Recently I’ve watched an interview with Tim O’Brien, the author of The Things They Carried, and found that many of my questions posed during a class discussion of the book have been answered. One of my most prominent questions was, “Why make a character with the name Tim O’Brien if the author did not want to be associated with it?”
An interviewer brought up this topic and Tim’s response was quite different than the one I received in class. He said, “That was part of me. I suppose my strategy of writing in this book. I wanted to write a work of fiction that would feel to the reader as if this has occurred or is occurring as I read it. So I would use every strategy that I could think of as a way to give readers a sense of witnessed experience.”
I think that, as a writer, is something so important and so key to pulling in a reader and keeping them hooked on the story. The lines between fact and fiction in this book were quite blurred for me, as I read. I saw this book as more of a memoir of Tim’s life, rather than a work of Historical Fiction.
However, I will argue that it belongs as a work of fiction, despite being a great reference piece to the occurrences of the Vietnam War. As Tim said, it is important to distance oneself from their work in order to let their imagination flow, instead of getting caught up on details that may or may not matter to the reader. He wrote this for an older audience, despite later speaking that he wanted a target audience of older teenagers, so I can understand his distance from the story. “Young people need to understand the complications and ambiguities of war.”
“Literature is not Happy Hour time.”
If you’re interested in observing the interview that I did, feel free to find it here, on PBS.org
Good Charlotte — The River (Feat. Synyster Gates & M. Shadows)
Lyrics & Song
This song really means so much to me, despite it being by one of my favorite bands when I was younger (and still standing). It speaks of a man who has seen what direction his life is going in and that he realizes that if he doesn’t return to a sense of right in the world, that things can only go wrong from here. He confesses that he has done things wrong and that he is begging for retribution, be it from those he has wronged for from God, himself. Realizing that the place around him isn’t everything that people said it was, he wants to return home and swears that he still believes in all that is right in the world.
He has seen the ugliness in this world and has thus become stronger because of it — you shouldn’t keep your children holed up forever. They will break out and find the world outside of what you’ve been painting for them, and once they are on their own, they will make mistakes. Those mistakes are a part of growing up, and there is nothing wrong with wishing to return to a time where all was well because your friends, family, or religious leaders will still welcome you home with open arms
The runner-up for the selection of one of my favorite quotes comes from a Television Series that got quite a nice reboot this year by the name of Gintama. It’s typically a rather silly series that you want to watch and have a good laugh, but there are some deep elements once in a while. My favorite occurrence happened to be a quote from the main character that really hit home with me.
“Stand up. If you have time to think of a beautiful end, then why not live beautifully until the last?” — Gintoki Sakata (Season One, Episode Five)
This quote really resonates with me because of the struggles I’ve had with trying to plan out my own beautiful death, being preoccupied with how my life will end rather than how it should be continued.
The Big Read | The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
This article, published by a popular website called The Big Read, includes an exclusive 2008 interview with Tim O’Brien, the author of The Things They Carried. Josephine Reed asks questions to O’Brien and earns a more in-depth explanation from him as to why he decided to write the things he has. As a young man, O’Brien grew up in Minnesota with an ‘all-American’ childhood, his father having been a veteran from World War II.
With the inspiring stories of Okinawa and Iwo Jima having been published by his father in The New York Times, O’Brien knew that he wanted to become a writer. However, he received a draft notice and spent his tour of duty (1969-70) stationed in My Lai, where he was then sent home thanks to a piece of grenade shrapnel having been lodged in the man’s body. A purple heart was received and soon after, O’Brien’s writing experiences began.
As explained in the interview with Josephine Reed, O’Brien stated that his famous novel (The Things They Carried) is “A book that centers on Vietnam and a platoon of soldiers. In one sense, it’s about the Vietnam War, but it’s also about storytelling, how stories rule our lives, how they’re told and retold as we look for an elusive truth. And finally, it’s about writing itself—writing as an effort to pin down with language the truth about a subject.”
This article gives a reader, whom has never or rarely had contact with O’Brien’s famous works, a sense of what kind of man he is and his reasoning for writing such a novel.