✍️✍️✍️ Tim O Briens The Things They Carried

Monday, November 01, 2021 10:25:26 PM

Tim O Briens The Things They Carried



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The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

I just finished talking with a group of high school students here in D. And there's something about being amid the chaos and the horror of a war that makes you appreciate all you don't have and all you may lose forever, which goes from the sublime, your parents, down to the petty, the Big Mac and a cold Coke. When you're really, really thirsty and you're drinking paddy water, the mind will lock on a can of cold Coke the way your mind might, you know, back in high school lock on a pretty girl. CONAN: Does it surprise you that all these years later, your book is taught in high schools around the country?

I had written the book for adults. I had imagined an audience of literate people on subways and going to work and in their homes reading the book. But I certainly hadnt imagined year-old kids and year-olds and those even in their earlys reading the book and bringing such fervor to it, which comes from their own lives, really. The book was taken is applied to a bad childhood or a broken home, and these are the things theyre carrying.

And in a way, it's extremely flattering, and other times, it can be depressing. I had a kid come up to me not long ago, though a book-signing line and say, yours is the only book I've ever finished. And of course, it was meant in a flattering way, and I took it that way, but in the back of my mind, I thought, God, all the pleasure that this kid has denied himself. It opens a door. Some of these kids is the wrong word. It sounds, you know, sort of derogatory. These human beings who are young, a door's been closed to them through their own doing or that of their parents or their schools. Who knows why? And if a book can open that gateway or that doorway and encourage someone to find the pleasures of reading, then what a great thing to have accomplished in your life.

I'm a professor and I've been teaching your novel for six years now and consistently fall in love with it every time I read it. What I would like to know is: What is the single most important message you would like your readers to take away from the novel? I say that because you are Azar. Oh goodness, to take one thing away, it's a little bit like having a piece of cloth, you know, unravel a strand and the cloth dissolves as you look at the strand.

The goal, I suppose, any fiction writer has, no matter what your subject, is to hit the human heart and the tear ducts and the nape of the neck and to make a person feel something about the characters are going through and to experience the moral paradoxes and struggles of being human. And in a way, for me, although on the surface, of course, it is a book about war, it's I've never thought of it, really, that way in my heart. Even when I was writing it, it seemed to be a book about storytelling and the burdens we all accumulate through our lives, our moms and dads and backyards, teachers, which I mean, my dad died, I don't know, four years ago, and he is as gone as anybody I knew in Vietnam.

But like the ghosts of Vietnam, all I need do is, you know, close my eyes a moment and there he is throwing me a baseball. And there's something about carrying the image of him, the symbol, the emblem of carrying that, at least in my experience, is pretty important to being human, I mean. CONAN: We're talking about "The Things They Carried," and we're asking veterans to call us today to tell us about the things they carried and the things they continue to carry, And we'll begin with Jeff ph , Jeff calling us from Des Moines. I was there in , , and there's never really thought about it, but there's three things I carry with me every day.

I still wear my dog tags every day. I'm retired now. And I've got a P can opener from JEFF: cord is a nylon cord that if you've ever been in the infantry, it's got a million-and-one uses, probably some I haven't learned yet, but pretty much every infantry that I was ever in JEFF: Yeah, probably, probably. But I wear a suit and tie every day, and a lot of people comment that that's a little jarring to see a piece of green nylon braided into a wristband on my wrist, but I wear it every day, so - just to remember that time, so JEFF: You know, I think it's because I was in the military for so long, I hope nobody takes offense at this, but that's a completely different world than the civilian world.

And it reminds me of all of my experiences in the past and a lot of good memories. So, I don't know. It's habit now, but You're right, that thing worked, and most of the can openers I use these days, you know, break in three minutes. And the last three months, I managed to get a job as the door gunner on an observation ship and I got hit carrying a marine artillery observer out of Da Nang. You know, I'd like to say that one of the things that I still carry is the wonder that people voted to keep us there. I came back and joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and I found that you couldn't tell anybody what you had witnessed.

Without having some experience, it just, they either didn't want to hear it or they couldn't relate to it. But the people that sent us there and kept us there, I count Johnson and Nixon and Kissinger and the rest of them, they knew that we weren't there to do anything but have a geopolitical influence on the Russians. Unfortunately, I didn't do a research project on why we were in Vietnam until after I got back, and the reasons were not what they told us. A lot of Tim O'Brien's book is about war stories and how, if you if they sound believable, they're almost certainly not. And my memories are much like yours, and I think I carry with me the same thing you're carrying.

It's 20 years since "The Things They Carried" hit the store shelves. We'll talk more with author Tim O'Brien in just a moment. We also want to hear from veterans today. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. More than two million copies of "The Things They Carried" have sold since It's been read and passed around by countless veterans from Vietnam to the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tim O'Brien's book has also been optioned for a film, but so far it's not made it to the big screen.

Now to mark the 20th anniversary, a new hardcover edition is out. To read a selection about the acidic boredom of war, you can go to our Web site at npr. Tim O'Brien is with us here in Studio 3A. We want to hear from veterans today. I actually carry two things personally. I do have a P, and I also have what Air Force crew chiefs called a church key, which was your normal, everyday, metal can opener.

But the things that I don't personally carry, but I used to carry every day, were the coffins coming back from Vietnam, the nuclear warheads coming back out of I guess I can say it today, Subic Bay, because we used to catch them at Barbers Point Naval Air Station outside of Hickam Air Force Base. And the nights that I spent at Dover during the first Gulf War with , to , pounds of JP4 on a C-5 and 30 to 40, pounds of small arms and rocket ammunitions or motors, and you would see the lightning and then all of a sudden It's hard to believe, isn't it, Rich? I was just talking with Tim O'Brien, just before we started on the show, that it was 20 years after his tour that he wrote this book. It's 20 years since then, but it's almost 20 years since the first Gulf War.

It's almost hard to believe. I mean, I went in as a kid. I entered the Air Force in , my senior year of high school, and then I went back, joined the Reserves and was in the Reserves for about 18 months, got called up, I believe it was in September of to go active duty during the first Gulf War. You, you back then you didn't think about it, but then that was when I was 17, 18, 19, Now you get up to 35, and you say, man, you know, I could be gone in a split second.

I mean, we did lose a bird at Dover, got hit with lightning, and it tore the wing off between Number 2 and Number 3 engine, you know? That is the reminder that is consistent in your book, not just the what you then considered an old man looking back you're a much older man now but the incredible youth of, well, you and the others in Alpha Company. I mean, looking back on it, these were 19, 20, year-olds. People who at the time looked ancient to me turned out to be 27 or It's I think it's an important reminder for all of us that those who do our killing and our dying, they're not kids exactly, but they're not they're certainly not mature adults who have been schooled by life and what life can deliver to us.

And that is a lesson probably worth tucking away. My step-brother was. I made a knife sheath for him out of leather that held his fixed-blade knife, and it had another compartment for a pair of needle-nose pliers that he found useful for a variety of purposes. I could imagine how that could be useful. At the time I was a year-old kid and I picked up there and I've carried since an empathy for other people's suffering. And now I currently work in the mental health field, and I want to thank Mr. O'Brien because when I was in college his book was one of the books that we studied. I was talking with Neal before the show started and saying that books can sometimes have impacts on human lives that go way beyond what an author intends as the book is being written. And you can help people in ways you would never expect.

I'm delighted to hear it. Maybe it helped you a little. CONAN: And Daniel, the things you still carry - I wonder, every day you hear about another ship being taken by pirates off the coast of Somalia or about the gun battles erupting between the government that holds three square blocks of downtown Mogadishu and the warlords. What do you think? DANIEL: Actually, you know, at the time I was too young to truly understand, but I think we as a nation and as a military service did a major disservice to the Somali people. We left them in a vacuum that, you know, we were there to kind of take that vacuum away, but we left it almost in a worse condition than it was.

Hi, Mr. It's an extreme pleasure to speak with you today. I actually was first introduced to the "The Things They Carried" in Dewitt Henry's ph class at Emerson, and I always have three copies of your book: one that I keep completely clean, one that I use for notes as an English teacher, and one that I kind of use for notes as a writer and a learner. And I think you're crucial to me having been a now-published author myself, if only for the reason that I wear my Red Sox hat with all my book covers because Mr. O'Brien does it, so I can do it too. CHRIS: Of all the amazing things you've given me, probably the most crucial to my development as a person is you gave an arena for my father and I to talk, and I think I'm 35, and I think a lot of my generation, Vietnam is a lost topic for us because our fathers don't want to talk about what happened to them.

The memories are too close and too horrific. And through "The Things They Carried," my dad and I were actually able to have conversations about his time in Vietnam, which ultimately led to me and he's very sick right now, actually, but it led to us being able to have conversations about each other. And so it really became this place where him and I could go to, when we couldn't talk about anything. We'd talk about your work and use that as a vehicle to discuss war and what he had experienced but also who he was as a person. You know, the rewards of being a writer can include, you know, awards and money and that sort of thing, but a story like yours is the one that makes me remember being 24 years old and setting out on a career to be a writer.

I hear from disparate sources stories sort of like yours. I had a letter from a young woman, a year-old woman in Minneapolis, a story kind of like yours. My dad was quiet and there was trouble in the family, and my mom was trying to explain to me why she had never been able to fall in love with my father, who had been in Vietnam, at least not wholly in love. And in AP English class she encountered the book, gave it to her dad. He began talking. The mother began talking. They went to counseling, and they're still together. They're not perfect, but they're happy. And a thing like that makes me want to cry because that is nudging up against my intent in writing that book, not to heal that family in particular but to have a book transcend bombs and bullets and in some way or another worm its way into the human spirit or heart.

So thanks. Let's see if we can go next to this is Brian, Brian calling us from Birmingham, Alabama. I just want to thank you for your book, because, yeah, I went through a couple combat situations, and I didn't know I was one of the, like these kids that are coming back now and the kids that came back from Vietnam. I was one of those kids, and I didn't know how to talk it out. I didn't know how to get help unintelligible I was in my world all by myself, in this pretty much world of hell, you know, my brain.

And I read your book. I read "Chicken Soup for the Veteran's Soul," little things like that. Yeah, I went in with an open mind, but, yeah, I kind of figure, okay, this is just another pile of garbage to just throw onto the stack, you know, and the self-help books. But it actually - it opened my eyes to make me realize that there are other guys out there like me. And it made me wonder, well, you know, unintelligible counseling, you know?

I signed up for VA medical benefits, stuff like that. And it really helped me. And I just really want to say thank you, because, I mean, it's funny because my wife, you know, she's a couple of years younger than me, but, you know, I'm from the Northeast, she's from Alabama, but she never had anything to do with the military. BRIAN: And she has a father that was early 80s, you know, no combat or anything, so she really didn't know how to ask me questions. And it's been, you know - because of your book and other books like that, you know, and the counseling, it's actually made me be able to explain to her the stuff that I went through and, you know, be able just to talk about it instead of just keeping it in and let it become like a little bomb.

Brian, those of us on the radio side here, thank you for your judicious use of the word garbage. Here's an email that we have, and this from Matt in Palmyra, Virginia. Tim, I've read your books in reverse order. He doesn't talk about the experience at all. How do I approach the subject or should I leave his memories to himself? I think in the end that there are all kinds of reasons for silence.

It can go anywhere from trauma to simple politeness. War is a party pooper of a topic. You don't go to a cocktail party and say, hey, you want to hear about Nam or Iraq. No, well there you are! Paul and his comrades had no idea what the war would do to them and sadly learned that the war was more a misfortune than an honor. Paul and his friends were eaten out, mentally, by the war and remained casings of their old lives.

Further exemplifying their inability to reconnect to their past lives and in turn the normal world. Remarque creates Paul Baumer to represent a generation of men who are know to the outside. In Three Day Road, Xavier is exposed to slow violence by cultural and emotional conflict throughout the war, which resulted in post-traumatic stress. Xavier is a remorseful character because of how he was brought up. Regardless of his role in the war, he feels remorse every time he kills. His beliefs do not change. He does not compromise his beliefs over the expectation to hate the enemy or in the company of Elijah who evidently has compromised his prior beliefs. His views on nationalism, as shown by the statement "I survived, but it's not a happy ending. I was a coward. I went to the war" The Things They Carried, 79 , are not extremely prominent.

This quote clearly shows that he did not feel strongly enough for his country to potentially die for it. To me, it just means that they have a different opinion than the ones presently represented. They were trying to protect their family members and their friends. People had brothers, sisters, mother, fathers, friends, all of them in the line of fire overseas. The pacification missions his platoon goes on are one example of that war within his own mind. He states multiple times that he is bothered by the fact that they have to convince the villagers that the American soldiers are the good guys Based on the text what can you tell about his personality? Based on my understanding, Paul shows that there is no winner to war.

Alive or dead, the soul suffers. The emotional burden was not just during the war it was also after the war that all these memories came back to them. When these memories come back it brings sadness to them thinking about all the people they lost through out their time. Knowledge of course, is always imperfect, but it seemed to me that when a nation goes to war it must have reasonable confidence in the justice and imperative of its cause. You can 't fix your mistakes. Ned if affected by war in some very unfortunate ways.

During training Ned had to go though many things. You just had to do it. Not only did Ned have a hard time adjusting to bootcamp but he had an even harder time adjusting to war. During war Ned lost a lot of people he knew and as it would to anyone else 's it hurt him. During war Ned was shot in the shoulder. Being shot impacted him a lot because he was unable to fight for a while. Ned described how he felt and told about how he couldn 't raise his arm. Ned was also upset and very much so scared when his friend Georgia Boy was shot. Ned was definitely changed by that and it surely didn 't help his experiance in war. Ned went through some hard times in war but he still did. A book 's title is something that no matter what you read, has significant meaning.

It has meaning on all levels, from physical, to mental, all the way to spiritual.

Previous Intro. Error rating book. But I certainly hadnt imagined year-old kids and year-olds and Tim O Briens The Things They Carried even in their earlys reading the book and bringing such fervor to it, which comes from their own lives, really. Tim O Briens The Things They Carried Child Trafficking In America of unrelated memories from the war are There Will Be Blood Symbolism from O'Brien's point of Tim O Briens The Things They Carried. At the time I was a year-old kid and I picked up there and I've carried since an empathy for Tim O Briens The Things They Carried people's suffering. It's up What Was The Missouri Compromise a library shelf, so you're safe and everything, but the book Sir Isaac Newton Research Paper been Tim O Briens The Things They Carried out for a long, long time. It is here that Kerry makes the point that the Vietnam war is a destructive waste of human life and time.

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