2009 Book: The Things They Carried

by Tim O'Brien


Though critics can’t agree whether to call this fine book a novel or a series of linked stories, their acclaim is universal. O’Brien mined his experiences as a foot soldier in Vietnam to write this powerful American classic that unflinchingly examines the myriad effects of war on man. The fighting, the waiting, the monotony, and, finally, the aftermath are all brutally scrutinized in heartbreakingly beautiful prose that captivates and educates readers of all ages.

The community enjoyed an amazing reading and discussion with Tim O'Brien in the Great Lakes rooms of the NMU University Center in October 2009. Thanks to the NMU student chapters of the Marquette Alger Reading Council and Sigma Tau Delta, the NMU Student Finance Committee and the English Department for sponsoring the visit.

Synopsis:

The Things They Carried depicts the men of Alpha Company: Jimmy Cross, Henry Dobbins, Rat Kiley, Mitchell Sanders, Norman Bowker, Kiowa, and of course, the character Tim O'Brien who has survived his tour in Vietnam to become a father and writer at the age of forty-three. They battle the enemy (or maybe more the idea of the enemy), and occasionally each other. In their relationships we see their isolation and loneliness, their rage and fear. They miss their families, their girlfriends and buddies; they miss the lives they left back home. Yet they find sympathy and kindness for strangers (the old man who leads them unscathed through the mine field, the girl who grieves while she dances), and love for each other, because in Vietnam they are the only family they have. We hear the voices of the men and build images upon their dialogue. The way they tell stories about others, we hear them telling stories about themselves.

With the creative verve of the greatest fiction and the intimacy of a searing autobiography, The Things They Carried is a testament to the men who risked their lives in America's most controversial war. It is also a mirror held up to the frailty of humanity. Ultimately The Things They Carried and its myriad protagonists call to order the courage, determination, and luck we all need to survive.

—Random House, Inc


About the Author: Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien received the 1979 National Book Award in Fiction for Going After Cacciato. His novel The Things They Carried won France's prestigious Prix de Meilleur Livre Etranger and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize. His two most recent novels, In the Lake of the Woods and Tomcat in Love, were national bestsellers. The community enjoyed an amazing reading and discussion with Tim O'Brien in the Great Lakes rooms of the NMU University Center in October 2009. Thanks to the NMU student chapters of the Marquette Alger Reading Council and Sigma Tau Delta, the NMU Student Finance Committee and the English Department for sponsoring the visit.

—Random House, Inc


2009 Archived Events:  The Things They Carried By Tim O'Brien

Kickoff Event!

  • Friday, Sept. 18, Peter White Public Library, 7 p.m.
  • Celebrate the new One Book One Community season and the Great Michigan Read. Enjoy Vietnamese food catered by The Rubayat, music from the '60s, '70s and '80s by Derrell Syria and band and book giveaways. Bring one of your favorite new or gently used books to have shipped to our military servicepeople overseas (if you're able, please tuck $1 in book to help pay for shipping).


"War Stories in the Classroom."
  • Wednesday, Sept. 30, Northern Michigan University, Whitman commons, room 136. Part of the UNITED conference.
  • 4 p.m.: Facilitated discussion of The Things They Carried.
  • Eric Hammerstrom with a multi-media presentation on war memories and memorabilia from a soldier who served in Vietnam.
  • (Note, the film previously scheduled will not be shown, but is available for checkout at the Peter White Library: A Soldier's Sweetheart, starring Kiefer Sutherland—an adaptation of a chapter fromThe Things They Carried.)
Author Tim O'Brien Discussion and Q&A
  • Wednesday, Oct. 7, NMU Great Lakes Rooms, 7 p.m.
  • Author Tim O'Brien discusses his book and takes questions from the audience. Free to NMU student with I.D., $10 for general public.
Vertigo Theatre Performance: "Letters From Vietnam"
  • Sunday, Oct. 11, Peter White Public Library, 2 p.m.
Film: "The Vertical Ray of the Sun."
  • Tuesday, Oct. 13, Peter White Public Library, 7 p.m.

"Telling the Vietnam War Story." Presentation on the literature of Vietnam, by Milton Bates (Pictured)

  • Sunday, Nov. 1, Peter White Public Library, 2 p.m.
  • Bates teaches at Marquette University. He has published books and articles on modern American literature, particularly the poet Wallace Stevens. His work on the Vietnam War includes a book,The Wars We Took to Vietnam: Cultural Conflict and Storytelling(1996). He was a member of the editorial advisory board that prepared the two-volume Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1975 for the Library of America (1998). In 1970-1971 he served as a U.S. Army sergeant in Chu Lai, Vietnam.


Forum on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder presented by Vietnam Veterans
  • Tuesday, Nov. 10, Peter White Public Library, 7 p.m.
Public Book discussions:
  • Wednesday, Oct. 14, 6:30 p.m., Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library
  • Monday, Oct 19, 7 p.m., Community Room, Peter White Public Library
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 7 p.m., NMU Learning Resources Center, room 311
  • Wednesday, Oct 28, noon-1:00 p.m., brown bag lunch discussion, Peter White Public Library Community Room
  • Wednesday, Oct 28, 7:30 p.m., Snowbound Book Club discussion, Snowbound Books