the things they carried

title: The Things They Carried

author: Tim O’Brien

genre: Fiction, Vietnam war, the power of stories

date read: December 7th

review: 3 out of 5 stars

summary: A collection of stories about a platoon of soldiers in the Vietnam war.  While not a memoir, O’Brien does write about the character Tim O’Brien.  The men struggle with death, missing their loved ones, and the sanctity of life.  The importance of story telling is a major theme of the book, coming back again and again as O’Brien recounts the lives of these men.

personal thoughts: I did not enjoy this.  The “meta-ness” of the book was really distracting and the disjointed stories were confusing.  He retold some of the stories several times and I didn’t care for most of his characters.  Honestly, I really hate it when stories that try to pass themselves off as real but not.  This is the problem I had with Life of Pi (I realize this was actually fiction, but the whole premise is that the character is telling a story that might be real, or it might not be, which made me feel like I just wasted so much time reading the book) and Shantaram.  I know we draw inspiration from life, but at least give your character a different name than your own.  This is obviously a personal pet peeve, so you might love this book.  I just can’t get past this, apparently.

favorite quotes:
“They used a hard vocabulary to contain the terrible softness.  Greased they’d say.  Offed, lit up, zapped while zipping.  It wasn’t cruelty, just stage presence.  They were actors.” p. 19

“Stories are for joining the past to the future.  Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are.  Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” p. 36

“Courage was not always a matter of yes or now.  Sometimes it came in degrees, like the cold; sometimes you were very brave up to a point and then beyond that point you were not so brave.” p. 141

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