Melanie Smith's Reviews > The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
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Quotes Melanie Liked

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

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“In war you lose your sense of the definite, hence your sense of truth itself, and therefore it's safe to say that in a war story nothing is ever absolutely true.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien
“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

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

Tim O'Brien
“But I do like churches. The way it feels inside. It feels good when you just sit there, like you're in a forest and everything's really quiet, expect there's still this sound you can't hear.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“You don't know. When I'm out there at night I feel close to my own body, I can feel my blood moving, my skin and fingernails, everything, it's like I'm full of electricity and I'm glowing in the dark - I'm on fire almost - I'm burning away into nothing - but it doesn't matter because I know exactly who I am.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien
“He had an opinion of himself, I think, that was too high for his own good. Or maybe it was the reverse. Maybe it was a low opinion that he kept trying to erase.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“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

Tim O'Brien
“For Rat Kiley, I think, facts were formed by sensation, not the other way around, and when you listened to one of his stories, you'd find yourself performing rapid calculations in your head, subtracting superlatives, figuring the square root of an absolute and then multiplying by maybe.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien
“You can tell a true war story by the questions you ask. Somebody tells a story, let's say, and afterward you ask, 'Is it true?' and if the answer matters, you've got your answer . . . Absolute occurrence is irrelevant. 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

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

Tim O'Brien
“Most of this I've told before, or at least hinted at, but what I have never told is the full truth. How I cracked. How at work one morning, standing on the pig line, I felt something break open in my chest. I don't know what it was. I'll never know. But it was real, I know that much, it was a physical rapture--a cracking-leaking-popping feeling. I remember dropping my water gun. Quickly, almost without thought, I took off my apron and walked out of the plant and drove home. It was midmorning, I remember, and the house was empty. Down in my chest there was still that leaking sensation, something very warm and precious spilling out, and I was covered with blood and hog-stink, and for a long while I just concentrated on holding myself together.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Tim O'Brien
“Well, right now I'm not dead. But when I am, it's like...I don't know, I guess it's like being inside a book that nobody's reading. [...] An old one. It's up on a library shelf, so you're safe and everything, but the book hasn't been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody'll pick it up and start reading.”
Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried


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