January 27, 2015

Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Writing about the Unimaginable

In his award-winning book on the War in Vietnam,The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien blends fact with fiction because as he confesses “it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen . . . there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed.” Ishmael Beah’s 2007 memoir A Long Way Gone has come under scrutiny. Some challenge the time period insisting he couldn’t have spent two years as a boy soldier; others question specific events, including when the attack on his village that killed his parents and sibliings occurred and the death of six people at the refugee camp where Beah was […]
February 10, 2014

Reviewing Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods

Every chair in the four-hundred plus seat auditorium on the campus of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL was filled, Saturday evening January 18, 2014 to hear a reading by Vietnam veteran and award-winning author Tim O’Brien. There was not a dry eye in the room when he finished his selection “How to Tell a True War Story” from The Things They Carried (1990). But, as O’Brien says “a true war story is never about war,” and not too long after The Things They Carried was published he came out with In the Lake of the Woods (1994) which is another war story that’s not about war. What it seems to be about is a woman who has gone missing […]
February 8, 2014

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried: A Review

Vietnam is still with us in the sense that for some people how you view that war is a defining indicator of who you are. I did not go to Vietnam, and I was active in the anti-war movement in Albany, NY where I was living at the time, although I never joined in those protesters who harassed returning soldiers. That was wrong for a thousand reasons, starting with the fact that most of those soldiers were draftees and had not asked to go. Had I been drafted I would have faced the dilemma a young Tim O’Brien did in 1966––go in or go to Canada. I understand why some chose the latter, and I can’t say what I would […]
January 28, 2014

Eckerd College Writers Conference Wrap-Up

I suspect few, if any, of the eight dozen “students” who attended the eight-day Eckerd College Writers Conference, went away dissatisfied. That, in and of itself, is remarkable and a testimony to the conference organizers and staff. While many of the students may have experienced a twinge of dissatisfaction when contemplating the status of their writing careers or the quality of the document they submitted for the workshops, I can’t imagine any left without a glimmer of hope and clear guidelines to improving their craft. The faculty readings, from Tim O’Brien’s remarkable Things They Carried (1998) to newcomer Attica Locke’s second novel The Cutting Season (2013), were nothing short of inspirational. They reinforced each student’s justification for dedicating themselves to […]
January 20, 2014

Report on Day 2 of the Eckerd College Writers Conference

The Writers in Paradise Conference began officially this morning with welcome messages by the co-directors and a presentation by last night’s reading series author Tim O’Brien. Later we attended our first workshop with Lori Roy where we dissected the first two writers’ submissions and in the evening heard Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River, Shutter Island, et al and Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, Last Resort, etc. If there was a theme for the day it was “tell your story”––about why and how to do so and about the consequences of telling the truth as you see it. Tim O’Brien electrified the room of fifty writers at 10 AM to the same high wattage level […]