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The Things They Carried (Flamingo) [Paperback]

Tim O'Brien
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 July 1991 Flamingo
A sequence of stories about the Vietnam War, this book also has the unity of a novel, with recurring characters and interwoven strands of plot and theme. It aims to summarize America's involvement in Vietnam, and her coming to terms with that experience in the years that followed.

Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Flamingo; New Ed edition (25 July 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0006543944
  • ISBN-13: 978-0006543947
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 13,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

From the Back Cover

"'The Things They Carried' is a thrilling and beautiful distillation of everything that has been thought, felt, or said about the Vietnam war and its long afterburn. A heartbreaking and healing masterpiece; time will make it a classic."
MICHAEL HERR, author of 'Dispatches'

"O'Brien writes superbly. One of the best war books of this century, an unflinching attempt to illuminate both its obscene physical brutality and the terrible mental overload."

"This marvellous book…there are few novels of this brilliant kind. Here every sentence proclaims that war does not so much contain horrors as is horror itself."
RUTH RENDELL, 'Sunday Telegraph'

"The war story in O'Brien's hands is brilliant, extraordinarily sophisticated and moving, restless, lucid and decidedly slippery."

"Essential… he captures the war's pulsating rhythms and nerve-racking dangers… a stunning performance. The overall effect of these original tales is devastating."

About the Author

Tim O’Brien was born in Minnesota and graduated from Macalester College in St Paul. He established himself as one of the leading writers of his generation in 1973 when he published ‘If I Die In A Combat Zone’, the compelling account of his own tour of duty in Vietnam and is widely regarded as the finest novelist the Vietnam War has produced.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BRUTAL HONESTY 15 Jan 2002
The first thing that grabbed me about O'Brien's collection of short stories about the Vietnam war, was the stark realism. This is an exploration of the human condition rather than a war story per se. O'Brien's prose is lathered with irony and a distinct sense of hopelessness pervades his eloquent narrative. Emotions are laid bare, and the psychological turmoil caused by the war itself are presented with veracity and aplomb. This is realism of the highest order. Simply brilliant
billy proctor
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vietnam, seen backwards 6 Dec 2000
By A Customer
The Things They Carried was written several years after O'Brien was a 'grunt' there. It's written consciously retrospectively, and as such, it's not autobiography; rather, it's a distillation of his experiences before, during, and since Vietnam. Paradoxically, O'Brien making (fictionalised) stories of what he and others witnessed makes the experience more 'true' than just retelling them. Truth for him is faithfully reproducing sensation and emotion in a reader, not retelling events chronologically or even logically; Primo Levi's famous quotation about Anne Frank came to mind. O'Brien is interested in the impact war has on *love*, not just *life*, and that's the genius of this work: it's a love story about Vietnam. I've read it a dozen times now and it still makes me want to cry and rejoice all at the same time.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just a collection of short stories 29 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Like his equally gripping 'In the Lake of the Woods', 'The Things They Carried' is an insightful and touching examination of the man at war. Though taking the form of a collection of short stories, 'The Things They Carried', does not, however, possess the fragmentation traditionally associated with this format. The set of characters that reappear in each story become as familiar as the narrator himself, as O'Brien celebrates the art of storytelling. This collection recreates the reality of war and its consequences whilst remaining a work of fiction. This is a must read for anyone interested in Vietnam or a fine example of literature for that matter.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book 6 July 2005
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED is a powerful memoir in the form of a collection of short stories about the haunting life of Tim O'Brien and a company of soldiers in Vietnam.
The Things They Carried was a thought-provoking and inspirational book. This highly vivid description of the Vietnam War kept me reading through the night until the last page. I am not a big reader but once I picked up this book I was reading for hours! This book gives a taste of Vietnam for those who were not there. The interesting thing about this book is that it tells the true life of the soldiers giving us a better idea of what the soldiers went, and what war really is. One comes close to understanding how the feelings from going to war, leaving their families behind them, losing loved friends, killing another man, and how the pathetic nature of the foods and sleeping conditions; all traumas of war that can change a human being forever.
If you like war novels, then this is a must read. Even if you don't like war books and think they're all the same, read this and you will reconsider. One thing for sure is that you will appreciate the style of writing and the way it makes you think. You still get to laugh despite the deaths and destructions. The soldiers seem to taunt life with life and death games. Written with a deep message and in a manner similar to CHEKHOV AND TISI JANVIER, this anthology of related short stories about the Vietnam War portrays men who faced their fears, confronted danger, came out alive but became scarred for life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truer as Fiction 19 July 2007
Is it possible to be honest when the truth is unknown, and which truth anyway would we choose to tell if we knew it?
The Things They Carried is a book about the Viet Nam war, a war aided by GI Tim O'Brien. It is not a collection of short stories, it is not a novel. It is imagined truth trying to tell a story bigger than itself, and succeeding through the medium of fiction.
O'Brien writes with a simplicity that is profound. He is a magician pulling - not rabbits out of hats - but meaning from experience. After college he was summoned to fight a war in a foreign country. He didn't believe in the war and he didn't want to die and he struggled to decide on how to react to his draft papers.
He went to war.
Viet Nam becomes a kind of mist, partly collective, partly personal. O'Brien mixes fact with story telling to carve some kind of route through the mist. Places - Song Tra Bong, Quang Ngai, My Khe - become recurring characters, characters who seep into the landscape:

'He was under the mud and the water, folded in with the war, and their only thought was to find him and dig him out and then move on to some place dry and warm.'
(In the Field, p 163)

The reader joins O'Brien in his mist and the mist begins to make sense. It makes the sense of dimly remembered personal and collective truths. We go to war with the writer, recognising the humanity within through the horror without. We don't have to leave our armchairs to do this. It is, partly at least, the war of retaining a sense of honour in a world that mocks honour; a war with ourselves that can only be survived by the slow process of separating what is true from what is false. We are encouraged to observe the illusion of fact, to find the story.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing read
An amazing read on the stories of those who fought in Veitnam. This is a sad book but so well written I could not put it down. Read more
Published 1 month ago by James Perrins
5.0 out of 5 stars Very powerful and engaging
I had to read this for work, and for some reason thought it would be some sort of glorification of the US involvement in Vietnam. Read more
Published 6 months ago by ABTZ
5.0 out of 5 stars so heartbreaking
the best and most realistic account of the vietnam war i have read. the stories were almost unbearably real and difficult to read but i kept rereading because they were so well... Read more
Published 6 months ago by ronny harris
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
At first sight a collection of short stories, the author builds themes into the whole. Often a little explanatory piece is added in each story until the full picture becomes... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Officer Dibble
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece - simple, tragic, haunting and at times beautiful
I loved the first book I read by Tim O'Brien (If I die in a combat zone), this was just as good. It is a collection of short stories. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Movetotheleft
5.0 out of 5 stars Will bring tears to your eyes, even if you were not of the era
I heard this reviewed recently on NPR in the USA. The book had been written 20 years ago, but I had not ever heard of it.
A powerful read, even today. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Duchy Dumpster Diver
5.0 out of 5 stars There never will be wars to end wars
Tim O Brien, a Vietnam vet, has written a book of short stories about how a young man came into that war, various stories about himself and company members within the war, and what... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Lady Fancifull
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interestingly written book
Published 15 months ago by Miss L. Biggadike
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This is an amazing book. It uses up all your emotions. I can 't put it down; the imagery is compelling, sad, funny, moving, frightening........ Read more
Published 15 months ago by Susie
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my fave Vietnam books
Up there with Dispatches is this book. I first read it 15 years ago on my degree course. I've still got the book and read it again every few years. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Dunk
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