Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Things They Carried

As far as novels about Vietnam go, The Things They Carried seems fairly unusual. It's actually more of a short story collection stitched into a longer tale by using the same cast of characters the whole way through, and it has an unusual presentation. O'Brien is a Vietnam veteran, and he's also written about his true experience there, but this book features a different sort of "truth", from his perspective. Not only is it written as if he's one of the characters, but there are frequent fourth-wall breaking asides where he writes as though he's explaining the process, and how he changed certain names at various points and tells about how certain parts actually happened in real life, even though that stuff is still all fake. The only part of the book that's true is when he explains the point of the whole thing - his belief that you can learn more about what war is truly like from an authentic war story that happens to be fictional than you might from a rote presentation of facts. I don't know if that's an idea I really agree with, but it's an interesting one and something to think about at least. The actual stories in the book are very good, which is the important part, expertly and poignantly written, and a lot more emotionally affecting than I expected when my mom handed me the book. It's not really about war at all so much as what war does to people, and philosophy aside, it's a solid, quick read. O'Brien definitely seems like a writer whose work is worth pursuing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Historical fiction is a great way to learn about history, and it also has good entertainment value. I learned a lot about the Civil War by reading "North and South" by John Jakes. There was also a mini-series of the book which featured a very young Patrick Swayze and Kirstie Alley.