Tim O'Brien

Anyone here a fan of Tim O’Brien? I just read “Going After Cacciato” and it totally floored me.

I’ve had a mass market paperback of that sitting around forever. Someone loaned it to me and I can’t bring myself to read it, but since it was loaned to me, I feel kind of obligated.

I really liked The Things They Carried, but couldn’t get interested in that Lake in the Forest book, or whatever it’s called, and gave up after about thirty pages. So I’m officially O’Brian neutral. I guess I’ll give this Going after Ciccolina thing a shot.


I think you meant Celia Bartoli.

Seriously, read Going After Cacciato. It’s nothing like the Minnesota mysteries stuff. Although it’s also not like his other Vietnam books (If I Die In A Combat Zone, etc.) It’s somewhat disturbing. I won’t spoil it by talking about it more. Read it. Then come back.

I loved The Things They Carried. I heard one of the stories read on the radio one night and it floored me. The story with the collection’s title is really great, too. I haven’t had time to read a novel in ages, but would be intereted in another collection of his short stories.

Really liked The Things They Carried collection, too. Struggled with O’Brien’s novels, though. That Lake of the Woods or whatever it was called did nothing for me. Neither did Tomcat In Love, which I thought was absolutely awful. I get the feeling that O’Brien’s a lot like TC Boyle, in that he’s unable to recreate the magic of his short stories in the longer form. Boyle’s short stories are great, too, and his novels are crap. Anyone who can finish The Tortilla Curtain without being nauseated by the condescending tone deserves some kind of award.

I disagree that the problem is the short stories. I think that O’Brien simply doesn’t have much that’s interesting to say that isn’t about Vietnam. He’s not particularly insightful about people, and he’s not a good storyteller, either. What he does do well, however, is describe events that he experienced during a certain time of his life that had a traumatic effect on him. He has excellent powers of observation, and the resulting vignettes work well as short stories because they’re really not “stories” in the way that Tobias Wolff stories are “stories;” they’re just scenes from a unique time that made a unique mark on him. And that mark is interesting to the reader.

Going After Cacciato works because it’s all about Vietnam, and the novel gives O’Brien space to explore a lot of territory (both geographically and emotionally) that would never fit into a short story. It’s a novel about O’Brien, and that’s the one person into whom he obviously has some insight. It’s really a terrific book. It’s not strict realism, either. There’s a good dose of the fantastic that I haven’t found in any of his other books, and which only works (I think) because the topic is so personal for him.

He came to my english class. We were reading the Things They Carried, and the prof just called him up and asked if he’d talk to us (class of about 30).

Cool guy. Easy to mistake for a janitor if you don’t know what he looks like it.

Good point. Now would you just put you name on these comments already, Bruce?

A water buffalo gets shot to shit in basically every novel or short story O’ Brien has ever written.