Author Tim O'Brien was born on this day.
Tim O'Brien, author of the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Send Me Home and short story collections and novels such as Going After Cacciato (for which he won the National Book Award) and The Things They Carried, is known as America's preeminent writer of the Vietnam War era. A veteran of the conflict, O'Brien writes about the experience of the Vietnam War and Vietnam Era with both specific realism and artful imagination. After his tour of duty in Vietnam, he enrolled at Harvard for graduate work but left to pursue an internship at The Washington Post.
Students who read Tim O’Brien’s stories, particularly The Things They Carried, are intrigued by his flexible literary concept of “truth.” He suggests that the truth of fiction, as revealed by a story, can be more true than what actually happened. After reading O’Brien’s story “A True War Story” from The Things They Carried, have students choose a powerful event from their own lives. Using the Timeline Tool, have them map out the events from real life. Then, with the emotional impact of the full story in mind, encourage them to create a fictional version that remains true to the facts of real life but moves toward O’Brien’s notion of the “story truth.”
This site offers a collection of research links about Tim O’Brien for students and a list of his works and related resources.
In this 2010 interview, Tim O’Brien discusses a number of topics related to his work and their relevance today.
Here you’ll find an audio archive and transcript of O’Brien’s talk on the challenges of writing.