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Going After Cacciato

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  7,394 ratings  ·  464 reviews
"To call Going After Cacciato a novel about war is like calling Moby-Dick a novel about whales."

So wrote the New York Times of Tim O'Brien's now classic novel of Vietnam. Winner of the 1979 National Book Award, Going After Cacciato captures the peculiar mixture of horror and hallucination that marked this strangest of wars.

In a blend of reality and fantasy, this novel tell...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published September 1st 1999 by Broadway/Crown Publishing Group (first published January 1978)
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The Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienMatterhorn by Karl MarlantesDispatches by Michael HerrAbsolutely Nothing by Mark A. CooperWe Were Soldiers Once... and Young by Harold G. Moore
Best Literature About the Vietnam War
12th out of 183 books — 348 voters
Catch-22 by Joseph HellerAll Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria RemarqueSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt VonnegutFor Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest HemingwayThe Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Best War Novels
51st out of 546 books — 532 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
"You VC?" he demanded of a little girl with braids. "You dirty VC?" The girl smiled. "Shit, man," she said gently. "You shittin' me?"

I met Tim O'Brien briefly when he toured for In the Lake of the Woodsback in 1994. Along with his signature he wrote on my copy of the book the word "Peace". I thanked him for his service to his country and I can remembered he paused for a moment, just long enough for me to think I'd completely FUBARed the situation. Then he stood up and shook my hand looking me in...more
trivialchemy
Let me tell you something about Tim O’Brien.

Tim O’Brien can write.

I don’t mean Tim O’Brien can express ideas well, or that Tim O’Brien knows how to make cogent points using the written language. Hell, I can do that. I can wake up hungover, drink a liter of coffee, and crank out an essay with a title like “Intertextuality in Victorian Memoir: the Solipsism of Affect,” or some such mumbo-jumbo, and it’ll make your average literature professor at The Community College of Seriously Misfortuned Acade...more
Brian
In the whole of human history, I am of the extremely small percentage of males that did not fight in a war nor had my life changed as a result of one. I am extremely fortunate to have been twice lucky: born both where and born when. So whether it is a truth-seeking need to understand the sadness that countless men and women have had to endure, or it is some atavistic genetic tugging that keeps leading me back to these stories, I am addicted to the threnody of War.

Although I will read almost any...more
Robert Farwell
These were hard lessons, true, but they were lessons of ignorance: ignorant men, trite truths. What remained was a simple event. The facts, the physical things. A war like any war. No new messages. Stories that began and ended without transition. No developing drama or tension or direction. No order.

running

At the level of the grunt, the soldier, the dirt and the blood, who wouldn't want to run? Who wouldn't fantasize about just dropping everything and leaving the madness of war, the insanity of the Arm...more
Amanda
This book is not for everyone. If you have trouble suspending disbelief or issues with magical realism, walk away now or read O'Brien's The Things They Carried. However, if you can just sit back and enjoy the ride as a master storyteller blurs the lines between reality and fantasy in such a way that there are no hard and fast truths (which is the point in most of O'Brien work), then you will most likely enjoy the experience. Going After Cacciato is less accessible than The Things They Carried be...more
Larry Bassett
that was one of the jokes. There was a joke about Oscar. There were many jokes about Billy Boy Watkins, the way he’d collapsed of fright on the field of battle. Another joke was about the lieutenant’s dysentery, and another was about Paul Berlin’s purple biles. There were jokes about the postcard pictures of Christ that Jim Pederson used to carry, and Stink’s ringworm, and the way Buff’s helmet filled with life after death. Some of the jokes were about Cacciato. Dumb as a bullet, Stink said. Du
...more
Helen
First things first. If you want to read a book about the war in Viet Nam, only one, make it this one.

It's 1969, and Cacciato, a soldier in the US Army, has had enough. He deserts, leaving clues for the other men in his unit indicating that he's decided to walk to Paris. Now they're obligated to go after him, to follow him until he's captured. And if that happens to take them to Paris, that's fine with them.

It's 1969, and Paul Berlin is a Private First Class in the Viet Nam War. On guard duty at...more
John
Jun 25, 2013 John rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who enjoyed the novel, Catch-22.
Recommended to John by: Joe
Shelves: form-novel
AWARDS:
Winner of the National Book Award, 1979.

"To call Going After Cacciato a novel about war is like calling Moby-Dick a novel about whales," - New York Times.

I have a hard time reading war stories or watching war movies and not feeling angry or upset afterward. There are a couple exceptions. Like Terrence Malick's, 'The Thin Red Line.' Or Tim O'Brien's stories. War stories that are about death and horrific violence, but also about life, about falling in love, and fucking, and relationships,...more
Sophia
The subjective nature of life and reality has driven people to seek objective counsel in religion, astrology, spirituality, or any other source that claims some kind of sturdiness in a world of uncertainty. Theodor Adorno, a twentieth century philosopher, suggests that literature shouldn’t play to this weakness of the mind for “completeness and continuity” which follows an “epistemological impulse”. Getting at truth means exposing different angles, even if they contradict. “Reality is fragmentar...more
Mike
After reading, The Things They Carried, I immediately ran down to the library to check out O’Brien’s earlier writing, Going After Cacciato. And maybe my expectations were too high, but I was very disappointed in this writing. The Things They Carried was written in such a sophisticated manner. Going After Cacciato seemed jagged and forced. I really can’t see what was so special about this book that it was nominated for a bunch of rewards. I can only guess that there was a severe shortage of novel...more
Brigid *Flying Kick-a-pow!*
“In battle, in a war, a soldier sees only a tiny fragment of what is available to be seen. The soldier is not a photographic machine. He is not a camera. He registers, so to speak, only those few items that he is predisposed to register and not a single thing more. Do you understand this? So I am saying to you that after a battle each soldier will have different stories to tell, vastly different stories, and that when a was is ended it is as if there have been a million wars, or as many wars as...more
Jason
Dec 17, 2012 Jason added it
Shelves: read-2009
This is a tough book to give five stars to. Not because it isn't worthy, but because it is bound to be misleading. Going after Cacciato begins innocently enough. We meet Paul Berlin, a private in Vietnam and we meet his squadmates and we begin to see the struggles and the triumphs of these men. Then Cacciato, a happy idiot along the lines of Chancy the gardener (from the film Being There) who decides he's had enough and he's going to walk the 8,600 miles to France. Thus begins the chase and thus...more
Ensiform
A Catch-22 for the Vietnam War, a hallucinatory dream sequence of a novel, alternating between horror in the muck of the rice paddies and jungles and black comedy. It's very well written, and the scenes are stitched together evenly despite ranging from blunt street-talking realism to elaborate flights of fantasy. In the course of its dream-plot (chasing the deserter, who decides to walk from Vietnam to Paris), the book takes on philosophical issues such as whether Vietnam was morally different f...more
Nancy Oakes
Feb 15, 2013 Nancy Oakes rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
"What part was fact and what part was the extension of fact? And how were facts separated from possibilities? What had really happened and what merely might have happened? How did it end?"

Normally a book of 336 pages is nothing daunting and usually takes about 2-3 days of reading time. I spent well over one week on Going After Cacciato, filled one entire spiral-bound notebook with notes and questions and went through almost an entire package of little sticky tabs for marking things I wanted to c...more
Dan
Aug 29, 2014 Dan added it
Recommends it for: Everyone
The Things They Carried is still O'Brien's best, in my opinion, but Going After Cacciato is not far behind. The ease with which he elicits emotions and the deftness with which he changes them is amazing. When he describes a chopper ride into a hot LZ you can almost see, hear, and smell the experience. He can make painful passages (like Chapter 44) such an essential part of the story that you welcome the pain. Best of all is his ability to surprise you time after time with subtle twists and turns...more
Ronald Meinung
O'Brien delivers another gem.

This is the third of Mr O'Brien's novels I've had the opportunity to read. All set against the backdrop of Vietnam during the war, this one was less of a "war story" then either of the others (The Things They Carried and If I Die in a Combat Zone). A story of one man's journey to Paris, fleeing the war and the soldiers who followed him to try to bring him back. Centered on Spec 4 Berlin, the story is steeped in symbolism describing the trek. The description of the tr...more
John
I definitely liked the writing style. O'Brien can be very vivid in his description of very short and sometimes disturbing scenes. For most of the book, I thought that was the best part. It easily outdid anything relating to characters or the main storyline.

By the end, I think that changes and you see what larger point he was trying to get across. It has to do with the obligations people stick to for poor reasons. The U.S. staying in Vietnam for too long, soldiers searching tunnels when it always...more
Jonathan Briggs
Cacciato's got it all figured out. Rather than spend the rest of the war getting shot at or having to clear tunnels filled with angry Vietnamese, he's going to walk to Paris, 8,600 miles "on the nose." It's a possibility. "He's going up through Laos, then into Burma, and then some other country, I forget, and then India and Iran and Turkey, and then Greece, and the rest is easy. That's what he said. The rest is easy, he said. He had it all doped out." It's a possibility. But there's still the wa...more
Jerome
I don't read military fiction nearly as much as I read military nonfiction, but I had to read a "classic" American novel for 11th-grade English class this year, and the plot sounded interesting, so I gave this a try.

So, the book is divided into two parts, there is vignettes of real combat scene's that the platoon is involved in and then there is the ' magic' scenes where they walk through countries and experience lots of things that are metaphors for what's happening in the world.

Tim O'Brien use...more
Micah
Jul 15, 2013 Micah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: box-f
This is my favorite of Tim O'Brien's novels. Like many of his works, Going After Cacciato deals with the Vietnam War in very subtle terms, but this narrative surpasses the others by drawing on a gentle magical realism to think the ethics of desertion. Desertion and draft dodging are major themes in O'Brien's oeuvre, but he explores them most convincingly in this novel, which I highly recommend. (Indeed, I plan to teach it in one of my English seminars this coming semester.)

The novel has three n...more
Lisa
Going After Cacciato's preface is: Soldiers are dreamers ~ Siegfried Sassoon which gives you an idea of the story inside. We follow Spec Four Paul Berlin, Doc, Eddie Lazzutti, Harold Murphy, Stink, Oscar and Lt Corson as they go after Cacciato, who split, gone AWOL and headed to Paris, on foot, from Vietnam. A bizarre mission that at times you wonder if it's really possible. The possibilities. "...it wasn't dreaming - it wasn't even pretending, not in the strict sense. It was an idea. It was wor...more
Lindsey
After reading another book by the author, I decided to try O'Brien out again. The reason I only gave it three stars is because there were points where I was confused in the story. It was disjointed, which I am sure was intentional since you can draw obvious connections to what the soldiers experienced in the war of Vietnam with no clear fighting goals or objectives.

Favorite quote: He was a big man with moustaches drooping to his chin; his hair was black, he was a history teller: "I speak only of...more
Jeremy
I am glad I have waited a few days to type out my thoughts on this one because if I hadn’t I might have ended up going off on all the reviewers that are saying kukka about this book because they didn’t think it was as good as another and blah blah blah. But since I waited I have calmed down and I won’t have to tear somebody’s head off for suggesting to another reader that they should pass this work on by or how they don’t understand why this didn’t win an award.

I will say this: this is not my f...more
Debbi Mack
My first Tim O'Brien book was THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, a collection of stories based on his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War. I was so taken with his writing I decided to read JULY, JULY next. A novel about a class reunion that I thought might be too much like The Big Chill – but it wasn't.

So, knowing (I thought) what to expect, I picked up GOING AFTER CACCIATO. I guess I was expecting something like Saving Private Ryan, but it's not even close to that. In this book, O'Brien once agai...more
Mmars
My favorite O'Brien. Deserving of more respect than many Goodreaders give it. Not a book of the masses (like Things They Carried.) Not an easy read. Not a pretty read. There is no America here. This is Vietnam. This is the psychological state of soldiers without a choice, in a nasty, nasty, nasty, war. This is AWOL. This is the S*!T.

There was no understanding that war, so why should you understand this book? See, that's the point. It's like magical realism, but it ain't magic, but it is real. I...more
Andrew
Similar in approach to The Things They Carried, but not nearly as successful, largely because in trying to get around the problem of how to write a war story about a war as metaphysically unhinged as Vietnam, O'Brien settles here on the weary kelson of the hallucinogenic, it-was-all-a-dream plot that, by its very architectonics, evacuates all the drama from the drama and leaves behind little but the words themselves. For a writer like Pynchon, or Joyce, this might succeed. But O'Brien's success...more
Sarah Foote
Spoiler Alert!! Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien is a historic fiction for young adults.. The author tells a story from the viewpoint of a young soldier. It entails what that soldier experiences and how he handles it. It takes place in Vietnam during the war. The soldier is with his platoon and they travel around the war zone. The way it is told leads you to believe the group is going after a run away soldier. However you learn in the end, the soldier was telling a story to help him process t...more
Jeanne
The writing is lyrical the imagery surreal. The story though set in Viet Nam is about so much more. Exploring the very personal question of who we are, how we fit into our small community, and ultimately our place in the global community. I previously (before Goodreads) read "The Things They Carried" which also addresses this larger picture.

I highly recommend either book. My personal opinion is that Tim O'Brien is one of our greatest living authors!
Kristina
Jan 09, 2008 Kristina rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!... well.everyone but my mom.
Recommended to Kristina by: Tessa
In the middle of the Vietnam war, a soldier named Cacciato drops his rifle and runs off, and his squad decides to chase after him. I can't give too much away...but wow. It's an extremely powerful novel, sometimes difficult to read but always engrossing. It feels a lot like "The things They Carried", but in novel form instead of short stories - and it sort of messes with your mind in the same way. I won't give away the ending...you just have to read it :)
Ryan
Strange book to review. I feel like now that I’m done with it, I want to give it a 5 for artistic value, for the message conveyed with the complexity of the structure. But while I was reading it I was bordering somewhere in between a 3 and a 4. And the reasons for this discrepancy are such that I can’t really discuss without revealing spoilers – though I think the hints begin very early, chapter 2 if I’m not mistaken; even though it took me until 50 pages or so in to really make the connection m...more
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Cacciato 4 49 Jan 03, 2013 09:29PM  
Literary Exploration: December 2010 - Going After Cacciato 24 33 Jan 03, 2011 03:19PM  
How many stories are in this book? 1 15 Oct 28, 2008 06:32PM  
  • Paco's Story
  • Ten North Frederick
  • A Crown of Feathers
  • The Hair of Harold Roux
  • The Magic Barrel
  • Chimera
  • The Eighth Day
  • A Frolic of His Own
  • Spartina
  • Morte D'Urban
  • Mr. Sammler's Planet
  • Victory Over Japan: A Book of Stories
  • Steps
  • Gogol's Wife and Other Stories
  • World's Fair
  • The World Within the Word
  • The Changeling
  • The Blood Oranges
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Tim O'Brien matriculated at Macalester College. Graduation in 1968 found him with a BA in political science and a draft notice.

O'Brien was against the war but reported for service and was sent to Vietnam with what has been called the "unlucky" Americal division due to its involvement in the My Lai massacre in 1968, an event which figures prominently in In the Lake of the Woods. He was assigned to...more
More about Tim O'Brien...
The Things They Carried In the Lake of the Woods If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home Tomcat In Love July, July

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“Imagination, like reality, has its limits.” 19 likes
“A miracle to confound natural law, a baffling reversal of the inevitable consequences . . . a miracle. . . . An act of high imagination -- daring and lurid and impossible. Yes, a cartoon of the mind.” 8 likes
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