I'm reading Tim O'Brien's book of short stories about his time in Vietnam, The Things They Carried, which was written around 1990. I say around 1990, because its a series of short stories, some of which were published separately in Esquire. This book was selected by the Public Library in Somerville, Massachusetts for their 'Somerville Reads' program this spring, which has its kick off program this Sunday evening, at Arts at the Armory, in Somerville. Tim O'Brien is actually speaking tomorrow night at the First Parish Church Meetinghouse in Harvard Square, Cambridge at 7:00, in an unrelated event.
O'Brien's stories are written in a neat, but conversational tone. His stories remind me of the ones Uncle Russell tells after dinner: simple, true, funny, brutal, and real. Russell will often nod after the punchline, saying; that was life, that's was what it was like, or, what could you do? It was war, seems to be the message, and you did what you had to, and sometimes you did what you could, just to keep going, just to break the monotony or just to stay sane.
I've told myself that its because its a series of short stories that I can go ahead and start another book from my list, The Story of Libraries, by Fred Lerner, but that's not all of it. Its because I don't want to read these stories before I go to bed. Its not the horror, these stories are funny, touching, even sweet when O'Brien talks about his buddies and his wife. Its, as O'Brien says, the 'true'-ness of the stories that's haunting, and still haunts him, enough that he exorcised them onto paper.