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by Tim O'Brien

FOR USE IN SCHOOLS AND LIBRARIES ONLY. Heroic young men carry the emotional weight of their lives to war in Vietnam in a patchwork account of a modern journey into the heart of darkness
Download The Things They Carried (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) epub
ISBN: 0833574868
ISBN13: 978-0833574862
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Genre Fiction
Author: Tim O'Brien
Language: English
Publisher: Turtleback Books; Bound for Schools & Libraries ed. edition (October 13, 2009)
ePUB size: 1393 kb
FB2 size: 1595 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 929
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It’s called a novel, but it reads like a collection of war stories and essays about being an American soldier in the Vietnam War. That’s not a criticism. In fact, it’s part of the brilliance of this book. If it were thoroughly plotted, it might not feel so authentic. As war is disjointed, so is O’Brien’s book. Some of the chapters are tiny and some are lengthy. Some read more like essays than fiction, and others are clearly fictitious.

When I say that “some are clearly fictitious,” there’s always a doubt that it might just be a true story--because war is just that absurd. An example that springs to mind is one of the most engaging pieces in the work. It’s called “Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong,” and it’s about a wholesome, young girlfriend to one of the soldiers who [improbably] comes to live in the camp. The girl acclimates to the war, and soon she is going out on patrol--not with the ordinary infantry soldiers, but during the night with the Green Berets. Perhaps the moral is that some people are made for war, and it’s never who you’d suspect. As I describe it, the premise may sound ridiculous, but the way O’Brien presents it as a story told by a Rat Kiley--a fellow infantryman known to exaggerate—it feels as though there is something very true, no matter how fictitious the story might be. Before one reads “Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong” one has been primed by a chapter entitled “How to Tell a True War Story,” which tells one that truth and falsehood aren’t so clear in the bizarre world of war.

There are a couple chapters outside the period during which O’Brien (the character, who may or may not be the same as the author) is actively in an infantry unit. One early chapter describes his near attempt at draft dodging, and another talks of his time stationed at the rear after being injured. Both of these chapters offer an interesting twist in the scheme of the book overall. We find O’Brien to be a fairly typical infantry soldier, and it seems hard to reconcile this with his floating in a canoe and narrowly deciding not to make a swim for the Canadian shoreline. However, what is odder still is realizing how distraught he is to be pulled out of his unit, particularly when he realizes that he has become an outsider and the [then rookie] medic who botched his treatment is now in the in-group. This is one of the many unusual aspects of combatant psychology that comes into play in the book, along with O’Brien’s description of how devastating it was to kill.

There are 21 chapters to the book. As I said, they run a gamut, but at all times keep one reading. It’s the shortest of the Vietnam novels I’ve read—I think. When I think of works like “Matterhorn” and “The 13th Valley,” there seems to be something hard to convey concisely about the Vietnam War, but O’Brien nails it with his unconventional novel. O’Brien also uses repetition masterfully. This can be seen in the title chapter “The Things They Carried,” which describes the many things carried by an infantry soldier—both the physical items they carried on patrol and the psychological and emotional things they carried after the war. It’s a risky approach that pays off well.

I’d recommend this book for anyone—at least anyone who can stomach war stories.
This book just grabs you and won't let go. When you're finished with it it won't be finished with you. I was in the Air Force during the war - C141 cargo transport. I was never stationed in Vietnam but flying in and out several times a month. In with things needed to fight a war. Everything from soldiers to mop buckets. Out with the results. Air Evacs full of wounded, or cargo of 140 coffins filled with human remains. First book I've read in years that I didn't want to put down, but I was glad when it emded.
I bought this book for my English class. The story I had to read for my assignment was called "The Things They Carried", and after reading that one story, I had to read the rest. I wasn't expecting the emotional responses I had to each story. I felt as if I was there experiencing Vietnam with these soldiers. This is a realistic and very well written book.
This book has something that other books don't. The writing, the people, the words, the lack of words, a comma here or a period there. Every page is so magnificently done with a finesse of heartache, dark comedy, and raw, pure, genuineness that I've never experienced in any film or text. It's addicting yet painful to read which makes the experienced of reading it all the more powerful.

This book has something that other books don't.
This book is amazing! I do not read war stories. For the most part I only read epic or space fiction books. Anyhow Tim O'Brien and his amazing way to write totally changed that. If you want normal length chapters, with normal flow of ideas and a organized story structure, do not read this book. If you are ready to get your head spinning with one sentence paragraphs and stories that jump all over the place and even repeat or contradict themselves, go for it, it is totally worth it.
You will either love it, or hate it. I believe there is not in between with this book
Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" is awesome. It's a powerful book expressing all the conflict, fear, contradiction, pain, anger, confusion that one would feel being sent to a war like Viet Nam which was encumbered with so little understanding for why a war, against who, under what conditions, fighting for what cause and why me and not him...

All the unanswerable questions have resulted in a stack a mile high of literature to try it make it explainable if not understandable. "Matterhorn", "A Rumor of War" are two novels/near novels that would join "The Things They Carried" as examples of the grunt soldier dealing with his circumstances and their aftermath. Each of these is original, evocative, deeply personal and yet able to reach a broad audience.

"The Things They Carried" moves around between the time before the narrator goes to Vietnam, while he's there and life after. It's told in snippets that come together well. It's semi autobiographical and deeply personal. The writing is beautiful and the time jumping works effectively.

I am probably satiated now on Vietnam stories but I am glad that this is the one that put me there.