Award-winning author Tim O’Brien spoke in Sears Recital Hall on Monday, Nov. 12, about his works, and specifically about his book “The Things They Carried,” which is a novel that’s popular in many high school and college classrooms around the country.
“‘The Things They Carried’ is a really cool compilation of war stories loosely based on some of O’Brien’s actual experiences in Vietnam,” sophomore English major Emily Hoetler said. “It’s able to show how the war affected different peoples’ lives from different points of view. It’s very well written.”
After the Vietnam War, O’Brien attended Harvard University before moving on to the Washington Post where he worked as a reporter. His reporting job helped him publish his first book in 1973 titled “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home,” according to O’Brien’s website.
Hoetler said she first read “The Things They Carried” as a junior in high school but was reintroduced to it this year by English professor Joe Pici, a good friend of O’Brien’s who has been teaching at the University of Dayton since 1965. She believes O’Brien’s writing style is a factor to the book’s success.
“It’s a good book for people who enjoy reading very good writing, but it’s also great because someone who doesn’t read often can pick it up and enjoy it,” Hoetler said. “It’s not the type of book I would usually read, but I still liked it.”
In “The Things They Carried,” O’Brien takes his own experiences serving in Vietnam from 1969-1970 and adapts them into 22 different short stories. Each story reflects a different aspect of what life was like in Vietnam from the perspective of several people, all of whom were affected in different ways by the war. On his website, O’Brien claims that he decided to write in fiction because he thinks that a story – even one told in fiction – can have a greater impact on someone than a book that is entirely non-fiction.
Junior international studies major Josh Donahue said he also read the book in high school.
“I remember our teacher gave it to us and wanted us to think about a few things in it. The first was whether these events in the book actually occurred or not, the second thing stressed was the writing style,” Donahue said. “I remember that was the key overall. She wanted to stress his great storytelling ability.”
Prior to O’Brien writing “The Things They Carried,” he won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1979 for his novel “Going After Cacciato,” a book that also deals with the topic of life in Vietnam during the war, according to the National Book Foundation.