Tag Archives: Tim O’Brien

The Things They Carried: Spectacular

I read *The Things They Carried* about a month ago. I got a concussion (sigh) and so couldn’t read or write or post here about what I’d read pre-concussion, so my memory of the book is a bit hazy.

Not so hazy that I don’t remember that I *loved* it. A brilliant exploration of why we read, why we write stories, the purpose of stories in our personal and collective lives, the peculiarities of memory, the ways stories allow us to get a better sense of the “truth” of historical events.

All the questions unfold in a memoir-like return to the Vietnam War, but it feels inadequate to say the book is about a soldier’s experience in Vietnam because it’s really a book about why and how we remember through stories. And it’s brilliant. Brilliant! 

I didn’t think I’d like it because I’m not fond of Vietnam stories (as 10-10-12 proved) nor am I particularly keen (okay, I’m adverse) to non-fiction. But this reads like a novel, a beautiful, poetic, brilliant novel. And Vietnam *is* there, and not simply as a backdrop for these bigger questions – it has a character in its own right – but I do think that the meditations on story, history and self surpass that of the plot/character elements. Go read it!

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Filed under American literature, Erin's Favourite Books, Prize Winner