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May 31, 2010

What they're still carrying

In honor of Memorial Day in the U.S., PBS Newshour broadcast an interview with Tim O’Brian, author of The Things they Carried. This year marks the 20th anniversary of a book which has become required reading in the U.S. in classes at both the high school and college level. I have quoted the book before, so on this occasion I would like to quote a few of O’Brian’s comments from the interview.

The entire interview can be read or seen at

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june10/obrien_04-28.html

--Steve

“The things we carry, the objects we carry say things about the sorts of people we are. The book does start with the physical stuff we carry through a war, not just the military stuff, but the rabbit's feet and the pictures of your girlfriend back home, and all you don't have. And then the book tries to move into the emotional and the spiritual burdens that you're going to carry, not just through the war, but to your grave.”

“I wanted to write a work of fiction that would feel to the reader as if this had occurred or, in a way, is occurring as I read it. And, so, I would use every strategy I could think of, invention, and dialogue, and using my own name, dedicating the book to the characters, as a way of giving a reader a sense of witnessed experience. I was a soldier in Vietnam. But the stories in the book are, for the most part, invented. Yet, they're launched out of a world I once knew.”

“Sometimes things like wars can do precisely the reverse of what you want with a policy. You can manufacture enemies, as I was telling the class, that a bullet can kill the enemy, but a bullet can also produce an enemy, depending on whom that bullet strikes.”

 


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