Brian's Reviews > The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
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's review
Mar 16, 2011

really liked it
Read from June 24 to 25, 2012 — I own a copy

(4.5) Not sure how I avoided reading this years ago

Seems like the kind of thing teachers would like you to read (well, subtract the profanity), and I'm pretty glad that they didn't, cause it seemed to make things far less enjoyable when assigned. Anyway, O'Brien writes so well. And he took several different styles/approaches to his writing, but all good. My favorites of course included the title story, but also really liked the story about deciding whether or not to draft dodge and everything to do with the Kiowa character. The title story (comes first) is poetry in all forms except line breaks. From someone who doesn't really read poetry, that might sound like criticism, but it's not. There are several superimposed rhythms (at the sentence level, the repetition of the word carried, but also how he alternates between the soft (personal items) and the hard (war items)). It seems wrong to have read it silently. I see why it's frequently read aloud (I think I first heard it as a Selected Short--NPR podcast).

I'm ignorant, so can't tell how much is fiction here. He keeps coming back to the idea that you just tell stories during war. They come from somewhere and take on a life of their own. So not sure if these are things he witnessed as he witnessed them, or if we're hearing the legendary versions of things, or if it's pure fiction inspired by Vietnam. Regardless, powerful to read.

Read this in one sitting.
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