Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tim O'Brien

From Writer's Almanac. I recommend reading his work, July, July.

It's the birthday of Tim O'Brien, (books by this author) born in Worthington, Minnesota (1946), who was drafted to fight in Vietnam the summer he graduated from college. He said, "Even when I was getting on the plane for boot camp, I couldn't believe any of it was happening to me, someone who hated Boy Scouts and bugs and rifles." But it gave him something to write about. By the end of his tour in Vietnam, he had published several articles in newspapers, and those articles got him a job at The Washington Post. He published a memoir called If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home(1973). He said he likes writing war stories because, he said, "In a war story there is a built-in life-and-death importance, one that a writer would have to construct otherwise. When you start a story saying, 'It was a hot day,' and you know it's a war story, the hot day has all sorts of reverberations that wouldn't be there if it were set on a beach in Miami."

His book The Things They Carried (1990) is a series of linked short stories. The title story is one of the most anthologized short stories in contemporary American literature. It begins: "First Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters from a girl named Martha, a junior at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. They were not love letters, but Lieutenant Cross was hoping, so he kept them folded in plastic at the bottom of his rucksack. In the late afternoon, after a day's march, he would dig his foxhole, wash his hands under a canteen, unwrap the letters, hold them with the tips of his fingers, and spend the last hour of light pretending."


Allie, Dearest said...

Wow, he sounds amazing! I'm going to check him out for sure, thanks!

Team Seymour said...

"the things they carried" is an amazing book - one of my favourites.