Big Ideas: Tim O'Brien


A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil.

                     [Tim O’Brien]

                                                                    from The Things They Carried


  1. I really ought to re-read some of his work. Loved his memoir (though I guess I shouldn't - taking him at his word) and in particular Going After Cacciato. Pretty sure I read TTTC also, but all way way back.

    1. Twenty or so years ago, I read everything O'Brien had written (to that point), but it's been years since I've read his work. He has a new novel coming out this year and I'm very much looking forward to reading it. He did an entertaining and enlightening interview with GQ last month that may interest you, Col:

  2. Thanks for the link, Ben. The new one sounds great. I've not read any of his last three novels - Tomcat, July or Lake/Woods even though I picked them up. Maybe I'll try and get into one of them.


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