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Dispatches Michael Herr Vintage


3rd July 2012 History Books 52 Comments

Michael Herr, who wrote about the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine, gathered his years of notes from his front-line reporting and turned them into what many people consider the best account of the war to date, when published in 1977. He captured the feel of the war and how it differed from any theater of combat ever fought, as well as the flavor of the time and the essence of the people who were there. Since Dispatches was published, other excellent books have appeared on the war–may we suggest The Things They Carried, The Sorrow of War, We Were Soldiers Once … and Young–but Herr’s book was the first to hit the target head-on and remains a classic.

American correspondent Herr’s documentary recalls the heavy combat he witnessed in Vietnam as well as the obscene speech, private fears and nightmares of the soldiers. “Herr captures the almost hallucinatory madness of the war,” said PW. “This is a compelling, truth-telling book with a visceral impact, its images stuck in the mind like shards from a pineapple bomb.”
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

"He seems to have brought to this book the ear of a musician and the eye of a painter . . . the premier war correspondence of Vietnam."–Washington Post. "The best book I have ever read on men and war in our time."–John le Carre." . . . Dispatches puts the rest of us in the shade."–Hunter S. Thompson.

Michael Herr, who wrote about the Vietnam War for Esquire magazine, gathered his years of notes from his front-line reporting and turned them into what many people consider the best account of the war to date, when published in 1977. He captured the feel of the war and how it differed from any theater of combat ever fought, as well as the flavor of the time and the essence of the people who were there. Since Dispatches was published, other excellent books have appeared on the war–may we suggest The Things They Carried, The Sorrow of War, We Were Soldiers Once … and Young–but Herr’s book was the first to hit the target head-on and remains a classic.

Dispatches

The Things They Carried

“They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing–these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight. They carried shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice…. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to.”

A finalist for both the 1990 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried marks a subtle but definitive line of demarcation between Tim O’Brien’s earlier works about Vietnam, the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone and the fictional Going After Cacciato, and this sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three. Vietnam is still O’Brien’s theme, but in this book he seems less interested in the war itself than in the myriad different perspectives from which he depicts it. Whereas Going After Cacciato played with reality, The Things They Carried plays with truth. The narrator of most of these stories is “Tim”; yet O’Brien freely admits that many of the events he chronicles in this collection never really happened. He never killed a man as “Tim” does in “The Man I Killed,” and unlike Tim in “Ambush,” he has no daughter named Kathleen. But just because a thing never happened doesn’t make it any less true. In “On the Rainy River,” the character Tim O’Brien responds to his draft notice by driving north, to the Canadian border where he spends six days in a deserted lodge in the company of an old man named Elroy while he wrestles with the choice between dodging the draft or going to war. The real Tim O’Brien never drove north, never found himself in a fishing boat 20 yards off the Canadian shore with a decision to make. The real Tim O’Brien quietly boarded the bus to Sioux Falls and was inducted into the United States Army. But the truth of “On the Rainy River” lies not in facts but in the genuineness of the experience it depicts: both Tims went to a war they didn’t believe in; both considered themselves cowards for doing so. Every story in The Things They Carried speaks another truth that Tim O’Brien learned in Vietnam; it is this blurred line between truth and reality, fact and fiction, that makes his book unforgettable. –Alix Wilber –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

A classic work of American literature that has not stopped changing minds and lives since it burst onto the literary scene, The Things They Carried is a ground-breaking meditation on war, memory, imagination, and the redemptive power of storytelling.
The Things They Carried










  • 52 responses to "Dispatches Michael Herr Vintage"

  • Susan Hill
    3:32 on July 3rd, 2012
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    Maybe it’s because Michael Herr wrote the narration for the film, but reading Dispatches, you can’t help but feel that you’re getting another peek into the thoughts of Martin Sheen’s character Captain Willard, from Apocalypse Now. Willard if he was wimpier, actually; Herr makes no bones about the fact that he was scared out of his wits throughout most of his stay in Vietnam. One of the pieces in Dispatches, “Illumination Rounds,” really slams this point home; Herr comes off like a paranoid wreck in it.

    Beyond that, Herr’s writing is almost poetic. His descriptions of the war and the men who fought in it are impressive, borderline masterly. In addition he throws off gems of impromptu character studies, almost throw-away sentences that describe the very core of the soldiers he met. One of my favorite lines that Herr wrote for Apocalypse Now is when Willard meets the PBR crew; he says they’re “rock and rollers, with one foot in their graves.” Dispatches is filled to the brim with such lines, and if you enjoyed Martin Sheen’s voice-over in the Coppola film, you’ll really enjoy this book.

    I’ve read Dispatches a few times, and each time I’ve taken something new from it. The “Khe Sanh” section is obviously the centerpiece of the book; it dwarfs all of the other stories. Stuck in the bombed-out, besieged base, Herr effectively conveys the sense of doom and paranoia that gripped the Marines trapped inside. This section features one of the more memorable soldiers in the book, the black Marine Day Tripper, as well as a mysterious grenade launcher who provided the inspiration for the character Roach in Apocalypse Now. In fact, the “Khe Sanh” article, as it originally appeared in magazine form, was a prime source of inspiration for John Milius, when he was writing the Apocalypse Now script in 1969.

    There are a host of intriguing characters in this book. My favorite is cast aside quickly, however: a drugged-out LURP who appears briefly in the opening chapter, “Breathing In.” Herr apparently was too frightened of this guy to get closer to him, so all we get in Dispatches is an intriguing glimpse. We do get to see more of Herr’s colleagues, though, such as Errol Flynn’s son Sean, who treats the war like a day at the park, riding to and from battles on a motorcycle.

    Readers looking for detailed combat description are out of luck. In fact, it appears that Herr didn’t see much fighting at all. At least, if he did, he doesn’t mention it. Instead, what you find in Dispatches are illuminating reports from the front lines, insightful character studies of the men who fought and died. You also get a heavy dose of the pop culture of the time: the spirit of Morrison and Hendrix and Zappa so permeate every page that you can almost hear their music blaring in the background.

    So, just as Apocalypse Now rises above being just another “war” film by mostly not being about the war at all, Dispatches rises above your average combat journalism. Instead, it comes off as a moment in time, caught and contained forever in text. It is to be read first and foremost by those who wish to understand Vietnam, the mindset of the men who fought there. It’s also just a plain engrossing read.

  • laswyguy
    4:34 on July 3rd, 2012
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    Wow! This is a big time heavy hitter that packs a real wallop. Rare is that person who will not be emotionally affected by this book.

    “The Things They Carried” is not so much a book about the Vietnam War as it is about the people caught within the context of that war. The chapers entitled “On The Rainy River”, “Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong” and “The Man I Killed” are standouts that stopped me cold and caused me to reflect and reread them before proceeding on. Those readers who have lived through the Vietnam War era will appreciate how well Tim O’Brien captures the multiple personal experiences/impacts of that time.

    Pathos is a word best captured by this Tim O’Brien’s brilliantly written novel. Read and experience it for yourself and you will understand why so many reviewers give it their highest recommendation.

  • sarom
    4:47 on July 3rd, 2012
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    Always the creative and morbid kid, I did an audio-production book report project in eighth grade using Michael Herr’s Dispatches. It was as gritty as I could make it without getting in trouble, and my faux-adult voiceovers were clearly Apocalypse Now-influenced.
    It started with my dad recommending the book to me. I’m thankful. It changed the way I thought about most everything, left me wandering around in a cloud of (likely overwrought) psychedelic profundity. This may have been my ultimate watershed book. It is the best work ever written on Vietnam, or any war–really, on the theme of war itself. The narrative is shocking, sublime, moving, hugely influential to all subsequent war media…here is a hellish and uniquely troubling conflict as seen through the lens of a gonzo journalist extraordinare. I am on my third copy now, having thoroughly busted up the other two. Read it if you’re a thinking human being.
    Thanks, Pops.

  • BDRand
    4:59 on July 3rd, 2012
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    A tour guide through a seductive hell, Michael Herr describes his Vietnam, a place equally nightmarish and exhilerating. Helicopters are ubiquitous, the style and organization often surreal. Herr leaves you with burning images of a colonel who will pound the enemy with meat, Hendrix blaring out of a transistor radio in a rice paddy, or (worst of all) ponchos that fail to conceal the dead like body bags do. Their humanity restored, the grunts speak volumes in clipped phrases. In the end you wonder what happened to the flamboyant Sean Flynn (inspiration for the Clash song on “Combat Rock”). Or what that soldier returning from Hill 875 said to the fat girl in the Peanuts sweatshirt to make her cry. If you count yourself among those who have what Joseph Conrad termed “a fascination with the abomination,” this book will blow you away. It’s an astonishing read.

  • marreese
    5:14 on July 3rd, 2012
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    A classmate gave me this book in 1980, when I was a 13 year old girl with a voracious reading appetite. Strange as it may seem, girls do like war books and this one still stands out in my mind as one of the best written from a nitty-gritty, no-holds-barred point of view. Our history classes never quite made it to an in-depth look at Vietnam even though we were born of an era that witnessed Vets coming home, injured, despondent and forever changed. This book gave me my first understanding of what it was like to be a “grunt” in that war, which the antiseptic history books would never do. It also gave me respect for all who were stuck in that quagmire and how war could make anyone go quite loony. It’s very compelling and hard to put down, even for a 13 year old.

  • erveing
    7:04 on July 3rd, 2012
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    The subject matter is definitely worth 270+ pages, but I agree with others who said that Herr talks endlessly but doesn’t seem to get to the point.

    The first 80 pages are free associative. Chapters 3 and 4 are the meat of the book and the ones worth reading, and I recommend you read those and let that be the end of it. Towards the end he descends again into the free associative stuff. I have nothing against that style, but Herr is not a gifted-enough writer to pull it off. I think sometimes he thinks he’s Joseph Heller. He isn’t. And he isn’t Joseph Conrad or Erich Remarque, either, though one gets the feeling he wants to be. Herr is at his best when he does the straight forward, journalistic writing.

    Finally, do not mistake this book for non-fiction. Herr has admitted that he has taken liberties with the truth with this book, so consider it “inspired by actual events.”

  • Mike Gagnon
    7:25 on July 3rd, 2012
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    They carried weapons and good-luck charms. They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Tim O’Brien writes from memory and tells the stories of ten U.S. soldiers in the Alpha Company fighting in Vietnam. This novel is written in the third person allowing an overview of the Vietnam War. He shows the emotions that these 10 young men were feeling. Some of the troubles that they went through and that troop moral was almost always low. They killed and died because they were embarrassed not to. Some shot themselves to get of the being in combat, walking from village not winning or losing anything. He describes a pointless boring war. It wad very descriptive and interesting book. I would recommend it to anyone. but don’t be queezy there are some graphic parts.

  • Toots McGee
    8:17 on July 3rd, 2012
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    I read The Things They Carried only because it was assigned in an English class. I usually enjoy most assigned reading, but I was surprised to see that this time, nearly all of my classmates did, as well. This novel follows the dramatic (and traumatic) experience of ten US soldiers of the Alpha Company fighting in Vietnam. The great thing about this book is that it has countless stories within the main story. Some take O’Brien whole chapters to tell, while others require only a few lines. But each of these, brief or detailed, gives the reader a glimpse into the men’s lives, personally and as “grunts.” The stories are each fascinating, disturbing, depressing, and amusing, and although they have different topics, they all are intertwined throughout the novel. O’Brien can masterfully weave his tales in and out of each other, using repetition to capture our attention and stress his points. He shares with us his idea of what true storytelling is as he immerges in some chapters as a fictional 43-year-old writer and in one chapter as himself, present-day. Keep in mind that, while this novel seems so real and even contains a character with the author’s name, this is a work of fiction. O’Brien makes it clear that although his stories are “true,” they are not his experiences in Vietnam.

  • dlweld
    8:35 on July 3rd, 2012
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    Being required to read a book is like having food shoved down your throat… For my senior English class I was required to read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. As a piece of literature it was excellent; as a piece of reading material it was even better. Words are a lot like food sometimes, and this book was an addictive delicacy. The Things They Carried deals with the Vietnam War in a new and improved light. The soldiers are more than hardened juveniles; they have personalities as distinct as the colors of the spectrum. The novel illustrates how people deal with situations that they couldn’t prevent. It’s an in-your-face look at how people react according to the “fight or flight” theory. The group of soldiers have been thrown together due a war that many of them cannot justify. Some are there for the love of violence; some are there out of force. And the author who doubles as the narrator is there even though he does not feel the war is worth his life. The Things They Carried has this fluidity to it that makes it absolutely captivating. Any book dealing with war has the difficult task of upholding the true reality of the gore and anguish of battle. Tim O’Brien’s book reads like an autobiography even though it’s considered a work of fiction, but if the story is truly fictional then O’Brien is a literary genius. O’Brien takes readers into the heart of battle and leaves them there to witness the brutality of war on their own. They suffer alongside the soldiers; they feel the pain of watching the people around them die. They feel the weight of the things they carried. They feel the weight of war.

  • Laurel Peppard
    9:36 on July 3rd, 2012
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    I’ve read this book and it has left me with an un erasable impression of how it must’ve been in Viet Nam. I just wish it had a short list with descriptions of the abbreviations used in the book and a map of Viet Nam with the cities and major bases on it, otherwise I would’ve rated this book 5 stars.

  • GoldisSuckers
    10:05 on July 3rd, 2012
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    I had to read the things they carried for asummer reading project. As I read I felt sort of confused and found myself reading over parts a couple of times to understand what was going on. I did though give it a 3 out of five because of how he was so descriptive on his memories of the war. The author did a very good job showing the reader what the soldiers faced on not just a physical level as he did on the mental aspect of the soldiers. For instance, the first person to die was Ted Lavender who was shot in the head while on watch duty. His lieutenant blamed himself for his death. The book goes on to talk about all the hard times to fall onthe soldiers of en which most die. The mental part is clearly show when the ones who lived through the war ended up killing themselves to stop the haunting memories they had.

  • Jackie A De Burca
    10:18 on July 3rd, 2012
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    I was born in 1969. I missed Vietnam. The war was over and I never knew about it. For an event that had such significance in American history, it was as though it had never happened.

    When I was in High School and we studied American History, our class always ended with WWII. We never discussed “modern” events — the 60s, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement.

    When I got to college, I made a point of taking a class on the 60s. Still though, I gained a textbook introduction to the Vietnam war — I never had a true sense of what the horror was, why people protested, why it was such an important historical event. My generation has never faced a war in which we were drafted to fight.

    And then I read “The Things they Carried”…

    This book was/is an education for me. Visceral, haunting, provoking, gripping — the stories Tim O’Brien tells rip into you. He puts you on the front line facing the man you just killed — on the Canadian border deciding that you aren’t brave enough to escape to Canada to avoid the draft — back in Vietnam watching your best buddy slowly sink into a field of mud as sniper fire rains all around you — back at home with no sense of purpose surrounded by people who don’t know how to welcome you home.

    This book is the best education on Vietnam this literal child of the 60s ever received.

    If, like me, you don’t understand what all the fuss is about, read this book and you will…

  • Marcel Johnson
    11:06 on July 3rd, 2012
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    My hat’s off to anyone who can sum up this book in a customer review. It is beyond anything I’ve ever read in its portrayal of men at war as witnessed by the war correspondents who accompany them on the front lines. Unlike the embedded journalists of our own time, the writers and photographers who covered Vietnam were much closer to being free agents, restricted only by their ingenuity and fearlessness to seek out the action that would represent the essence of America’s military presence in southeast Asia (“There it is . . .), while the evidence everywhere was of an irrationality raised to such a pitch that it had become something driven only bit itself.

    Unable to remain objective or even conceive of objectivity, Herr and his colleagues yield to a kind of hallucinatory experience, depicting the war as a phantasmagoria, a really bad trip that also seduced them with what one of them insists is a compelling glamour. To read this book is to experience Vietnam not as a historical record or analysis, or even a personal memoir, but as a kind of hypnotic nightmare from which many, including survivors, never wake.

  • okyanuss
    12:24 on July 3rd, 2012
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    This book is not an easy read. Its stream of conscuiusness writing and wandering storyline are both its strongest qualities and sharpest point for criticism.

    But even upon reading it multiple times all these years later, I still find it a compelling read. In a sense no wrtiing style has better captured the madness that apparently was the war as seen by the boys on the ground who fought it. The fast pace and jumpy storyline can leave the reader breathless and confused. Sounds like the author captured it pretty well.

  • Andrew L
    13:52 on July 3rd, 2012
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    Being only 17 detracts from my ability to fully appreciate the novel, because I never experienced Vietnam or society from that time. I have done research of Vietnam, analyzing Platoon, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, and research from other wars. The book fully portrays the “reality” of war, and definitly makes the reader appreciate that they’re reading someone else’s account. I did however find some fault in the stream of consciousness writing, though not from my inability to understand it. I have read Joyce, the pioneer of the writing style, and possibly spoiled by his masterful use, I found some displeasure in Herr’s use. However, don’t let momentarily lapses of coherency ruin the book for you, because the feeling of depth and knowledge gained at the end fully redeems any faults. It agrees with all other accounts of the war I’ve seen, and possibly adds more of a personal touch that a reader must respect. For anyone that enjoys war history, human psyche, or harsh speaking reality, then this might be a book for you.

  • Eun-dertow
    15:37 on July 3rd, 2012
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    This book is not a war story although it is full of stories about the Vietnam war. It is not about the cause, it is not about the battles, it is not about survival. It is a search of one man’s soul to try and make sense of the things he saw, the things he felt and the things he heard during the war. It is clear that Tim O’Brien still carries things, still lifts his load, bears his burdens, and that he doesn’t know how to put it down. This book is a search for what happened as well as why. He still remembers but now isn’t sure if what he remembers was real or was what he needs it to be in order to cope.
    His writing is so precise that I experienced in some small way his dreams, his struggles and the surrealness of that piece of his life that still haunts him. This novel expresses this torment better than any other I have read on war. It is a must read for anyone who seeks to understand those who endured this war.

  • ReallyRealy
    17:37 on July 3rd, 2012
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    O’Brien brings to life the pages as he shares story after story of grunt life in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Compared to other Vietnam war books, The Things They Carried seems to draw the reader into the story. O’Brien masterfully develops dialogue and personalities for each of his characters. D’ont miss this one.

  • Tressie Ariel
    18:28 on July 3rd, 2012
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    I am writing this review about a month or so after having read it. I am a veteran of the Vietnam war and after serving two tours with the U.S. Navy in the Mekong Delta..found this book to be very good at pulling you inside out…taking someone who hasn’t been there and transporting you to walk the trails and carry the weight of being a soldier.

    Tim O’Brien is an outstanding author, he captures your imagination and doesn’t let go until his fasinating stories have drained you of any resistance against reading on till the end. I’m not a big reader and certainly NOT into war books. But this book tells so much more about the characters lives and how they were forever impacted by there experiences. I have recommended to some fellow comrades who also served in the Nam to read it. My own personal experiences still haunt me, the memories and nightmares continue..and reliving some of the experiences though somewhat different…the “feel” of Mr. O’Brien’s book, has given me a somehow more settled attitude. I highly recommend that anyone who has either been to war, know’s or is related to anyone who served in the Nam or any other war…do yourself a big favor ~ READ THIS BOOK! Don’t miss it…it’s worth every minute spent.

    A real winner!

  • drivebyaccount
    20:10 on July 3rd, 2012
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    This story brought to mind Truman Capote’s nonfiction novel, “In Cold Blood,” due to the mixture of fiction and realism. O’Brien’s writing is so vivid that the reader feels as if they are standing beside the reader and witnessing the action.

    “The Things They Carried,” tells of a platoon of soldiers and their experiences in Vietnam.

    It gives an interesting insight into the make-up of soldiers on active duty and serves as a comparison to today’s army fighting in Afghanistan.

    The story tells what various soldiers carry in the field. We learn of the special equipment and that one man carried a sewing kit, another had a New Testament, still another carried Dr. Scholl’s foot powder and that Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried the letters from his love, Martha, a college student at Mount Sebastian College in New Jersey. In a sad manner, we also discover that Jimmy was madly in love with Martha but that she didn’t share his love.

    The author also gives the reader a view to what activities the soldiers did when not in the field. We see a soldier named Kiowa teaching a rain dance to Rat Kelly and another soldier adopted a puppy. This made the soldiers seem more real.

    The book is made up of linked stories that is more like a journal of Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam experience. To me, it felt more like a lesson in history than a novel and what appealed to me was the uniqueness and descriptions of men who are my age, went through in the war.

  • Gregway Belt
    21:15 on July 3rd, 2012
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    I found this book lurking on a forgotten shelf in my University library and picked it up because I had nothing better to do. Little did I know that I was in for a nightmare journey into some of the most terrifying, beautiful, exciting and sometimes darkly funny prose I have ever come across. The narrative itself is just that, a nightmare, where reality becomes unhinged and the reader is never quite sure whether Herr is telling the truth or hallucinating. As a twenty-something South African I would have appreciated a little more detail about events that Herr assumes are common knowledge, but this aside, the book is one of the best I have read this year.

  • Kiran
    21:41 on July 3rd, 2012
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    The Things They Carried is a courageous effort to try to capture the people who lived and died in Vietnam. This work is not about the politics of the war or about the campaigns but is a tribute to the author’s companions/fellow soldiers in Vietnam and in which the author struggles to describe the experience of war. Tim O’Brien attempts to bring the people he served with to life in the several interconnected narratives presented in this book, depicting the fellowship and love, the fear, the obscenity and profanity, and the surreal situations that permeated the war. Some of the stories contained within The Things They Carried are technically brilliant and bring the characters and the situations achingly to life. However, O’Brien falters only when he begins to sermonize about the war and to attempt to make sense of it although O’Brien himself admits that there are no morals to war stories. The Things They Carried is a memorable achievement in which the characters truly live. Highly recommended.

  • Timothy Thompson
    23:31 on July 3rd, 2012
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    watched the movie and you read the book. literally all that would be great lines in this book were used in the movie. Other than that it wasn’t that captivating. I find it way overhyped.

  • irish.curse
    1:33 on July 4th, 2012
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    I’m on my third copy. a habit that comes with this book. You will read it tote it and quote it at an unimaginable frequency. Its more than THE WAR,its the people as well as the feeling of the times. What a gift of prose he has. This book made me come to respect Michael Herr as the most articulate writer i have ever come across.

  • Mahesh
    3:00 on July 4th, 2012
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    When I first bought this book I decided to flip through it, maybe read the first few pages to get a feel for O’Brien’s style and narrative. I ended up reading the first two chapters, and finished the book in just a few days. I chose to read this not because I have any interest in the Vietnam war, but for exactly the opposite reason. I don’t know very much about it, which is likely due to the United State’s indifference to this `conflict’ as it was often called. I’m not generally a big fan of war fiction, or war movies, but there is a certain intensity, a blood and guts reality. These soldiers were without the technology we have today, without `bio weapons’, without heat seeking missiles. O’Brien held my attention in his stories of how he and his platoon passed the hours with practical jokes, stories of home, and of course the preoccupation of death as one thinks of the life they are taking to spare their own.

    There’s a section in the chapter entitled “On the Rainy River” where the author describes what he did during the final months the summer before going off to Vietnam. He had the unfortunate job of working in a meat packing plant, and describes the job with such visceral detail that one can completely understand and even sympathize with his need to run from this awful job. He writes of trying to scrub the smell and grime from his body and clothing. It’s entirely repulsive and brilliant.

    Though I enjoyed this, and tore thorough it I believe O’Brien gives away too much at times. He writes about writing entirely too much and it distracted me from the stories by pulling me closer to the author. He explains his constructions and takes away some of the mystery and magic of his creation. In one story he writes of how he brought his daughter, Kathleen, to Vietnam many years later so that she might see where her father had been and understand that period of his life. But then O’Brien explains that he doesn’t have a daughter, Kathleen, that he took on a trip to Vietnam. There’s a recurring `just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean that it’s any less untrue’, and although this idea is original and I understand the concept I believe it was utilized too much and he returns to it excessively. I wasn’t so interested in knowing about “How to tell a war story” as I was about reading them.

    But brilliant nonetheless. I’ll likely read another O’Brien novel

  • communist
    3:28 on July 4th, 2012
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    The Things they Carried took place during the Vietnam War. A man named Jimmy Cross is the lieutenant of the Alpha Company. He is responsible of the whole group of men. They would all carry what they felt they needed to keep them sane, anywhere from drugs to pantyhose. Jimmy is in love with a girl named Martha. Martha and Jimmy would write letters to each other and she would at the end always say love, but Jimmy knew she didn’t mean it how he wished she did sometimes. He wanted so badly for her to love him, but she didn’t. He was a lieutenant in the war, and she hated the war. Whenever she would write to him it said nothing about the war. A major conflict in the story is the fact that Jimmy is in the war and Martha hates it. All he wants is for her to love him but she doesn’t because he is in the war. At the end of the story Jimmy stops fighting in the war and gave up on it. He said he was sorry for everyone who he had killed. I never liked war books, but this one was different. The author did excellent work on the way he would write things. Although I didn’t like the plot of the story, it was very well written and it was detailed.

  • gogrowth
    4:47 on July 4th, 2012
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    Perhaps it’s just personal taste, but I’m not really a fan of the stream-of-consciousness style of writing. Unfortunately that’s what you have here–gobs and gobs of disjointed and hallucinatory images jumbled upon each page. Of course, that may be the entire point of the book–to characterized the Vietnam War itself as one unfocused, muddled mess.

    The message comes through loud and clear, it’s just too bad that Herr’s writing style detracts from its impact.

    If you like this book, try Chicknhawk–a Chopper Pilot’s take on Vietnam.

  • typical
    6:30 on July 4th, 2012
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    A warts-and-all account of the Vietnam War. Possibly the best book on this subject in the last thirty years, Michael Herr gives us an objective look into the horror of combat without looking through the eyes of rose-tainted patriotism. He invokes the dread and chaos of the battlefield and weighs out the whims of human behaviour, bravery and insanity, meekness and humanity, without the judgement or condemnation that might be meted out by a loftier author.

    Herr’s use of brutal imagery absorbed me into his savage surroundings. From the soldier who can’t stop drooling as a result of a particularly dreadful gun battle, to the scenes of the dead, American and Vietnamese, adult and infant, on eclectic battlefields and village streets.

    The characters are real people in a situation that most of them neither like nor understand. They are young men who invoke the same shortcomings we all have. But they are a step above the common reader. They are professional soldiers and act that way despite their misgivings. They push past the boundaries of fear and into the realms of heroism or insanity or death. Everyone that he introduces is individual. There are no carbon copy soldiers here. They are funny or musical or religious or delusional, whatever their idiosyncrasy may be. I felt as though I was being introduced to people I knew throughout the book.

    Most books on the topic of war that I have read tend to stay with one platoon. Herr constantly shifts places and battalions and makes the reader feel as though he/she is part of something bigger. There is no single climax in the book. An honest reflection of that war perhaps. Each chapter is as horrific and exhilarating as the next.

    The length of it, in particular, displays an author who wants to show us the bare bones: no hyperbolic descriptions that eventually desensitise us to the events, no ivory-tower pensive soliloquies to the tragedy of war. Michael Herr gives us the facts and trusts the reader’s intelligence to decide.

  • Rob Zombie
    6:50 on July 4th, 2012
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    I missed being a soldier in Viet Nam by an accident of birth, I was born female. My male classmates in college and law school were shipped off or found ways to avoid the draft. Some went to Canada and one, someone I recently met, went to prison. Had I been a male I’m sure that I would have thought I had to do my duty.

    So never having gone to war it’s hard to imagine how it would really be. Tim O’Brien brings it home in THE THINGS THEY CARRIED. I listened to the audio version and the narrator was excellent. Had I attempted to book, I’m not sure that I would have made it through.

    Listening to the recording is a moving experience. I’ve always wanted to go to Viet Nam. After listening to the tape I’m more convinced than ever that I want to go. I want to experience the country. Certainly it will never be like it was for the men who went there during the war.

    As a single black woman of 59 I often think that the husband that I should have married lost his life in Viet Nam. The war killed of a generation of black men, both physically and mentally. A guy that I used to date is still alive but he lost his soul there. Listening to this tape made me understand the Viet Nam experience in a heart wrenching manner.

  • Mirko
    7:06 on July 4th, 2012
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    The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien is an amazing book. It deals with many confusing and hidden themes and metaphors which draw the reader through the experience that was the Vietnam War and the years after.
    This book follows a number of individuals and small groups in a company of American soldiers during the Vietnam War. This company is led by Lt. Jimmy Cross, a reserved and distracted man. The setting frequently changes from Vietnam to the author’s hometown in Minnesota. It deals with the troubles of being a soldier before and after the war; the struggle to find anyone who cared enough to listen to you. But at the same time, it attempts to explain the distribution of guilt for someone’s death, whether it be your own soldier, or someone you were meant to kill.
    The Things They Carried is not for everyone. People who like a solid plot line and a distinguishably happy or sad ending will most likely be disappointed. This is because the story skips around. It will start in the middle of the Vietnam War, and jump spontaneously to twenty years later. Many times, a chapter of action or war-related events will be interrupted by a paragraph (or even another chapter) that explains the reasoning behind the previous chapter. The author attempts many times (in chapters all their own) to explain how to write a good war story. He lets us know truths and lies about how war stories are commonly told and how to tell if someone is lying or not.
    Confusing as it may be, this book was amazing. It instilled a deep form of thought in me that I did not know I was capable of. The author had me rethinking the entire book by the time I was only half way through. It earnestly tries (and succeeds) to explain the feelings of guilt and shame and courage before, after, and during Vietnam. Tim O’Brien is a master storyteller.

  • Natkane
    8:52 on July 4th, 2012
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    This is a great read about the mental anguish of war. Not only is the writing descriptive of the surroundings but you feel the emotional attachment of the soldiers to each other and you feel the fear that they live with during operations. Absolutely great read to help understand the viet Nam war experience.

  • Huntoon
    10:00 on July 4th, 2012
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    Dont get me wrong by the title, but at times the author seemed to go off on different tangents. I origonally bought this book becase i am a history major, but it lacked on history. but what it did have for me any way were “”s that appear in the movies that he helped write. movies as in fullmetal jacket. however wordy this book was i thought it was a decent book. i have read worse.

  • in a row
    11:16 on July 4th, 2012
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    There’s little about this book that hasn’t been said here, but I’ll try.

    I first heard about “The Things They Carried” while in college, and I just wasn’t interested. War, schmar. I’d seen war movies, and there were plenty of books out there about soldiers and what they do.

    Years later and a little older, I’d heard the book mentioned so many times that I had to get it. (How can you say you love English and writing and then, in the same breath, admit you’ve never read O’Brien’s most famous work? Well, you can’t.)

    There’s a lot I like about the book, but these four things in particular put it in with the small stack of books I simply won’t part with:

    1. His technique. First person all the way through, but unless he makes a point of reminding you that the narrator is talking, you forget. At least, I forgot.

    2. The little things that are so huge they can make you cry. For example: the emotionless observation of the baby buffalo; Rat, who puts his soul in a letter to a girl who doesn’t write back; the “simple” question of going this way or that way, and what it means to do either.

    3. Sometimes, nothing is made more true than when a layer of fiction is applied. I believe you can feel more truth in fiction than you often can in non-fiction, because strict non-fiction has a way of keeping that personal distance between reader and writer. “This is MY story,” non-fiction says. “You may have gone through something similar, but this is MINE.” O’Brien’s fiction invites someone like me, who has never (and likely will never) experience a soldier’s war, to see (at least in some small part) war from the point of view of one fighting it. It’s not an accounting of a string of events, but a trip into the psyche.

    4. This: “Absolute occurrence is irrelevant. A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth” (83).Homefront

  • Uncle Sam
    12:43 on July 4th, 2012
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    To be honest, I had a little trouble wading through _Dispatches_ for several reasons. First, and I believe foremost, I am simply too young. Herr’s book is steeped in place names and cultural references, as he takes you on a hypnotic wild ride through the forests of Vietnam. Herr manages to pull off a conversational, stream-of-consciousness narrative. The only problem is, I wasn’t old enough for the conversation.

    Yet despite the fact that I lacked the historical knowledge to appreciate the book’s references, one immediately gets the impression that it does not matter. Herr’s insightful commentary can exist on any battlefield, during any time, yet particularly manages to capture the particularly absurd circumstances of Vietnam. As other reviewers have commented, _Dispatches_ is not a philosophical treatise on war. It is not an impassioned political statement. It is not conservative glorification or liberal backlashing. Instead, Herr manages to cipher the images, steeped in the language of psychedelics. The disoriented feeling the reader experiences while digesting these pages is akin to an acid trip:

    “We were all strapped into the seats of the Chinook, fifty of us, and something, someone was hitting it from the outside with an enormous hammer. How do they do that? I thought, we’re a thousand feet in the air!…I was new, brand new, three days in-country, embarrassed about my boots because they were so new. And across from me, ten feet away, a boy tried to jump out of the straps and then jerked forward and hung there…As the chopper rose again and turned, his weight went back hard against the webbing and a dark spot the size of a baby’s hand showed in the center of his fatigue jacket. And it grew-I knew what is was, but not really-it got up to his armpits and then started down his sleeves and up over his shoulders at the same time…and it was running slow, heavy drops off his fingertips. I thought I could hear the drops hitting the metal strip on the chopper floor” (177-78).

    One really cannot describe this book, do justice to its narrative, or even truly examine the book from a literary perspective. I do not believe that it was Herr’s intention to create a novel “in the great line of Crane, Orwell and Hemingway,” as the Washington Post’s review states. This novel has to speak for itself. It must be read like one would take psychedelics; it has to be absorbed by the reader in a frenzy and experienced for what it is. It is journalistic prose delivered with the emotional impact of heart-wrenching poetry.

  • jkoy samuel
    14:22 on July 4th, 2012
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    This tiny book packs an incredible punch. Herr wasn’t just in Vietnam, Herr lived Vietnam. He breathed it and drank it in and it consumed him and devoured him in turn and this remarkable writing is a spectacular expression of that experience and, as mentioned, a direct influence of two signature Vietnam War movies, and arguably, two of the greatest war movies ever committed to film. Among Vietnam novels I have read, Dispatches stands alone without equal.

    The current crop of Iraq books are one-after-the-other being compared to Dispatches which is not only an insufferable insult to the original, but a revelation of modern book marketing. Empty shrill hype pimping pulp flotsam. IF an equal to Dispatches ever ever emerges from this current mess, it will be several years after the war and by a participant skilled in the beauty of our language, and not some bureaucrat adrenaline junky.

  • Lawrence Cunningham
    15:55 on July 4th, 2012
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    Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” is a book that transcends the genre of war fiction. Actually, it transcends the genre of fiction in general. Although labeled “a work of fiction” on the title page, the book really combines aspects of memoir, novel, and short story collection. I think you could use Audre Lorde’s term “biomythography” to describe this book.

    The first-person narrator of this book (named, like the author, Tim O’Brien) is a writer and combat veteran of the Vietnam War. The book actually deals with events before and after the war, in addition to depicting the war itself; the time span covers more than 30 years in the lives of O’Brien and his fellow soldiers.

    “The Things They Carried” is an intensely “writerly” text. By that I mean that O’Brien and his characters often reflect directly on the activities of storytelling and writing. As a reader, I got the sense that I was being invited into the very process by which the book was created. This is an extraordinary technique, and O’Brien pulls it off brilliantly.

    This being a war story, there are some truly disturbing, graphic, and violent scenes. But there are also scenes that are haunting, funny, surreal, or ironic. O’Brien depicts a memorable group of soldiers: the guilt-wracked Lieut. Cross; Kiowa, a Native American and devout, Bible-carrying Baptist; the sadistic but playful Azar; and more.

    While this book is a complete and cohesive work of art, many of its component stories could stand alone as independent pieces of literature (in fact, I first encountered the title story in an anthology). But however you classify it, I consider “The Things They Carried” to be a profoundly moving masterpiece.

  • Molly Barrow
    16:19 on July 4th, 2012
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    Dispatches is former Esquire writer Michael Herr’s book about his experiences in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. The book chronicles Herr’s many in-the-line-of-fire experiences there, as well as his conversations with American soldiers.

    At first, it appears that Herr is not writing chronologically, but jumping around with little rhyme or reason. Eventually, though, it becomes clear that things are relatively chronological. From there, the book settles into something of a pattern whereby Herr chats with combat-tested young grunts, does some drugs, listens to some rock music and quotes some song lyrics. This repeats, countless times, until the end of the book.

    One of the most excellent things Herr has done here is capture the dehumanizing, personality- and behavior-changing aspects of war. Many of the soldiers Herr talked with had developed eccentricities or mental illness from their experiences. The overall effect is that the reader is left with a profound sense of the many crazy things that people did in Vietnam.

    Dispatches is a piece of New Journalism, which was en vogue in the 1960s and 1970s. In this style, people write nonfiction using devices from literary fiction, including using scenes rather than historical narrative and using conversational dialogue. Herr does this and more, writing in a “cool”, scattered, borderline incoherent style.

    Herr was either not well-acquainted with the semicolon, or he eschewed its use in an attempt to strike another blow for New Journalism. He often strung complete and independent sentences together with commas, sometimes three and four at a time. Somewhat distracting also is Herr’s constant use of the word “spade” to describe black people, which is at the very least mildly derogatory, and at worst overtly racist.

    It is rather obvious to draw the parallel between Herr’s writing style and the nature of the Vietnam War: both were disorganized, scattered, and lacking a coherent flow. On the one hand, this purposeful stylistic selection on Herr’s part helps to underscore to the reader what Vietnam was really like. On the other hand, it is used as an unchecked license not to write according to any accepted guidelines, and even to use words like “spade” needlessly.

    Herr’s book was well received upon its release, but it does not hold up so well now. Herr used songs, lyrics and drugs to try to stretch the boundaries of what writing can be, but it does not quite work. Stephen King is another writer fond of frequently inserting song lyrics into his writing. The problem with this is, the songs and lyrics that have special meaning to the author may not have any significance whatsoever to the reader. So while the author may be accurately recreating even the background details of his experiences, as far as drugs and music are concerned, the reader typically cannot fully relate, if at all.

    Herr certainly got plenty of mileage out of his Vietnam experiences – he also contributed to the screenplays for the films Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket.

    Certainly, Dispatches is not as good as the gushing reviewers on the jacket would have us believe; at least, not any more. If, at the time it was published, it truly did offer revelatory insight into American culture, it has not held up so well. Yet Dispatches remains valuable and interesting, particularly as a journal of American culture in wartime Vietnam, but less so as a piece of New Journalism.

    RECOMMENDED

  • Eric Parish
    17:21 on July 4th, 2012
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    The book the The Things They Carried by Tim Obrien. Has to be one of the most interesting required reading books that I have had to read. I most enjoyed how well developed each of the individual soldiers were. Their flaws and strengths became very apparent to me as the story progressed. The drug usage in the novel provided an extremely interesting view of the conflict that was Vietnam. All in all I found that the things they carried by Tim O’brien was a great piece of literary art.

  • Gary is a hack
    18:10 on July 4th, 2012
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    Herr was a war correspondent for Esquire magazine in Vietnam during the months of the Hill Fights of `67 through the winter to the Tet Offensive and on past the spring months of ’68. In his memoir, “Dispatches”, he focuses primarily upon the Battle for Hue and the Siege of Khe Shan but there are glimpses of other battles. He covers Vietnam reflecting upon everything from the bar scenes of the large cities to the terror of incoming while in trenches of firebases in an outpouring of confused and conflicted memories. Like a rock skimming across a pond he touches upon the drugs, the blaring of rock and roll, the freaks and the street-talking young toughs. In a few well-written sentences he eviscerates the information officers and the official line but spends several introspective pages exploring the parasitic nature of war correspondents. He rarely offers an opinion; he just tells in a stream of consciousness what he saw and heard. But this is not a book of great battles and heroic deeds. It is a book about average troops and a handful of war correspondents, for whom he held deep affection, and what they had to cope with and how some of them died.

    “I saw that face at least a thousand times at a hundred bases and camps, all the youth sucked out of the eyes, the color drawn from the skin, cold white lips, you knew he wouldn’t wait for any of it to come back. Life had made him old, he’d live it out old.”

    Reading this book you feel and are touched by Vietnam and several excellent passage leave you feeling empty. Hard for a book to evoke that kind of response but this one does. Excellent writing, a damn good book.

  • Broad
    20:17 on July 4th, 2012
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    What a book!!! Most of the previous reviewers are right–both the ones who loved it and the ones who hated it. Yes, it is sort of a 260 page run on sentence. And sometimes it feels like it was written on a bad acid trip. And certainly, one can believe that the author was co-author of the screenplay for “Apocalypse Now.” In fact, I would bet his primary contribution was the last part of the movie where everything goes totally crazy.

    Having said that, “Dispatches” is a gripping and painfully graphic description of the fighting man’s war in Vietnam. Upon finishing this book, the reader almost feels like he/she has just been through the war. Yet for all the blood, gore and insanity he descibes so well, the author also shows how many combatants (and war correspondents) find the glamour that exists within such horrid circumstances.

    This book is not for the faint of heart!!

  • jill cue
    20:29 on July 4th, 2012
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    I quite enjoyed this book but found it to be disappointing (perhaos my expectations were too high) It reads more like a series of good but not particularly memorable magazine articles than a really good ‘solid’ piece of writing.

    Strangely, the section I found most affecting and memorable was nothing directly to do with his Vietnam experiences but was his recollection, at the end of the book, of his first love aged 9.

    I found myself wishing I was reading an episodic set of tales about his childhood rather than of his good but not particularly engaging tales of the mess of the Vietnam War

  • Bastion
    21:26 on July 4th, 2012
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    I was introduced to this book by my son who is attending school in California. Apparently, the book is on the California school curriculum.

    Tim O’Brien has written a nicely paced novel that differs greatly from the traditional war story. The novel is essentially a series of short stories that have been loosely tied together. The stories serve to give the reader a feel for Vietnam and the quandaries that the war generated. Was the war right? Should a draftee flee to Canada rather than just simply accept the bloodshed in a civil war that seemed to have no purpose? O’Brien offers no clear answers. Rather he leaves the questions hanging with the reader compelled to come to his or her own conclusions.

    The novel is not wantonly gruesome as war must often seem to its participants. It is simply a telling of certain events that must have had some impact on the author. Yes, war is hell but lessons can be learned. Tim O’Brien has played his role in this process. The book should be read by a wider audience than just high school students in the USA.

  • Donal
    22:41 on July 4th, 2012
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    I was first introduced to this book as part of a U.S. & Vietnam History course in college. The other novel the course required was The Quiet American by Graham Greene. Tim O’Brien’s book is every bit as good as Greene’s, and all the more timely.

    As a former soldier, and a veteran of Desert Storm, whose father avoided the draft during the Vietnam War, the book taught me that no matter what other people say about the war, no matter what I learn, I can never make any value judgements on an individual level. I was not there, and for better or worse, I am only a specator.

    I am currently re-reading the book, which I often use in teaching my creative writing class. I share the story-chapter, “Style” every year with my students. I also find the book essential to learn about the nature of fiction, which O’Brien challenges with every page of this book.

    For anyone looking for a book to read on the Vietnam experience, this book makes my short list every time. Not only of “Vietnam” books, but of any book worth reading. This book is simply essential.

  • Richard Head
    23:57 on July 4th, 2012
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    i enjoyed this book.but some of the jargon was hard to decipher,not having a military background.it would have been nice to have some description on some of the wording and abbreviations.

  • Ed Voos
    0:44 on July 5th, 2012
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    The novel “The Things They Carried” is based on Tim O’Brien’s military service during the time of the Vietnam War. It is told using fictional characters whose story was inspired by O’Brien’s own experience. Each person carried something different whether it was love notes, bibles, ammunition, guns or even tranquilizers. However, not only did they carry tangible items, they also carried the emotional burdens of the war.

    O’Brien was born October 1, 1946 in Austin, Minnesota. He studied political science in college and protested against the war. Therefore it was very difficult to accept his draft notice which he got as a graduate student in 1968. He served in Vietnam from February 1969 until March 1970.

    This novel made me realize the true horrors of war. For example the medic Rat Kiley became so terrified that he began to feel as if bugs were crawling all over him. He shot his toe off so he could go home. Death came in many gruesome ways – those I expected like land mines, and those that surprised me, drowning by sinking into mud.

    The one positive feeling I got from the book is that friendship can be very strong and hold us together even in the most trying of times. I would recommend this book to anyone who wonders what war does to ordinary people.

  • JanineC
    2:20 on July 5th, 2012
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    Based on the reviews and as a history teacher I approached this book looking for a war memoir wrapped in a literary masterpiece. Our English department has the students read this book around the same time the history department covers the history/politics/etc of the Vietnam War.

    The book itself is a literary masterpiece, melding various literary techniques into a gripping and compelling read that students and adults will enjoy. In that regard, I’d give it 4.5 stars.

    However, from a historical perspective, it fails in my opinion. The stories are gripping, and range from unusual to bizarre and often. Just as he convinces you that it may have happened, he tells you it didn’t. The book really doesn’t get into a lot of detail of how troops served and suffered in Vietnam, nor does it get into any historical or political significance of the war, nor does it even present a real detailed view of the veterans’ tribulations afterwards. In short, this book is more a literary work designed for interesting reading than for any deep discussion of the Vietnam War. If you approach this book looking for a war memoir, skip it. On that note, I’d rate it a 0 or a 1. I’ll compromise and rate it a 3 overall.

    From a teaching perspective, the ease of reading, the smooth literary skills, and the wild stories all make this book a great entry for students thinking about the Vietnam War. They come into history class with lots of questions after reading this book and it opens up a lot of great discussion and teaching opportunities. Well worth reading as an introduction to Vietnam but people with an existing and/or deep knowledge of the military history of the Vietnam War need to know that the War takes a back seat to the literary storytelling exercise this book is.

  • Rockwell ?
    2:33 on July 5th, 2012
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    The first and last third of the book were the best. The middle section on Khe Sanh became boring after a while. Herr used many military terms that are not known to the common people. He does a wonderful job of making the reader feel like he/she is in Vietnam. His descriptions let you picture the scene, until he goes into military terms.

  • White Board
    3:58 on July 5th, 2012
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    Certainly one of the most visceral descriptions of the Vietnam War. Herr dispenses with politics to get to the heart of the matter – the soldiers in the field. He tells so many compelling stories of the front line experience, which served as fodder for both “Apocalypse Now” and “Full Metal Jacket,” co-writing the movie scripts. What makes the book stand out is the empathy Herr had for the soldiers’ experiences, subliminating himself in the course of the narratives.

    Khe Sanh is indeed the centerpiece of the book. He describes the battle from ground level, drawing comparisons to the infamous Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which brought the French chapter of the Vietnam War to an end. Commanding officers bristled at the comparison, yet here were the Americans entrenched in a remote outpost, with the mysterious presence of the Viet Cong all around them. Herr gives you the perspective of a handful of soldiers he was in closest contact with, following up on their fates in later chapters.

    Herr doesn’t try to make sense of the war, simply presenting it as the maelstrom it was. Chaos reigned. All you could do was keep your head down. He ties you in to some of the other reporters covering the war, including the flambouyant Sean Flynn, who would ride into most any situation with the aplomb of his legendary father, Errol Flynn. It is such a fantastic range of dispatches giving the reader a real feel for what went on in Vietnam.

  • Yaboohoo
    4:18 on July 5th, 2012
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    “Dispatches” received such glowing recommendations that my high expectations were disappointed when I finally got around to reading it. There are, to be sure, excellent passages in this book that seem to capture the surreal, self-deceptive, and hypocritical nature of the Vietnam conflict. Herr also is able to portray the extremes of bravery, integrity, racism, and viciousness that characterize the front-line “grunts.” Often these contradictory characteristics are present in the same individual.

    My disappointment comes from Herr’s self absorption and from the random, unorganized nature of the various dispatches. Also, Herr makes frequent, casual reference to his own drug use and that of the GI’s. He does not explain why those in Vietnam fell into substance abuse, nor does he explore the effects of it on outlook and on the war effort. Perhaps given the pro-drug attitude of the counterculture of the day, he simply seems to assume that such drug use was natural under the circumstances.

    Herr does have the capacity for empathy and his portrayal of the extraordinary characters on the front lines makes this a compelling book.

  • Bryan Leonard
    4:37 on July 5th, 2012
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    “The Things They Carried”, by Tim O’Brien, isn’t what I would call a ‘novel’. It’s more of a bunch of ‘short stories’. The story takes place in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The book shows the hard times and good times of the war. The conflict of the story was the soldiers trying to get through a hard day of war. The resolution would have been them carrying things with them to get them through a hard day. Tim O’Brien goes back and forth from the days when he was in the Vietnam War to the present days. The stories provided in this book are very descriptive and graphic. The book is a little of fiction and real experiences. It gives the reader details of the real hard times during the war.

    -Gina

  • qmlrzywb
    5:49 on July 5th, 2012
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    I never thought I would come across a war novel that I would find interesting and enjoyable. My experience has been that war novels are full of dull, tedious stories, but such is not the case with The Things they Carried.

    The Things they Carried could more accurately be described as a collection of thoughts, as it doesn’t really follow the structure of a novel, having no clear protagonist or singular plotline. Author Tim O’Brien shares several vignettes, stories, and reflections about the Vietnam war that are touching and horrifying at the same time: a man playing catch steps on a mine and is blown into a tree; a soldier brings his girlfriend to vietnam, and she joins the Green Berets; a soldier is lost in a field that turns into a waist deep muck pit with rain. All of the instances shared in the novel come together to form what is a very poignant and emotional glimpse into Vietnam.

    Even if war stories aren’t your thing, read this novel. You will be touched by the Vietnam that O’Brien captures in The Things They Carried.

  • Bernadette Dimitrov
    6:37 on July 5th, 2012
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    The book takes us into the front lines – reads like Hunter S. Thompson’s reporting. Could have been titled Fear and Loathing in S.E. Asia.If you like “Gonzo” journalism, you’ll love Herr’s book!

  • Michael M
    6:59 on July 5th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    There is certainly no shortage of war-related fiction in the world, but Tim O’Brien’s masterful story collection “The Things They Carried” quickly sets itself apart as one of the best. The titular story, which opens the collection, is breathtaking and grounded (I first discovered it as an excerpt in “The Best American Short Stories of the Century” and was so intrigued that I had to read the rest). “The Things They Carried” is especially good because it puts an interesting twist on the genre by blending reality and fiction into a mesmerizing combination of compelling action and human nature at work. O’Brien plays with the truth, teasing out the reason behind the writer and then flipping what you thought you knew. He has a firm grip on how — and why — people tell stories and uses it well. His description of his compatriots in the war and the behavior they engage in can be shocking but O’Brien’s flawless execution keeps them grounded. Each character is well-drawn and well reasoned; even when they do something disturbing you really feel for them because you understand WHY they are acting that way. And if something bad happens to one of them you feel the intense gravity and sorrow of the loss. O’Brien also offers a compelling look at why he became a writer and has some truly inspiring views about the power of fiction — and storytelling in general.

    O’Brien’s stories are funny, brutal, uplifting, and shocking (often all on the same page). This collection is a must not just for fans of war literature but for anyone.

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