He likes the Red Sox

Born on Oct 1, 1946, Tim O’Brien grew up in Worthington, Minnesota. Upon graduating from Macalester College in 1968, O’Brien received his draft notice and after a few weeks of deliberation, was sent off to boot camp at Fort Lewis, Washington. Despite seriously entertaining the idea of deserting and running off to Sweden, O’Brien eventually completed boot camp and made his way to Vietnam to fight in the 46th Infantry where he fought from 1969 to 1970. Back from the war, O’Brien went to Harvard to study journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter until he published his memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home in 1975. Since then he has written numerous novels and now lives in Texas where he teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Southwest Texas State University.

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Personal Reactions
The Things They Carried
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The Things They Carried struck a different chord with me than any other war novel I’d read before. Rather than focusing on the actual fighting and life during the war as do most books about war like All Quiet on the Western Front, this book seemed to focus more on what life was like before the war and before the main character reached the fighting. I liked this style because it seemed to show a different side of the soldier. Rather than feel the pain and longing for home experienced by soldiers trying to survive the fighting, The Things They Carried emphasizes memories seemingly unrelated to war that provide a deeper insight into the innocence of the soldiers and their feelings. I like witnessing the shaping of characters by war more, but O’Brien’s approach to exposing how the characters were before the war and then showing the influence of war was particularly interesting. I also thought it was brilliant how O’Brien named the main character after himself to blur the line between reality and fiction and make the reader feel more attached to the story. It made the stories about the shit field and O’Brien the character’s return there even more emotional and powerful for me.
-Maxime Lawton-

The book The Things They Carried left me with a lot to think about. It was a great read because it was a very thought provoking read. It made me reconsider many things, especially the old quote “Que Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Morri.” It made me reconsider my views on war and joining the military. It even made me reconsider the way I looked at soldiers altogether. It shows you his experiences and, with him being a Vietnam veteran, makes it so much more real to me. Reading this book made me open my eyes to the harsh realities of war. You cannot read this and not feel like you are there and think about what it would be to be the one behind the gun trying to fight for the one’s you love. It also made me a lot more thankful for the soldiers that are willing to go out there and fight to protect us and that we really don’t appreciate them as much as we should. It also made me make a life decision: one day, hopefully when I’m a successful doctor and businessman, I want to do something really special for veterans everywhere. I want to do something that will truly change their lives. I want to do something that shows them how much we really appreciate them and lets them know that just because they are making sacrifices when they go abroad it doesn’t mean that they have to make sacrifices in their quality of life when they get back home. God Bless America.
-Hassan Saleh-

Going After Cacciato
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Going After Cacciato was a different experience for me. Most often, I get into a novel’s story and it’s method for telling it by the end of the first chapter, but the rapidity with which this book switches narratives is startling and jarring. It took me a few chapters to figure out that the three narratives are connected by their chapter titles and I only began to consider the possibility that the chapters telling of the pursuit of Cacciato were fictional when the group falls into a crack in the earth and meet a Viet Cong. The book is so surreal, especially scenes with Cacciato and his childish behavior, that I really enjoyed reading it. It is so different from any other war book I’ve read, that it didn’t really feel like one. Instead it felt more personal and like a deeper exploration of the human condition than a reader can get the first time through and is definitely worth the re-read.
-Maxime Lawton-

In The Lake Of the Woods
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The book In the Lake of the Woods really rattled me. It was the rare kind of book that actually hits home with me, and not only hits home but also hits home rather hard. One of my biggest dreams growing up was to be a politician; I thought it would be lovely and super awesome. This shows that it is not all super awesome and that some of it actually sucks. I would never be able to deal with the defeat, but he tries to by going into the woods but then his wife disappears and that would be crushing too. It just showed me that it is not all perfect and that there are losses incurred in the pursuit of glory. It also made me think about how important it is to have people in your life who genuinely care about you and will be there with you through the ups and downs, just like John Wade’s wife, Kathy Wade. It was hard enough on him to lose the election and to have been going through all the hardships that are faced while on a political journey, but it would have been near impossible for him to do all that without the help of his wife. It made me remember to always remember that behind every successful man is a woman.
-Hassan Saleh-
US Marines in Dong Ha
US Marines in Dong Ha

Review Summaries
Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried is a collection of short stories in which he explores the effects of the Vietnam War on his main character, which he has named after himself, and the nature of war. This bold attempt at blending reality and fiction inside the confines of a novel is what creates such a powerful impact on many of the book’s readers such as Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. In her review, she expresses the deep impact of the book on her when she says that for a while after reading the book, she “carried with [her] a great sadness and will for a long time carry the stories of these men (whether fact or fiction) in [her] heart.” While I also share her emotional connection to the book and its characters, other reviewers have been more put off by O’Brien’s style. As Kirkus Reviews puts it, “so much else is so structurally coy that real effects are muted and disadvantaged.” I don’t agree with this analysis though. Instead I believe that O’Brien’s choice to write some stories shorter and less overtly moral and compelling than others like “On the Rainy River” that Kirkus acknowledges to be “the most moving piece here,” works to provide a sense of ambiguity in the possibility in there even being a lesson to be learned from war, not to mention what it could be. It’s this bluntness that I feel makes this work the literary masterpiece that it is. It’s its message that there isn’t always a message, that often what men learn from war is not glorious or profound, it is simply the experience itself.
-Maxime Lawton-

In The Lake Of the Woods is a book that tells the story of a former Vietnam vet who’s life begins to collapse after losing by a landslide in a senate election. According to The Orange Swan, this book tells several different stories within it oftentimes crossing between genres. This is done by the from chapter to chapter in tone and it is usually easy to tell based on the chapter titles. The book seems to leave the ending and the truth up to the reader to interpret because it just doesn’t have one ending and actually has many possibilities.
I’d say that I agree with the review and that I really wasn’t sure what to believe in terms of endings. I wanted to believe that he was innocent but at the same time it just seems too suspicious. The book is very well written and it makes a legitimate case for all the possibilities. All in all, it is very interesting the way the book is written with the constant jumping back and forth and the narrator constantly chiming in.

-Hassan Saleh-

Critical Essay Outlines
Most literary works recounting or attempting to portray the effects of war on man often do so in chronological and coherent sense. Much care is devoted to writing the book in a way that makes sure that the reader is cognizant of exactly what the writer is attempting to show and how. In these works, a clear and concise style that details a realistic narrative is often preferred so that readers are less distracted by anachronistic storytelling, and can instead ...

Tim O’Brien is one of those rare authors who writes the truth because he experienced it. This also allows him to speak in a field of expertise and passion. This is evident from the very passionate tone that he speaks in and the personal connection that he makes with his reader. He is also very clearly a man on a mission with a story to tell. He has a duty to himself and the men he served alongside to convince the masses ...

Works Cited