The Things They Carried by Tim O’ Brien
Reread after a conversation w/ the esteemed CoggyCog. (Recently earned his 10 year merit badge!) The Professor and I are planning a trip to Vietnam later this year, and while I’m not interested in reducing the country to a shadow of a single war, there’s no doubt that as an American, the Vietnam War is an important part of how I think about the country. Moreover, I wanted to muse over what an anti-war war-game might be, and O’Brien’s work seemed a good place to start.
O’Brien’s lyrical collection of fables of the Vietnam war are as much a look at storytelling and how stories work as it is a war-novel. The book is sad and funny and poignant, and meta. It feels a little dated now, because twenty years ago when I first read it, this seemed like really cutting-edge narrative work. (Unreliable narrators, framework tales, etc. etc.) Maybe I was just new to the party, or maybe mainstream storytelling has stolen a bit of O’Brien’s thunder.
Still, this is a fine book, and probably one of the best pieces of fiction written about America’s misadventures in the jungles so long ago. We got ourselves a nice mellow war today…