My book group recently finished the, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I’m not sure we did this on purpose but it is nice to have read this book about veterans of Vietnam so recently. It makes this Veteran’s Day feel all the more essential.
O’Brien is a bold, brave storyteller. His stories will take you by the stomach, set you down in front of yourself and tell you to “look and look hard.” The only way this works, though, is because he’s expected the same thing from himself. Throughout this book, he carefully delivers information about himself in a way that makes it impossible to pin down. Right? Wrong? Good? Bad? Who’s to say?
Time and time again, O’Brien would mention other veterans who contacted him with ideas or details to add to the writing he does. He was the one they trusted to carefully balance the pressures – personal, military, weather, family, country, enemy and more – and show the situation in exactly the right light.
In my view, this is the ultimate honor in storytelling. Finding a way to tell a universal story so that others believe you, trust you and acknowledge themselves in your words. Doing it in a setting where most of us (thankfully) have never been or have any way of understanding is an even more admirable feat.
If you haven’t already, give this book a read. It’s fascinating, amazing, heart-wrenching and true. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
And thanks Veterans, for everything.