NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, February 4, 2009


by Tim O'Brien

"Even the refugee must do more than flee. He must arrive. He must return at last to a world as it is, however much in conflict with his hopes, and he must then do what he can to edge reality toward what he has dreamed, to change what he can change, to go beyond the wish or the fantasy." (Sarkin Aung Wan in Going After Cacciato, pg. 318)

I read The Things They Carried a couple of summers ago, and I've never forgotten it. I've been meaning to read anther Tim O'Brien book ever since. If you've never read O'Brien, I don't think Going After Cacciato is where I would recommend starting, but it's a beautifully disturbing book that showcases his stunning writing.

I still don't know for certain what happened in this story. When Cacciato deserts during the Vietnam War and heads for Paris, Paul Berlin and others in his squad follow to bring him back. Somewhere along the way, the search for Cacciato becomes just an excuse to get away for themselves. But I was never really positive what was actually occurring and what was a fantasy in Paul Berlin's head. Which I'm pretty sure was the point. Berlin was never a brave man and under the extreme stresses of war he developed a coping mechanism to which I think a lot of us can relate. However, we eventually must face the reality of our situation no matter how terrible or lose ourselves in a delusion that we cannot maintain.


Serena said...

In this book, it is hard to discern reality from fantasy; I agree. I still think its a great comment on the realities of the time.

I really liked this book, but not as much as others I've read by O'Brien. I really enjoyed A Lake in the Woods. You should try that one.

Lezlie said...

Serena ~ It is a wonderful book, just odd in a good way. Thanks for the recommendation! I hadn't decided which of his I would eventually read next. That one looks good!


Darlene said...

I've wanted to read The Things They Carried for a while but haven't gotten around to it. This sounds like another that would be good to read too.

joanna said...

I've never read anything by him either, but it sounds intruiging. Would you say that The Things They Carried would be a good place to start?
I like what you said about the coping mechanism. The fact that we have to return to reality at some point and just deal is a lesson many people learn a bit late in life...

Lezlie said...

Joanna ~ I've only read two books by him, and between the two I would say The Things They Carried is better to read first only because it's much more straight forward and you can just soak it in without spending time wondering what's going on. :-)


Anna said...

I love Tim O'Brien, but I haven't read this one yet. The most disturbing book about Vietnam that I've read was Paco's Story. Powerful, a good read, but disturbing.

Diary of an Eccentric