Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” has been chosen as the 2009 featured selection for Marquette County’s One Book, One Community Program.
A novel composed of 21 related stories, O’Brien’s book recounts the experiences of a platoon of American soldiers in Vietnam and the way the war affects them. The book is filtered through O’Brien’s own experiences as a foot soldier in Vietnam.
“It’s the soldiers’ experiences in Vietnam and sometimes their experiences coming home,” said Cathy Sullivan Seblonka, who is a One Book, One Community selection committee member.
Seblonka added that the book is important because more people are starting to acknowledge Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the real psychological pains of war are becoming more apparent. O’Brien touches on the psychological in the book’s title story.
“(The story) ‘The Things They Carried’ is about what the soldiers carry with them. In real terms, guns and bullets and soap and food.and what they’re carrying in their hearts and in their heads,” said Seblonka, who is also the youth services coordinator at Marquette’s Peter White Public Library.
Dana Schultz, the assistant manager of Snowbound Books, also sits on the One Book, One Community committee and said that the book is one of her all-time favorites.
“I think it is an important book because it neither glorifies nor vilifies war,” she said. “A lot of books that come out now are either one way or the other, but he just says, ‘This is what it is. This is what it does to you.’ And his writing is unbelievably beautiful.”
Schultz, who has read the book several times, added that she respects it because O’Brien attempts to share his message with many varied audiences.
“One of the stories in ‘The Things They Carried’ is called ‘How To Tell a True War Story,'” she said. “(O’Brien says) you keep telling your story over and over again because there is not one version that everyone is going to get, so you keep adding things to it to reach more people.
“He kind of has a similar message throughout the book and he keeps adapting that message to reach different audiences.”
Each year, the committee also arranges events related to the book selection. This year, Milton Bates, a professor of English at Marquette University who specializes in Vietnam War literature, is scheduled to speak at Peter White Public Library on Nov. 1. There are also plans to show a related movie at the library on Oct. 13. Later this month, the committee will meet to plan further events, including community-wide book discussions.
“The Things They Carried,” which was originally published in 1990, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.