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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

They Carried His Psychological Baggage?

Well, I attempted to read all of Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (No link provided because it's not worth any recommendation) over the weekend. I finally canned it with about 80 pages left. It just isn't compelling. The first story is OK, needs some editing, once in a while he finds a decent line. O'Brien writes for therapy, but not for readers. As the book progresses OB falls prey to the illusion that his heart-felt obsession becomes more moving when he tells readers to feel it, or when he repeats certain phrases often enough. He's the party bore who obsesses on his life's story, crying along the way to make sure you share his emotion. In one section he tells us the punch line, then at the end of the story re-presents the punchline as a punch -- ahhhh, doesn't work buddy. The Vietnam experience is better captured in many other non-fiction and fiction books, and O'Brien's subtle but persistent pro-war, war makes a man stance is offputting. That this book was a finalist for the Pulitzer is an insult to devoted writers.