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Posts Tagged ‘Tim O’Brien’

The Things They Carried. It has been sitting on a pile on my nightstand since Border’s went out of business.  It caught my attention when it was first released some years ago. The title and the early reviews were intriguing and I always meant to read it.

While I do read books about the two world wars, the Civil War and our Revolutionary War, both fiction and non, I’ve not been drawn into Vietnam literature. Our book group discussed the Zumwalt book, My Father, My Son, quite a few years ago, and I remember it still, but, there hasn’t been anything else that I’ve read.

The Things They Carried was sitting atop the pile on Veteran’s Day. I’d recently read an excellent review of it on A Work in Progress, and felt that it was a fitting a day as any to pick it up.

I’ve not been able to put it down.

Tim O’Brien received his draft notice in the mail in June, 1968, a few weeks after he graduated from college. With his future before him and conflicting feelings about a war and a region he didn’t understand, he was at a turbulent juncture many American boys were at in the late sixties and early seventies.

The book is told in several interconnected stories, many of which were short stories published in various magazines over a period of time. They tell of the horrors of war, the stories that soldiers tell,  the inner turmoil of being drafted and the reality of combat. Stories that are true. Could be true. Stories we find were just stories. Stories that are repeated in different chapters and in different ways. They are written so skillfully that the reader can easily engage in one story, or all, in order, or not, and, still find this a compelling read.

While some of the scenes are disturbing and graphic, the book is not hard to read. Mr. O’Brien is a gifted writer and storyteller and he treats this subject matter with what I came to think of as a certain grace. While the book is considered a novel, it leaves one wondering how much of it was based on things O’Brien experienced himself, especially one chapter that deals with one of the book’s characters, also named Tim O’Brien, and how he deals with his urge to flee to Canada to escape the draft. It is so poignantly told, so palpably felt.

The first chapter is almost poetic as it deals with the things the book’s characters carried. The heavy equipment needed in battle and the necessities for survival in the jungle and in war. From a New Jersey pebble to drugs, well-read letters to grenades, fear and fatigue, it is a litany of all that a Vietnam soldier carried – and carries still. If you can’t read the book, I urge you to try the first chapter.

It was interesting for me to read The Things They Carried in early November when we take time as a nation to honor our veterans of war. I didn’t plan to read it right now, but, read it I did.  The words and images in it will stay with me for a long, long while.

(My Father, My Son was written by Elmo Zumwalt, Jr. and Sr. and covers the use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict to defoliate the jungle areas. Admiral Zumwalt gave the order to use Agent Orange. His son regularly patrolled the areas where it was heavily used. Elmo, Jr. later developed two rare and aggressive forms of cancer thought to be caused by the chemicals used and his son, Zumwalt’s grandson, was born with severe disabilities. Elmo Jr. eventually died of cancer.)

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I need help! Serious help!

Saturday was steamy and hot, hot, hot; even more so after the record breaking rains of the early morning hours. I had some errands to run, one of them being a library stop. I’m having my second cataract surgery this week and I wanted to have a few audio books to tide me over until I could read again.

Yep! That was my plan. Plans are sometimes waylaid.

Some audio books made it home. Maeve Binchy never disappoints me and I found a Dorothy L. Sayers book.

Then, I got a little carried away, and found this,

and then these. The Katie Fforde book is a new one and is due next Tuesday. What was I thinking?

I wasn’t thinking. I told you. I need help.

 Don’t you just hate it when the librarians throw their candy wrappers in the with the books? I found it when I emptied my sack.

Then, perhaps because the Three Musketeers Bar turned into hot chocolate in the car, I decided to take in the going-out-of-business sale at Borders, which was nearby.

Really. I need help. Serious help. Did I leave empty-handed? Of course not.

There were some children’s books that I just knew Kezzie would like. Can you see one hiding in sack #2?

I needed these,

and this, because I do judge a book by its cover,

and since I won’t be doing any weeding for a while, I thought this would do.

Not so much for its cover, but, for the illustrations found inside.

Yep, I serious need some help. Oh well, off I go. I’ll see you in a few days.

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