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Merle

Merle

The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien This is a well-written and emotionally honest book, as well as a quick, compelling read. It's a combination of a memoir, novel, and collection of short stories: the sections are somewhat disjointed but fit together, with the same characters often reappearing; the author himself is a character in the novel (as are his real-life war buddies, apparently). But he openly admits in some of the sections that things didn't happen the way they were previously described; that while the stories may be emotionally true, they're not factually true. Which certainly makes for a thought-provoking read.

I learned about the war in Vietnam, and this book inspired me to look up some of the things it referred to but didn't discuss in detail. Still, the metafictional aspect isn't really my thing; I don't much like being thrown out of a story by an authorial interjection in which I'm told that what I just read never really happened, or didn't happen like that. I like my fiction the old-fashioned way, with one plot running throughout, and with well-developed secondary characters who appear in more than a couple of chapters. I appreciate what O'Brien is doing here--part of the point is to talk about how stories help people deal with things that would otherwise be overwhelming--and I'm glad I read this book. In the end, I didn't love it, but I understand why so many people do. It's excellently written and the psychological depth is amazing.