The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried

A Work of Fiction

Book - 2009
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Heroic young men carry the emotional weight of their lives to war in Vietnam in a patchwork account of a modern journey into the heart of darkness.
Publisher: Boston :, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,, 2009.
Edition: First Mariner Books edition.
Copyright Date: ©1990
ISBN: 9780618706419
Branch Call Number: SS OBRI
Characteristics: 233 pages ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

2011 selection, paired with "You Know When the Men Are Gone"

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This is one of those Vietnam novels, written by a soldier who was there. Take that for what it's worth, ok? And don't spit on me when I arrive home at last.

Apr 19, 2018

I enjoyed this book, because it featured the real memories of the author. His writing is full of colorful words and imagery.

SPPL_Anna Mar 15, 2018

I had to read all or a portion of The Things They Carried so many times in school (twice in HS, thrice in college) that I am very sick of it. And of Tim O'Brien being the go-to literary option for the American experience of the Vietnam War.

Jan 25, 2018

Great book. Read this in college.

Nov 24, 2017

This book follows the author's personal experience as a grunt in Vietnam. I loved his descriptions and his honesty. I tear up even now recalling his most important battle - whether or not to flee to Canada instead of serving.

JCLMandaW Oct 13, 2017

This book tells us that war is hell. War is friendship. War is pain. War is poetry. But mostly, war is hell.

LPL_PolliK Sep 26, 2017

Born during this "conflict", it has always loomed large in my consciousness. I've watched many films depicting the war in Vietnam, but this was the first novel. The writing is concise and expertly chosen. O'Brien, a veteran of this war is writing fictionalized truths about his experience. His use of stylized repetition of phrases and events makes the stories both immediate and haunting. On the 40th anniversary of the conflict, and in conjunction with the Ken Burn's Vietnam documentary, this would be a great book to read. It will be one of the things that you, too, carry.

Sep 22, 2017

Having been born just at the beginning of the war, my memories of it are shadows of TV news stories, all Black & White, whispers of adults and talk of the Viet Kong. It is only in recent years that I have become aware of balanced viewpoints on the Vietnam conflict and see a widespread effort to understand and dialogue.

This book was fascinating in that in blending fact and fiction, O'Brien show us the true nature of war stories and gives us an inside look at what it was like to be there in 'Nam. It makes me sad to see how that war affected an entire generation. Hopefully books like this and projects like The Big Read that is happening right now will continue to bring healing and closure for those who served our country as well as those who followed their consciences and fled to Canada.

"And in the end, of course, a true war story is never about war. It's about sunlight. It's about the way that dawn spreads out on a river when you know you must cross the river and march into the mountains and do things you are afraid to do. It's about love and memory. It's about sorrow. It's about sisters who never write back and people who never listen."

Sep 19, 2017

THE THINGS THEY CARRIED is a powerful amalgam of fact and fiction, memoir and fantasy. Author Tim O’Brien’s masterful storytelling immerses the reader in the sights, sounds, feelings, and even tastes of the Vietnam War. By sharing the experiences of those who served on the front lines, as well as the effects the War had on their lives long after it was over, O’Brien has created an unforgettable, sobering, and thought-provoking masterpiece.

Jul 12, 2017

Ha to read this book for a class and it was very interesting. O'Brien really makes the reader think about heavy topics, such as war, government, and life in general. Talks deeply about the 60s and the tragedy of being in the Vietnamese War. I recommend it because it would make people think more than a lot of other books.

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Jan 25, 2018

“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

Sep 19, 2017

“They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.” - p. 14

Sep 19, 2017

“A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.” - pp.65-66

Sep 19, 2017

“For the common soldier, at least, war has the feel - the spiritual texture - of a great ghostly fog, thick and permanent. There is no clarity. Everything swirls. The old rules are no longer binding, the old truths no longer true. Right spills over into wrong. Order blends into chaos, love into hate, ugliness into beauty, law into anarchy, civility into savory. The vapors suck you in. You can’t tell where you are, or why you’re there, and the only certainty is overwhelming ambiguity.” - p. 78

Sep 19, 2017

“For Rat Kiley, I think, facts were formed by sensation, not the other way around, and when you listened to one of his stories, you'd find yourself performing rapid calculations in your head, subtracting superlatives, figuring the square root of an absolute and then multiplying by maybe.” - pp.85-86

Sep 19, 2017

"The thing about a story is that you dream it as you tell it, hoping that others might then dream along with you, and in this way memory and imagination and language combine to make spirits in the head. There is the illusion of aliveness.” - p. 218


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