign of any extra eight pounds. They’d remained friends over the years, sharing lunches, sometimes sharing a bed, and David found it impossible to believe that they would not somehow end up living together and getting old together, and finally occupying the same patch of earth. Anything else seemed mad. Worse than mad. Plain evil” (12).

As a graduate of an all-male high school and college, I never had this reunion experience of catching up with old friends. Mine are scattered to the winds, and only an occasional query on Facebook recalls the old days.

Reading July, July in light of his lecture and my experience with “Things,” I have come to a better understanding of this talented and funny writer. 5 stars.

--Jim, 02/21/16 ( )
  rmckeown | Mar 8, 2016 |
This was an entertaining book about the trials and tribulations of life. The book is about a class reunion for a group of graduates from the class of 1969 who have gotten together for their 30th (though it happens in the 31st year) reunion. These were idealists who ended up becoming part of the establishment. The story goes back and forth from the past to the present and roughly 8 of the students are the primary focus of the book. At times funny and other times sad, the profiles show how life seldom works out the way we think it will. ( )
  zmagic69 | Nov 9, 2015 |
This was a fun, easy read. It was reminiscent of one of O'brien's other books: The Things They Carried, with pieces of the Vietnam War wrapped into it.

This is the tale of a thirty (one) year college reunion, and focuses on a group of friends. The friends are all now in their fifties, and many are divorced, parents, cancer or other kinds of survivors. The characters in the story are not 100% good. Meaning, I don't necessarily want to be any of their friends, but they seem real. They are struggling to survive what it is to get older, have dreams change.

Very interesting read I would heartily recommend. ( )
  csweder | Jul 7, 2015 |
This was a fun, easy read. It was reminiscent of one of O'brien's other books: The Things They Carried, with pieces of the Vietnam War wrapped into it.

This is the tale of a thirty (one) year college reunion, and focuses on a group of friends. The friends are all now in their fifties, and many are divorced, parents, cancer or other kinds of survivors. The characters in the story are not 100% good. Meaning, I don't necessarily want to be any of their friends, but they seem real. They are struggling to survive what it is to get older, have dreams change.

Very interesting read I would heartily recommend.



Something that didn't hit me til page 295: do colleges have reunions? High school sure....but college? ( )
  csweder | Jan 8, 2015 |
I enjoyed the book, a look at people. It was real. ( )
  annoutwest | Jul 24, 2013 |
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With thanks to Larry Cooper, Janet Silver, Wendy Strothman, Clay Harper, Meredith O'Brien, Les Ramirez, Nader Darehshori, Adrienne Miller, Bill Buford, Tim Waller, and the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation.
First words
The reunion dance had started only an hour ago, but already a good many of the dancers were tipsy, and most others were well along, and now the gossip was flowing and confessions were under way and old flames were being extinguished and rekindled under cardboard stars in the Darton Hall College gymnasium.
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Book description
July, July is set in 2000, and members of the Darton Hall College class of 1969 are gathered, one year behind schedule, for their 30th reunion. Focusing on a dozen characters and life's pivotal moments rather than on a linear plot, O'Brien follows the ensemble cast (which includes a Vietnam vet, a draft dodger, a minister, a bigamous housewife and a manufacturer of mops) for whom "the world had whittled itself down to now or never," as they drink, flirt and reminisce. Interspersed are tales of other moments when each character experienced something that changed him or her forever.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142003387, Paperback)

As he did with In the Lake of the Woods, National Book Award winner Tim O'Brien strikes at the emotional nerve center of our lives with this ambitious, compassionate, and terrifically compelling new novel that tells the remarkable story of the generation molded and defined by the 1960s. At the thirtieth anniversary of Minnesota's Darton Hall College class of 1969, ten old friends reassemble for a July weekend of dancing, drinking, flirting, reminiscing, and regretting. The three decades since their graduation have seen marriage and divorce, children and careers, dreams deferred and disappointed-many memories and many ghosts. Together their individual stories create a portrait of a generation launched into adulthood at the moment when their country, too, lost its innocence. Imbued with his signature themes of passion, memory, and yearning, July, July is Tim O'Brien's most fully realized work.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:43 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

At the thirtieth reunion of Minnesota's Darton Hall College class of 1969, ten old friends join their classmates for a July weekend of dancing, drinking, flirting, reminiscing, regretting. The three decades since their graduation have seen marriage and divorce, children and careers, hopes deferred and abandoned.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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