Students and community members who have read the One Book, One Community’s book selection for 2009 will be able meet the author in person and ask him questions next week.
Author Tim O’Brien will be visiting campus Wednesday, Oct. 7 and discussing his book “The Things They Carried.”
“It’s been wonderful to be able to work together and accomplish this dream of bringing an author here,” said Sue Szczepanski, an education professor at NMU and a member of the committee for One Book, One Community.
The committee is comprised of students and faculty from NMU and community members. Their goal is to encourage the community and the university to read a book together.
One Book, One Community was formed in 2006, and was modeled after other organizations at universities across the U.S. For the last four years, it has tried to bring an author to campus.
This year, they’ve teamed up with several community and university organizations to bring Tim O’Brien to campus.
O’Brien is an accomplished author whose work focuses on his experiences during his tour of duty in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1970.
“My job as a storyteller is to go beyond the statistics that you usually read about when you read about wars, and instead make people feel something in their hearts, in their stomachs,” O’Brien said. “I want to make them feel something that is not general, or statistics. I want to make them feel like something they’d feel in a movie or a book they liked.”
O’Brien’s writing has become famous for blurring the line between fiction and reality. A major theme in “The Things They Carried” is that sometimes fiction can be more truthful than reality.
“The book is based partly on my own life. I was a soldier, wounded in combat,” O’Brien said. “But I moved into fiction about it, hoping that through [the] story people will feel something. There are times in life where the real stuff, the real things that happened, isn’t powerful enough or intelligible enough to really make anybody feel anything.”
O’Brien said the subject of the book is still relevant today because the wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan are analogous to the war in Vietnam.
“The unpopularity of the wars is very similar, and the conditions of the wars are also very similar. What does it mean to win?” O’Brien said. “No one has defined what it means to win in Afghanistan or Iraq and they didn’t know in Vietnam, either. And that’s an important thing to know, what it means to win.”
O’Brien said it was great to have “The Things They Carried” chosen for Marquette’s One Book, One Community.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to get there and tell my stories,” said O’Brien. “Writers don’t write for themselves, they write for other people. To have the book chosen is really great. Even to have the book be so popular in high schools and universities is great. It’s especially great because we do have two wars going on right now.”
This year, twenty sections of EN 111 are reading “The Things They Carried.” Szczepanski said that she was thrilled to have so many students reading the book.
“I think the power of meeting the author can impact their understanding of the book and possibly lead to further reading. I think that when you bring the person behind the words to campus, it can have a powerful effect on the students,” said Szczepanski. “And for the school of education, for our future teachers, it can be a powerful experience to say ‘I’ve meet this author’ when they are using the book in the classroom.”
Tom Rich, president of Sigma Tau Delta, said that this was a great project and he was thrilled to have Tim O’Brien here.
“It should be a really, really exciting presentation I think,” said Rich. “He’s a great writer, and by all accounts, he’s a great speaker. It’s going to be a excellent presentation.”
The speech will be video streamed so alumni and community members who are not in attendance can watch it. The video stream will be archived for future use.
The event is sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, One Book, One Community, the Marquette Alger Reading Council (MARC,) and the Visiting Writers Program.
“It is a joint project with the community supporting us, along with the university,” said Szczepanski. “We’re thrilled to have him coming.”
The lecture will be held in the Great Lakes rooms of the University Center at 7 p.m. The event is free to NMU students and $10 for the public.