Recommendation: The Things They Carried

Recommendation: The Things They Carried

No list would be complete without my favorite novel-in-stories of all time, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. And yes, I have actually read this one as well as listened to the brilliant audio-version read by Brian Cranston. Wow.

Also, since I write myself about war experiences of my main characters, especially Jonathan – Carrie’s husband, it has particular interest for me, but that is just part of its appeal.

Like the tin says on Amazon: “[It is] a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.” Yes, indeed.

There are so many things to say about this one, I don’t even know where to begin. But I think what I like best about it is the way you get to experience how the memory of the war changes over time, if you follow the stories and how the narrator describes different events from before going over, while there and then afterwards. You get the sense of a subtle change as the years pass, although it is hard to pinpoint exactly what that is. I don’t really have any other recommendation than reading it and dive into the experience yourself!

I will say that I don’t have a particular problem with the story being a mix of fiction and, presumably, true memories of the author’s time in Vietnam. There are a lot of reviews on Amazon being negative about that, especially reviews from vets who fought in Nam and feel that the author is not being honest about what was going on. Well, d’uh, it is fiction. It may be written as a memoir, but it is still fiction. It is not an autobiography of any sorts. And I will say that even though they author describes some things that may not have happened, it doesn’t matter that much to me as long as it feels like it could have happened, or as long as something just as terrible and horrific did happen (Mai Lai, anyone?) and you then get to feel what the war is like through the stories. Like: chaos, terror, confusion, cruelty, mercy, hope and all the mundane weirdness that is in between.

Like the O’Brien says at one point: “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”

Well, there it is. And in the best of Hemingway traditions, too.

Here is the Goodreads page. There is not much info, but you can see where to purchase it.


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