One of the first questions people ask about The Things They Carried is this: Is it a novel, or a collection of short stories? The title page refers to the book simply as "a work of fiction," defying the conscientious reader's need to categorize this masterpiece. It is both: a collection of interrelated short pieces which ultimately reads with the dramatic force and tension of a novel. Yet each one of the twenty-two short pieces is written with such care, emotional content, and prosaic precision that it could stand on its own.
The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves.
With the creative verve of the greatest fiction and the intimacy of a searing autobiography, The Things They Carried is a testament to the men who risked their lives in America's most controversial war. It is also a mirror held up to the frailty of humanity. Ultimately The Things They Carried and its myriad protagonists call to order the courage, determination, and luck we all need to survive.
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"'The Things They Carried' is a thrilling and beautiful distillation of everything that has been thought, felt, or said about the Vietnam war and its long afterburn. A heartbreaking and healing masterpiece; time will make it a classic."
MICHAEL HERR, author of 'Dispatches'
"O'Brien writes superbly. One of the best war books of this century, an unflinching attempt to illuminate both its obscene physical brutality and the terrible mental overload."
"This marvellous book…there are few novels of this brilliant kind. Here every sentence proclaims that war does not so much contain horrors as is horror itself."
RUTH RENDELL, 'Sunday Telegraph'
"The war story in O'Brien's hands is brilliant, extraordinarily sophisticated and moving, restless, lucid and decidedly slippery."
"Essential… he captures the war's pulsating rhythms and nerve-racking dangers… a stunning performance. The overall effect of these original tales is devastating."
NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Tim O’Brien was born in Minnesota and graduated from Macalester College in St Paul. He established himself as one of the leading writers of his generation in 1973 when he published ‘If I Die In A Combat Zone’, the compelling account of his own tour of duty in Vietnam and is widely regarded as the finest novelist the Vietnam War has produced.
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Book Description Penguin Books, 1991. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Later Printing. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX014014773X
Book Description Penguin Books, 1991. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P11014014773X