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The Things They Carried: Book summary and reviews of The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried

by Tim O'Brien

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien X
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
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  • Published in USA  Jun 1990
    233 pages
    Genre: Short Stories/Essays

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Book Summary

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and the character Tim O'Brien, who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three.

Taught everywhere - from high school classrooms to graduate seminars in creative writing - it has become required reading for any American and continues to challenge readers in their perceptions of fact and fiction, war and peace, courage and fear and longing.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The best of these stories...tell us not where we were but where we are, and perhaps where we will be...It is an ultimate, indelible image of war in our time, and in time to come" - Los Angeles Times

"The Things They Carried is as good as any piece of literature can get ... It is controlled and wild, deep and tough, perceptive and shrewd." - Chicago Sun Times

"With The Things They Carried, Mr. O'Brien has written a vital, important book--a book that matters not only to the reader interested in Vietnam, but to anyone interested in the craft of writing as well." - New York Times, "Books of the Century"

"By moving beyond the horror of the fighting to examine with sensitivity and insight the nature of courage and fear, by questioning the role that imagination plays in helping to form our memories and our own versions of truth, he places The Things They Carried high up on the list of best fiction about any war." - New York Times Book Review

"Tim O'Brien is the best American writer of his generation." - San Francisco Examiner

"The integrity of a novel and the immediacy of an autobiography ... O'Brien's absorbing narrative moves in circles; events are recalled and retold again and again, giving us a deep sense of the fluidity of truth and the dance of memory." - The New Yorker

"Rendered with an evocative, quiet precision, not equaled in the imaginative literature of the American war in Vietnam...O'Brien has it just right." - Washington Post

"Powerful ... Composed in the same lean, vigorous style as his earlier books, The Things They Carried adds up to a captivating account of the experiences of an infantry company in Vietnam... . Evocative and haunting, the raw force of confession."- Wall Street Journal

"O'Brien has written a book so searing and immediate you can almost hear the choppers in the background...The Things They Carried leaves third-degree burns. Between its rhythmic brilliance and its exquisite rendering of memory...this is prose headed for the nerve center of what was Vietnam."--The Boston Globe

"Simply marvelous ... A striking sequence of stories that twist and turn and bounce off each other...O'Brien has invented a tone of voice precisely suited to this war...Wars seldom produce good short stories, but two or three of these seem as good as any short stories written about any war...Immensely affecting." - Newsweek

"Consummate artistry ... A strongly unified book, a series of glimpses, through different facets, of a single, mysterious, deadly stone ... O'Brien blends diverse incidents, voices, and genres, indelibly rendering the nightmarish impact of the Vietnam experience."- Philadelphia Inquirer

"O'Brien has brought us another remarkable piece of work ... The stories have a specificity of observed physical detail that makes them seem a model of the realist's art"- Miami Herald

"O'Brien's stunning new book of linked stories, The Things They Carried, is about the power of the imagination...Nobody else can make me feel, as his three Vietnam books have, what I imagine to have been the reality of that war."- USA Today

"I've got to make you read this book... In a world filled too often with numbness, or shifting values, these stories shine in a strange and opposite direction, moving against the flow, illuminating life's wonder, life's tenuousness, life's importance."- Dallas Morning News

"O'Brien succeeds as well as any writer in conveying the free-fall sensation of fear and the surrealism of combat." - Time

"Throughout, it is incredibly ordinary, human stuff-that's why this book is extra-ordinary... . Each story resonates with its predecessors, yet stands alone. The soft blurs with the hard. The gore and terror of Vietnam jungle warfare accumulate into an enormous mass." - Houston Chronicle

"Just by imagining stories that never happened, and embroidering upon some that did, O'Brien can bring it all back. He can feel the terror and the sorrow and the crazy, jagged laughter. He can bring the dead back to life. And bring back the dreaming, too." - Entertainment Weekly

"His characters and his situations are unique and ring true to the point of tears. His prose is simply magnificent... . Unforgettable ."- Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A powerful yet lyrical work of fiction." - The Associated Press

"O'Brien's new master work. .. . Go out and get this book and read it. Read it slowly, and let O'Brien's masterful storytelling and his eloquent philosophizing about the nature of war wash over you... . The Things They Carried is a major work of literary imagination." - The Veteran

"O'Brien's meditations--on war and memory, on darkness and light--suffuse the entire work with a kind of poetic form, making for a highly original, fully realized novel... . Beautifully honest ... The book is persuasive in its desperate hope that stories can save us." - Publishers Weekly

"The prose ranges from staccato soldierly thoughts to raw depictions of violent death to intense personal ruminations by the author that don't appear to be fictional at all. Just when you thought there was nothing left to say about the Vietnam experience ... there's plenty." - Booklist

"Brilliant... O'Brien again shows his literary stuff... . An acutely painful reading experience, this collection should be read as a book and not a mere collection of stories. Not since Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five has the American soldier been portrayed with such poignance and sincerity." - Library Journal

The information about The Things They Carried shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Tim O'Brien Author Biography

Photo: Timmy O'Brien

Tim O'Brien was born in Austin, Minnesota October 1, 1946. When he was ten, his family, including a younger sister and brother, moved to Worthington, also in southern Minnesota. O'Brien earned his BA in 1968 in Political Science from Macalester College, where he was student body president. That same year he was drafted into the United States Army and was sent to Vietnam, where he served from 1969 to 1970 in 3rd Platoon, Company A, 5th Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment. Upon completing his tour of duty O'Brien went to graduate school at Harvard University, and afterward received an internship at the Washington Post.

O' Brien is the author of a critically acclaimed collection of short stories, The Things They Carried. He is also known for his work, Going After Cacciato, that won ...

... Full Biography
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