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The is the Real Thing
am 31. Juli 2000
This book is priceless. I waited three years to find the time to properly read this book. The wait was worth it.
I'm 24. I missed Vietnam. All my life I've had a strange fascination with the conflict in Vietnam. I look back on my parents' generation and struggle to figure out exactly what moved them so tremendously to oppose this conflict. What was going on over there? Why were we there? Who was there? What was it really that was so horrific? Why did so many soldiers come back emotionally crippled?
Tim O'Brien has answered many of my questions. War, particularly the "war" in Vietnam, strips a man down to his basic instincts. In this collection of remembrences, O'Brien not only examines what became of men's ideals, beliefs, and reasons for action, but also makes sense of why. He doesn't explain this flat out, rather, he allows the reader to discover how boys become men of war. As the reader follows a soldiers story she can understand how his mindset came to be by the decisions he makes. O'Brien's style is to show, not tell. Through these anecdotes, the reader can see what happens to boys in a war in a jungle that turns them into animals. It is almost a real life "Lord of the Flies" or "Heart of Darkness". The most traumatic part of all this is that once they have become a new breed of human by surviving on their terms, they return and must be readmitted to society on its terms.
The actual subject matter aside, O'Brien raises the level of this work by treating it also as an exercise in exquisite writing. Based on his storytelling abilities alone, this book could serve as a model in creative writing. While at first, there may seem to be a random relation of the stories in their order, but the emotion of each story, along with the differing tone and style, is part of a larger mood that O'Brien is setting. As the stories shift from reflective to frustrated to eerie calm to tortured, the reader can better feel the impact of this collection.
I can't speak for anyone but myself, but if you want to have a keyhole through which you can peer to get a glimpse of a soldier in Vietnam, this is it.