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Alternate cover for this ISBN can be found hereA CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIEDBefore writing his award-winning Going After Cacciato, Tim O'Brien gave us this intensely personal account of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam. The author takes us with him to experience combat from behind an infantryman's rifle, to walk the miAlternate cover for this ISBN can be found hereA CLASSIC FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE THINGS THEY CARRIEDBefore writing his award-winning Going After Cacciato, Tim O'Brien gave us this intensely personal account of his year as a foot soldier in Vietnam. The author takes us with him to experience combat from behind an infantryman's rifle, to walk the minefields of My Lai, to crawl into the ghostly tunnels, and to explore the ambiguities of manhood and morality in a war gone terribly wrong. Beautifully written and searingly heartfelt, If I Die in a Combat Zone is a masterwork of its genre.Now with Extra Libris material, including a reader’s guide and bonus content...

Title : If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780767904438
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 209 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home Reviews

  • Orsodimondo
    2019-03-15 00:49

    SE MUOIO IN BATTAGLIA L’esordio narrativo di Tim O’Brien, scrittore che nella sua partecipazione alla guerra in Vietnam ha trovato una fonte d’ispirazione pressoché inesauribile.La foto di copertina. La guerra in Vietnam fu per antonomasia la guerra degli elicotteri.Mi ha colpito il fatto che questo libro sia un romanzo, e invece Quanto pesano i fantasmi è una raccolta di racconti, che però a suo modo risulta più compatta, più ‘romanzo’ di questo.Forse l’esperienza di O’Brien in Vietnam era ancora troppo recente, troppo calda, ed è mancato il giusto tempo per metabolizzare, per elaborare gli appunti.È comunque materiale letterario notevole. E, materiale umano eccezionale.Iniziato a scrivere in loco, O’Brien prendeva appunti quando poteva, e quando ritornò a casa aveva un’ottantina di pagine. Ma gli ci vollero comunque altri due anni per finirlo.E alla fine capì perché voleva pubblicarlo:Per vendetta. Volevo vendicarmi di tutte quelle casalinghe teste di legno e di tutti quei ministri che erano convinti che la guerra era una cosa da fare. Volevo sbattergli sotto gli occhi l’orrore di un conflitto che, anche se inizia per i motivi più puri, poi prosegue senza scopo.In che modo la guerra del Vietnam è diversa da quelle che l’hanno preceduta, si differenzia e stacca da quella in Corea, dalla Seconda Mondiale eccetera, ed è invece molto più simile alle guerre che l’hanno seguita?Nelle guerre che hanno preceduto il Vietnam, il nemico era soggetto conosciuto e riconoscibile, vuoi perché portava una divisa, vuoi perché erano chiari gli schieramenti in campo - in quelle guerre il conflitto aveva una destinazione, e terminava quando una forza espugnava il territorio altrui, arrivando a Berlino, o a Tokyo.I soldati in Vietnam, invece, si chiedevano a chi stavano sparando. Si chiedevano dov’erano diretti: ‘ripulivano’ un villaggio, e il mese dopo lo facevano daccapo – conquistavano una posizione, la perdevano appena la abbandonavano, e di nuovo dovevano riconquistarla. Hamburger Hill. Si chiedevano chi era il loro nemico: se quel/quella vietnamita che stava sorridendogli era amico/a o nemico/a. Dal Vietnam in poi si è cominciato a sparare a tutto, quantità di munizioni sterminate.Adesso, si vince davvero una guerra? L’Afghanistan e l’Iraq insegnano qualcosa, il Vietnam aveva cominciato a spargere il dubbio, a generare la frustrazione.La guerra in Vietnam era contro i vietcong: ma anche contro il paese, contro il territorio, le risaie, le sanguisughe, il sole. Una guerra totale, il nemico era l’intero paese.Un soldato dopo il Vietnam, e dopo le guerre che sono seguite, è in condizioni di sapere se ha ucciso qualcuno? Sa per certo se ha sparato: ma l’effetto, le vittime non sono più chiaramente identificabili. Dalla guerra in Vietnam in poi, le guerre hanno cominciato a diventare azioni di rastrellamento, casa per casa.Tim O’Brien dice che è stato in Vietnam, ha premuto il grilletto, e che dopo quel gesto, ha poca importanza se ha ucciso qualcuno o meno: è comunque responsabile.PSSe muoio in battaglia, mettimi in un sacco e spediscimi a casa, recita il titolo originale (If i die in a combat zone, zip me up and ship me home).

  • Amanda
    2019-03-17 06:49

    For me, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried is the most powerful book that I have every read and it's the standard against which I judge all things O'Brien. In The Things They Carried, O'Brien utilizes a nonlinear and fragmented narrative structure, magical realism, and the power of storytelling to capture the visceral truth that telling the real story can't quite capture. For O'Brien, we must sometimes turn to fiction to capture what is "emotionally true" and, in doing so, be less concerned with an objective reality. In a way, If I Die in a Combat Zone makes this point for him. Written 15 years before Things, If I Die is a memoir of Tim O'Brien's experience in the Vietnam War. There is no metafiction razzle-dazzle, but rather a straight-forward, linear narrative that begins when O'Brien is drafted and ends as he boards the Freedom Bird headed toward home. It's powerful stuff, but not nearly as powerful as his fiction work. Despite that, anything by Tim O'Brien is better than almost anything else out there--fiction or non-fiction.Having grown up in the post-World War II glow of American military might, O'Brien was raised in the ask-no-questions patriotic culture of the Midwest. Real men were expected to fight. Real men were supposed to look forward to war. Real men craved the opportunity to serve their country and protect their families. O'Brien doesn't reject these values, but these views are complicated by his own philosophical inclinations. He questions the nature of bravery, as well as how American intervention in Vietnam is protecting the average American's right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the aftermath, he's left with no certain answers: "Now, war ended, all I am left with are simple, unprofound scraps of truth. Men die. Fear hurts and humiliates. It is hard to be brave. It is hard to know what bravery is. Dead human beings are heavy and awkward to carry . . . Is that the stuff for a morality lesson, even for a theme? . . . Can the foot soldier teach anything important about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories." And that's what O'Brien does in the novel--he tells war stories. He tells of the tedious days of repetition, punctuated by brief bursts of action; he tells of military incompetence and the frustration of not knowing who the enemy is in a land where farmers by day picked up guns at night; he tells of how cruel being sent on R&R was, knowing the brief return to normality would not last. And he does all of this without being preachy; he simply shows us what life was like for the average soldier and leaves us to draw our own conclusions. His language is at once poetic and precise, getting to the heart of all things. No one can capture the peculiar mix of fear, adrenaline fed excitement, and remorse of a soldier's most introspective moments like O'Brien. At one point, O'Brien ruminates on Ernest Hemingway's fascination with war: "Some say Ernest Hemingway was obsessed by the need to show bravery in battle. It started, they say, somewhere in World War I and ended when he passed his final test in Idaho. If the man was obsessed with the notion of courage, that was a fault. But, reading Hemingway's war journalism and his war stories, you get the sense that he was simply concerned about bravery, hence about cowardice, and that seems a virtue, a sublime and profound concern that few men have." It's a concern that permeates all of O'Brien's work and his treatment of it is indeed sublime.Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder and at Shelf Inflicted

  • Darwin8u
    2019-02-18 00:47

    These fought, in any case,and some believing, pro domo, in any case ..Some quick to arm,some for adventure,some from fear of weakness,some from fear of censure,some for love of slaughter, in imagination,learning later ...some in fear, learning love of slaughter;Died some "pro patria, non dulce non et decor" ..walked eye-deep in hellbelieving in old men's lies, then unbelievingcame home, home to a lie,home to many deceits,home to old lies and new infamy;usury age-old and age-thickand liars in public places.Daring as never before, wastage as never before.Young blood and high blood,Fair cheeks, and fine bodies;fortitude as never beforefrankness as never before,disillusions as never told in the old days,hysterias, trench confessions,laughter out of dead bellies.- from Ezra Pound's, 'Hugh Selwyn MauberAnnotateley (Part One) Life and Contacts' I have a younger brother who served in Afghanistan and an older brother who served multiple times in Iraq and Afghanistan. War memoirs are important to me. They give me some peek, some window to the full burden I carry as the brother who didn't see combat and wasn't changed forever during or killed after a war that was impossible to fully justify as a soldier. Only one percent of us (in the US) serve. And only a small fraction of the military serves on the tip of the spear. So, we need help. We need good writers who have served to comeback and give us a peek at the ugly cost we don't feel, to expose us to the loss that we can never really understand, to give us a moment's exposure to the weight we left for others.Anyway, O'Brien (one of the best known writers seasoned by the Vietnam war) wrote a solid war memoir. Things I liked: the cover, Plato, Eric as mirror, dialogue, etc. Things I didn't: O'Brien didn't add much to the combat veteran memoir, repetitious, risk-free, light. Sure it was updated with the particular nuances of the Vietnam experience, but it was rather safe (a bizarre thing to say about a memoir of a combat vet).Don't get me wrong. I liked it. I appreciated it, and will read more of Tim O'Brien. I just didn't think this was on par with Robert Graves, Michael Herr, Guy Sayer, Artyom Borovik, Bob Kotlowitz, etc. Good but just not great. I say this realizing I'm reading this 40+ years after it was first published. I allow that I may think the book is safe only because the road of Vietnam war memoirs was built with a helluva lot of O'Brien's own bricks and blood.___________________

  • Fergal
    2019-03-13 06:35

    An awesome piece of writing. Harrowing, thought provoking, raises many questions about humanity. Why wasn't this book on the school syllabus when I was growing up?

  • Michael
    2019-03-02 03:50

    Outstanding attempt to portray the experience of an infantry soldier draftee in the Vietnam War. Although it is a memoir, it is so carefully crafted in its sequencing of vignettes and selection of archetypical examples, it comes across as a fictional narrative. Nevertheless, it is compelling, simultaneously tragic and beautiful. It feels honest about the numbness and ambivalence of most soldiers fighting an unwinnable war, one in which the enemy was rarely seen and blended in so well with the civilian population. O'Brien shows great talent in alternating between examining his own personal feelings and modes of survival with coverage of the actions of others. He refrains from guiding the reader what to feel or how to judge them. There is no sense of aggrandizing O'Brien's role as a soldier. As others die or are wounded, he knows he is not brave, just lucky. Before he shipped out from training, he made detailed plans for deserting to Canada or Sweden and during his tour of duty often wondered whether scrapping that plan was an indication of bravery or cowardice.As a college educated soldier, he is different from most of his platoon, perhaps accounting for some of his sense of isolation and inability to make close friendships (no "Band of Brothers" mentality here). As a consequence, there is a sense of distancing from the events described. In its place we get a special condensed reflection on the cruelties of war, the contrasts between wise and stupid leaders, and what it takes to survive intense terrors in the face of snipers, mortar attacks, and minefields.

  • Mary
    2019-02-27 01:54

    Tim O'Brien is always haunting. Though I didn't love this quite as much as "The Things They Carried" (the ultimate Vietnam book IMO), or my all time love "In the Lake of the Woods" (words can't express the adoration I have for that chaotic beautiful mess), If I Die in a Combat Zone is disturbing and painful and written with the clarity and disdain the subject matter deserved.

  • Larry Bassett
    2019-03-14 01:40

    Tim O’Brien’s war story could have been me. A 1968 college graduate, Tim accepts being drafted in spite of his opposition to the war. He goes to basic training then infantry training, decides to desert to Sweden when it is clear that he is headed for Vietnam, changes his mind mid-desertion and goes off to war. As they say, the rest is historical fiction. Can the foot soldier teach anything about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories. This war story is If I Die in a Combat Zone Box Me Up and Ship Me Home, lines from a training marching cadence. He tells a compelling story when he isn’t trying to quote Socrates or Plato or to philosophize about courage. Regarding courage, I suggest skipping chapter 16 where he says, “Whatever it is, soldiering in a war is something that makes a fellow think about courage, makes a man wonder what it is and if he has it.” And “I thought about courage off and on for the rest of my tour in Vietnam.” There is plenty to think about in his descriptive writing.After the requisite experiences of friends being wasted or losing arms and legs, O’Brien tells about how most soldiers in the Vietnam war zones, including him, worked hard to be transferred to the rear to a desk job.(1) He succeeded and spent the last months of his 365 days in Vietnam processing casualty reports and writing a book.Although he was not in Vietnam until a year after My Lai (2), the publicity and investigations were in full bloom during his time in the rear. He relates his experiences with one of the officers managing the army spin of the incident. The fictional character Major Callicles represents the old guard of the military whereas O’Brien is the new guard. The line differentiating war and war crimes (3) is as muddy as a rice paddy. “Now look here, damn it, the distinction is between war and peace,” Callicles said. “This here is war. You know about war? What you do is kill. The bomber pilot fries some civilians – he doesn’t see it maybe, but he damn well knows it. Sure, so he just flies out and drops his load and flies back, gets a beer and sees a movie.” .Spin doctors have gotten a lot more skillful in the ensuing years and wars. Regrettably, they have had plenty of practice. And the fact that Callicles is the name of a character in one of Plato’s Dialogues must have some relationship to the selection of the name by O’Brien.My next Tim O’Brien book will be his novel In the Lake of the Woods. I just requested a copy through GR Bookswap. I am also intrigued by the book A Trauma Artist Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam. Footnotes:(1) O'Brien: “GIs use a thousand strategies to get into the rear. Some men simply shoot themselves in the feet or fingers, careful to mash only an inch or so of bone."(2) Callicles: “We’re trying to win a war here, and, Jesus, what the hell do you think war is? Don’t you think some civilians get killed? You ever been to My Lai? Well, I’ll tell you, those civilians – you call them civilians – they kill American GIs. They plant mines and spy and snipe and kill us. Sure, you all print color pictures of dead little boys, but the live ones – take pictures of the live ones digging holes for mines.”(3) Callicles: “There’s a billion stinking My Lai 4s, and they put the finger on us.”

  • Jimmy
    2019-03-04 01:51

    Some veterans I know don't like O'Brien's books because they say they are not true. O'Brien's supporters say he should know. Maybe, but they are often novels. The dialogue seemed pretty true to the soldiers I knew in Vietnam. In all, a great book about being a foot soldier. He made interesting use of expressions like FNG (Fucking New Guy) and REMF (Rear Echelon Mother Fucker). He expressed the incredible fear of getting lost in the jungle, so you had to follow the guy in front of you with all your effort. He spoke of the stupidity of killing domestic animals or moments of simple cruelty. His heroes before the war were Nick Adams, Alan Ladd of Shane, Captain Vere, Humphrey Bogart of the Cafe d'Americain, and especially Frederic Henry. Page 198: "You add things up. You lost a friend to the war, and you gained a friend. You compromised one principle and fulfilled another. You learned, as old men tell it in front of the courthouse, that war is not all bad; it may not make a man of you, but it teaches you that manhood is not something to scoff; some stories of valor are true; dead bodies are heavy, and it's better not to touch them; fear is paralysis, but it is better to be afraid than to move out to die, all limbs functioning and heart thumping and charging and having your chest torn open for all the work; you have to pick the times not to be afraid, but when you are afraid you must hide it to save respect and reputation. You learned that the old men had lives of their own and that they valued them enough to try not to lose them; anyone can die in a war if he tries."

  • Kusaimamekirai
    2019-03-16 05:35

    If you have the time, I highly recommend reading this book alongside the marvellous and gripping Ken Burns documentary about Vietnam in which the author plays a prominent role. In the documentary we get snippets of the fear, the absurdity, and at times the adrenaline rush of what being a combat soldier in Vietnam felt like. Majestic as the documentary is however, it is here in O’Brien’s memoir of his experience of the war, that it is fleshed out and truly comes to life. In these pages he loses more friends than he can count, clinically recounts the staggering number of different land mines that soldiers were likely to encounter (until he himself seemingly corrects himself halfway through the litany to laugh morbidly at how grotesque an endeavour it is).This is not a book about battles however.This is a very personal account of a very scared young man struggling to find bravery and some truth in what he sees around him. In retrospect, he finds very little of either:“Now, war ended, all I am left with are simple, unprofound scraps of truth. Men die. Fear hurts and humiliates. It is hard to be brave. It is hard to know what bravery is. Dead human beings are heavy and awkward to carry, things smell different in Vietnam, soldiers are dreamers, drill sergeants are boors, some men thought the war was proper and others didn’t and most didn’t care. Is that the stuff for a morality lesson, even for a theme?” Perhaps these are truths. Whatever these insights are, they came with a heavy cost to the author that he will probably be paying for the rest of his life. That he paid that cost and gave us this memoir to help future young men and women avoid paying it, is a service to his country that far surpasses anything he achieved in the Vietnamese jungle. With the clouds of war hanging menacingly over Asia once again, this book has become more prescient and important than ever. As the author himself so eloquently writes:“I would wish this book could take the form of a plea for everlasting peace, a plea from one who knows, from one who’s been there and come back, an old soldier looking back at a dying war.”

  • Ryan
    2019-02-24 04:53

    Tim O'Brien is a great liar who always convinces me that he is deeply and sincerely -- perhaps even profoundly -- honest. If I Die in a Combat Zone is a memoir, but I went into it with both eyes open.After all, one of the best parts of The Things They Carried is not actually reading the book (though it is a very good book). Instead, it's when you learn that Tim O'Brien does not have a daughter, let alone one named Kathleen.He's pulling out the same tricks here. He writes with sincerity, self analysis, and shares details that seem to suggest credibility. Would a liar share this?The rest of the men talked about their girls, about R & R and where they would go and how much they would drink and where the girls performed the best tricks. I was a believer during those talks. The vets told it in a real, firsthand way that made you hunger for Thailand and Manila. When they said to watch for the ones with razor blades in their vaginas--communist agents--I believed, imagining the skill and commitment of those women.Or how about when he looks at the people in the town he grew up in and dismisses them all as unthoughtful "wage earners?" He looks down upon his fellow soldiers during boot camp but begins to reconsider both them and himself when he reaches the front.When he wonders whether vets can speak to any great truths, he decides not. Instead, he figures:They can tell war stories.Well, there are some good stories here, and, regardless of what claim they can make on the truth, they often made me think.And I particularly liked the final lines of this memoir on the Vietnam War. He is returning from the war and writes:You take off your uniform. You roll it into a ball and stuff it into your suitcase and put on a sweater and blue jeans. You smile at yourself in the mirror. You grin, beginning to know you're happy. Much as you hate it, you don't have civilian shoes, but no one will notice. It's impossible to go home barefoot.Recommended.

  • Melissa
    2019-03-02 06:42

    Compared to The Things They Carried, which is a compilation of war stories from Vietnam, and one of my favorite books, If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home is a much more personal account. It is O'Brien's memoir of his own experience in the war, and his own views on its morality. Thus, this work contains some drudgery that would not normally be seen in an action-packed war novel. But that is why I love it. The accuracy and honesty of the memoir, and O'Brien's dependable writing style made me fall in love once again.I finished this in less than a day, due to both my interest and its short length. However, I finished wishing that it had been longer, so I could take more time to digest O'Brien's story. He leaves nothing out, from the Vietnamese prostitutes to his dislike of his own officers.O'Brien has managed to capture once again the accuracy and wonder of war that can only be captured by someone who has experienced it firsthand. Add this to his charming yet straight forward writing style and I was hooked.

  • Matt
    2019-03-12 02:36

    Tim O'Brien's true reflection of Nam and being drafted despite objecting to war as a concept and especially Vietnam, is a good honest account of his feeling and fears.Chapters of the book vary dramatically in their style, some being written in the field and some later from memory, some are reflecting on the meaning of courage and the concept of war. A lot is on his heavily planned desertion, prior to being shipped to Nam. Another gives a breakdown on all the types of booby trap and mine they encountered.As a document or memoir it's an important piece of history. As a young man he was definatey a bookworm prior to his drafting, he spends a lot fo his time in training away from other grunts and the Hung Ho testosterone fuelled block houses and lurks in solitude in the library.I guess I'm marking at 3 stars and not 4 for the, in my opinion excessive amount of literacy quotes and the the meaning of other authors passages, he refers to Hemingway, Plato and a host of others, as he tries to make sense of his own feelings.Finally will I re-read this in the future? Unlikely. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Would it be the one book on Vietnam I recommend people read? No, That would have to go to Hal Moore's excellent We Were Soldiers Once and Young.

  • Mark
    2019-03-17 02:04

    War, what is it good for? Requested this from my local library on Veterans Day, and just plowed through it on my daily Metro grind this week. I'm not much of a memoir-reader generally, but I thought that it would be appropriate reading in honor of Veterans Day (well, sort of). In some ways it was your typical Vietnam-dysfunctional story that we have all heard before. I think the thing that was most interesting though was the personalization of the dysfunctional war story, and the thinking of a reluctant soldier involved in that war. he could have gotten a deferment, and he could have run to Norway (he had the plans together), but he shipped off to Vietnam. The story is very much focused on O'Brien, and the other individuals come and go briefly from the narrative. The picture of the memoir is narrow and doesn't dwell on the geopolitical issues of the era. Its about a soldier going through a war that in many ways seems to be several different repetitive patterns that never really accomplished anything - other than O'Brien surviving and being honest about how he did it.

  • Luke
    2019-03-18 02:49

    Nothing new to add to old review. Was rereading for a class.If I Die in a Combat Zone is good, but this memoir proves the point O'Brien makes in The Things They Carried: story truth is more true than happening truth.

  • PennsyLady (Bev)
    2019-03-16 01:59

    a military memoir of Tim O'Brien's tour of duty in the Vietnam War.....a year as a foot soldier in Vietnam

  • Steves
    2019-03-06 01:01

    Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be drafted into the war at a young age? Tim O’Brien experiences first hand the stresses and decisions that needed to be made when he first learned he was drafted for the Vietnam War in the summer of 1968. In the memoir If I Died in a Combat Zone: Box Me up and Ship Me Home, Tim O’Brien talked with his friends as he explains, “I was persuaded then, and I remain persuaded now, that the war was wrong. And since it was wrong and since people were dying as a result of it, it was evil” (18). O’Brien was torn between what he should, and should not do. Within himself he instilled all the values his parents have passed along and those reminiscing thoughts pulled him in the other direction. He said, “It was an intellectual and physical standoff, and I did not have the energy to see it to an end. I did not want to be a soldier, not even an observer of war. But neither did I want to upset a peculiar balance between the order I knew, the people I knew, and my own private world. It was not just that I valued the order. I also feared its opposite – inevitable chaos, censure, embarrassment, the end of everything that had happened in my life, the end of it all” (22). O’Brien decided to serve for his country.O’Brien tells his stories throughout the memoir of his personal encounters as a soldier and human being. He does not try to make himself sound like a hero of great magnitude; O’Brien was more interested in leaving Vietnam than actually being there. O’Brien’s work shows how truly negative he is about being at war, and the job he entails there. After being deployed into the Alpha company, 5th Battalion of the 46th Infantry, 198th Infantry Brigade, O’Brien describes his scenarios and events that took place there. One being, all the mines that were encountered by the infantrymen and the ways they work, and the torture and killings they produce. He says, “The Bouncing Betty is feared most. It is a common mine. It leaps out of its nest in the earth, and when it hits its apex, it explodes, reliable and deadly…The fellow takes another step and begins the next and his backside is bleeding and he’s dead. We call it “ol’ step and a half” (122). The reality of these mines is the deaths and tortures they produce are real. I was amazed at the fatalities and near death experiences soldiers came in counter with when they are faced with crossing these mines. Like every other soldier in his Alpha Company, O’Brien just works hard so he can get a job as a rear echelon officer. In which they can leave the battle zone, and move back towards safer cover. Throughout the book you will discover his adventure towards his return home. In the book, If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me up and Ship Me Home, Tim O’Brien writes about the personal experiences of what occurs at war, and the harsh realities of death and fighting. He questions, “Do dreams offer lessons? Do nightmares have themes, do we awaken and analyze them and live our lives and advice others as a result? Can the foot soldier teach anything important about war, merely for having been there? I think not. He can tell war stories” (23).

  • Ryan
    2019-02-17 07:52

    Loved it. Short, powerful, honest, and conveyed with an economy of language to make his own favorite writers proud, O’Brien nails the memoir format, illuminates the experience of war, and captures multiple aspects of the quagmire that was Vietnam. In many ways it reads like The Things They Carried, divided up into 19 pretty short chapters of 10 pages or less, each focusing on one scene, one part of his life, one idea that permeates the war experience. I’ve always thought that “war stories” are hard to nail because one person’s war story may not be like another’s – but this O’Brien’s format here works very well as he pulls together a wide variety of experiences and scenes and people to portray an overarching picture of war. He gives us a short, 4-page chapter about his hometown, a 10-page chapter about boot camp, a 3-page chapter about a scene with an old man at a well in Vietnam, a couple 10-page chapters about different patrols and sweepings of villages, and a couple of unabashed chapters confronting the notions of courage, cowardice, opposition to the war, and even detailing his 90% completed plan to avoid the war and live in Europe instead. His honesty in confronting each of these tough subjects is formidable and laudable, especially in this age of expectations and pressure. And he certainly doesn’t shy away from conveying his own fear, his own inability to act, his own separateness from the rest of the soldiers. What I found most interesting was the sections that really showed the daily life of a grunt, and especially the sections that portrayed the soldiers (and officers) dinking around, dealing with the monotony by creating a stir and throwing grenades at nothing in the night, and even going to lengths by avoiding certain missions – even faking raids by calling in phony reports throughout the night. I was surprised by how often supply choppers brought beer into the field and everyone would sit around drinking, how often they would head back to some LZ to lounge around with the amenities of home. Granted, he doesn’t make it sound like a Spring Break trip, but I’m just saying, it jumped out at me – I don’t remember any scenes like this in any other book about WWII, Vietnam, Iraq where soldiers are smoking pot, drinking beer, swimming in the ocean without worry. I guess I’ve just read so much lately about the wars in the Middle East that this seemed… shocking? Surprising? Most of all, I felt like I could really empathize with O’Brien’s perspective – out of college, against the war, feeling the cultural pressures around him, frozen and observing: I can’t even imagine if we had the draft nowadays and I was forced to go at 22. Great read. Short, easy to follow, well-organized, and captures the full range of a soldier’s emotions and experiences.

  • Charlie Watts
    2019-03-09 06:39

    Precise, devastating, vivid. The skill of the writing matches the significance of the topic.

  • Lauren
    2019-02-26 07:37

    I really love "The Things They Carried", so I was so excited to start this one! I was really very disappointed :( It was very repetitive with hardly any "action", just long bouts of sitting or walking or talking about courage/morals/heros. A new concept would be introduced without any explanation, so I couldn't understand why "x" was the effect of "y" happening. Military terms, abbreviations, and names for weapons/trucks were used with no definition. For the most part, that was easier to work around, but some parts became extremely confusing from not knowing what a word meant.A lot of his thoughts were very jumpy, like he was really excited to finish the point of his sentence and forgot some of the vital parts or didn't describe it in a way that made sense. He rehashed dull points, and then flew by others, somehow making the latter take up entire chapters. I left most of those chapters without a single clue as to what he was saying.His writing style IS very different than other authors, and I appreciate that and know that going into the novel, but I understood "The Things They Carried" very well, and this seemed jumbled without much structure or explanation and depth.That being said, there were some parts that were written beautifully and some chapters that really struck a chord in me. He so wonderfully uses metaphors and similes; they really leave you in awe.I enjoyed parts, but not the book as a whole. I finished only so I could say I read the whole things, and because I was desperately hoping SOMETHING large would happen and redeem the book. Sadly, nothing.

  • Tommy
    2019-02-20 07:56

    All of O'Brien's Vietnam War novels are hands down the best fiction written on the Vietnam War. He is the Hemingway of Vietnam War fiction, and I'm not saying that lightly or flippantly. This was the first of O'Brien's three great Vietnam novels and the other two are actually better than this one. His writing is so good because he conveys all of the emotions and messiness associated with war without glorifying or vilifying anyone in particular. The point of his works seems to be catharsis or record of the feelings and experiences associated with the war for people to consider before engaging in conflicts - which is something that has been taken too lightly over the last decade and a half.O'Brien weaves his conflicted thoughts on the ethics of the war, possibility and responsibility associated with dodging the draft or fighting in a war he doesn't believe in, pressures of duty and obligations to please others, fear, boredom, bravery, and death. In this work, these all come together into a pseudo journal layered over snapshots of events and experiences during his time there which give a general impression of what his time was like. This, The Things They Carried, and Going After Cacciato should be widely read and thought about in depth before making the decision to engage in armed conflict with others, because soldiers and - to a different extent - their families bear the sacrifices and struggles associated.

  • Abbey Harlow
    2019-02-19 07:53

    I really wanted to love this, because I love Tim O'Brien generally. But, I came away from this feeling like I had just listened to a bunch of random war stories about Vietnam and going to Vietnam, which I know was the point of the book. I guess it made it feel a bit cliched - at this point, we've heard all this before, but it was probably more shocking or new at the time it was written. I also think he took the whole idea of storytelling much further with "The Things They Carried." Those were also many random vignettes, but they added up to the common theme of the exploration of what the word "truth" means. For me, this book didn't add up to much. Also the narrator had a really annoying Eeyore voice, so that didn't help.

  • Christine
    2019-02-27 06:37

    What can I say - I read this book in a single day, loving how the author so easily transitioned from first person to second without breaking stride. His writing is hard to describe without seeming insincere and the story is both beautiful and horrible in the same breath. In the end, I feel more capable of understanding without ever finding true understanding of my husband's time in a combat zone. The conflict of the soul, the desire to be something without understanding how, the need to live, the guilt that he did. I get the feeling I'll mull these pages over for a long time.

  • Jessica
    2019-02-23 08:00

    O'Brien's remembrances of the terror, heat and boredom of the Vietnam War are incredibly real to the reader. It doesn't quite rise to the brilliance of the The Things They Carried which has the benefit of fiction and multiple perspectives, but this memoir is very powerful. I especially found his description of his inner conflict in the days during the summer leading up to his deployment fascinating to witness. And his depictions of other soldiers and commanders are quite funny between terrible scenes of war. Highly recommended.

  • Christine Fay
    2019-03-07 01:04

    This is a true to life memoir about his experiences in My Lai and My Khe in Vietnam. Tim writes about his doubts about going to war, about what constitutes courage and wise endurance, and a smattering of war stories involving his fellow soldiers. I did not find it as enjoyable as Things They Carried, perhaps because the fiction genre allowed him some poetic license.

  • Ashlee Draper Galyean
    2019-02-21 03:35

    I was shocked when I read this in high school but overall I'm grateful for a teacher who actually took the time to do a unit on Vietnam since the history teachers never got to it. Also one of two books that I never forgot since high school. I'm now teaching another Tim O'Brien book to my students because of this book and my own high school experience.

  • Zaki
    2019-02-28 01:02

    Brilliant. Gave me the vocabulary to communicate better in Call of Duty. I tried reading Ernest Hemingway's For Whom The Bell Tolls for the same purpose but his style didn't stick with me. I'm a warmonger and my dream is for the world to be engaged in perpetual conflict. Love war because War is Peace.

  • Theresa Connors
    2019-02-21 02:40

    Honest memoir of O'Brien's tour in Vietnam. His careful word choice conveys the horror of war without preaching or using overly graphic descriptions. The Man at the Well chapter is an especially powerful 2 pages of literature. Many reviewers knocked it as not being "as good" as The Things They Carried, which is a mistake. They are two different genres and each has its distinct purpose.

  • Maryam
    2019-02-24 07:45

    It was a quick read. I really like war novels and read this one for class, and it really is an experience. He wrote most of it while he was in Vietnam, in fucking fox holes, too! (Be ready to read a lot of f bombs) It's great. I just wouldn't call it remarkable. It doesn't wrench your heart like every page of All Quiet on The Western Front does.

  • Valerie
    2019-03-19 05:40

    Absolutely HATED this book. The writing was long and dull. The story (actually it is a memoir) is just another anti Vietnam rant. I will NOT be reading any of his other works and DO NOT recommend that anyone read his stuff. It is awful!

  • Jo
    2019-02-25 23:46

    O'Brien recounts his time as a soldier sent to Vietnam. The writing was so good that it read like a novel and I found his descriptions of life on the frontline interesting.