Thursday, January 2, 2014

Stitches and The Things They Carried

As 2013 ended I wrapped up two books; just two of the countless books I've read this year: Stitches by Anne Lamott and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.

I've read several of Ms. Lamott's and while this one was OK for me, not my favorite. Still full of her own brand of wisdom, insight and slant on Christianity. She's not going to be for everybody but if you can take a little irreverence with your take on Christian life, then proceed. Help, Thanks, Wow! (her previous book) was more readable and applicable.

To O'Brien. I can not explain my fixation on the Vietnam War but I enjoy reading most everything I can find about it. But this one will go to the top (or near top) of my favorites list.

It's certainly different. For the first few chapters, it reads normal; i.e. laid out like others; albeit one of the better written "novels" about Vietnam I can recall. I put novel in quotes because somewhere it shifted to a different genre or type for me. In film they talk about not piercing the 4th wall; the one that separates viewers from actors. O'Brien crashes right through it. And by the end, I'm not always sure if I'm reading stuff he made up (fiction) or reported. He talks about "true stories" and how sometimes there is more truth in the story (all, much or some of it made up) versus the truth which we might expect (yea, right!) from a journalist.

So my guess or interpretation is that for some of his Vietnam experience and the stories that arise from it, he uses traditional narrative in novel form to convey those truths. For other perhaps less-true stories, he resorts to reportage.

Either one is fine for me and I read plenty of both. It is just rare to encounter both of them in the same book and where chapter divisions don't always make it clear exactly where we are going and where we've been.

Regardless, if you are interested in war "fiction", Vietnam or in general just plain old good writing, find a copy. It is not new; written in late 80s I think.

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