A few months ago, I found a list in GQ magazine of 45 books everyone should read. About The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, the author of the article wrote, "(The book is) Vietnam with the bandage ripped off and not yet healed."# In his book, Tim O'Brien does to the reader what the war did to him; it makes everything real. Even out of all of the movies that I've ever seen on Vietnam, O'Brien's book gives the most realistic and jerking view of Vietnam.
As a series of loose stories-or not even that-loose trains of thought, Tim O'Brien takes his audience through a visual conversation of the men he was stationed with. In the first chapter, he tells of the things they carried. The author writes, "The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellant, chewing gum...very
few carried underwear...Ted Lavender carried six or seven ounces of premium dope...They carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried."# Through stories that touch on the past and whip back to the present of a veteran's life back home, O'Brien gives a startling assessment of the war he fought.
O'Brien walks through the war from packing in, gaining territory, and then losing it, only to fight to get it back in a couple of weeks; he walks through these actions like he's a museum curator leading a tour. He expresses his dismay in one chapter about the only man he directly killed in the war with the simple toss of a grenade on night watch: "His jaw was in his throat, his upper lip and teeth...