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Tim O'Brien quotes (showing 1-30 of 171)

“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil. ”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
tags: war
“That's what fiction is for. It's for getting at the truth when the truth isn't sufficient for the truth.”
Tim O'Brien
“But the thing about remembering is that you don't forget.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“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 ar for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight. It's about the special way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen.”
Tim O'Brien
“Fiction is the lie that helps us understand the truth.”
Tim O'Brien
“But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“It was very sad, he thought. The things men carried inside. The things men did or felt they had to do. ”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“A lie, sometimes, can be truer than the truth, which is why fiction gets written.”
Tim O'Brien
“What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end...”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“I survived, but it's not a happy ending.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“He wished he could've explained some of this. How he had been braver than he ever thought possible, but how he had not been so brave as he wanted to be. The distinction was important.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“you're never more alive than when you're almost dead.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“It was my view then, and still is, that you don't make war without knowing why. Knowledge of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can't fix your mistakes. Once people are dead, you can't make them undead.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That's what stories are for. 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.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“It wasn't a question of deceit. Just the opposite; he wanted to heat up the truth, to make it burn so hot that you would feel exactly what he felt.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“...his love was too much for him, he felt paralyzed, he wanted to sleep inside her lungs and breathe her blood and be smothered.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“In any war story, but especially a true one, it's difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen. What seems to happen becomes its own happening and has to be told that way. The angles of vision are skewed. When a booby trap explodes, you close your eyes and duck and float outside yourself. .. The pictures get jumbled, you tend to miss a lot. And then afterward, when you go to tell about it, there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“Together we understood what terror was: you're not human anymore. You're a shadow. You slip out of your own skin, like molting, shedding your own history and your own future, leaving behind everything you ever were or wanted to believed in. You know you're about to die. And it's not a movie and you aren't a hero and all you can do is whimper and wait. ”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“you can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you. If you don't care for obscenity, you don't care for the truth; if you don't care for the truth, watch how you vote. Send guys to war, they come home talking dirty. ”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“But this too is true: stories can save us.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“A good piece of fiction, in my view, does not offer solutions. Good stories deal with our moral struggles, our uncertainties, our dreams, our blunders, our contradictions, our endless quest for understanding. Good stories do not resolve the mysteries of the human spirit but rather describe and expand up on those mysteries.”
Tim O'Brien
“Linda was nine then, as I was, but we were in love...it had all the shadings and complexities of mature adult love and maybe more, because there were not yet words for it, and because it was not yet fixed to comparisons or chronologies or the ways by which adults measure such things...I just loved her. Even then, at nine years old, I wanted to live inside her body. I wanted to melt into her bones -- that kind of love.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
“...you find yourself studying the fine colors on the river, you feel wonder and awe at the setting of the sun, and you are filled with a hard, aching love for how the world could be and always should be, but now is not.”
Tim O'Brien

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