"I didnt get into writing to make money or get famous or any of that. I got into it to hit hearts, and man, when I get letters not just from thesoldiers but from their kids, especially their kids, it makes it all worthwhile."
Born 1946 in Austin, Minnesota Graduated from Macalester College with a BA in Political Science in 1968 Drafted into the Army in 1968 as an Infantryman Served in Vietnam Stationed in My Lia a year after the massacre Purple Heart Recipient Studied Government at Harvard but never finished Did not plan on being a writer
If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973) The Things They Carried (1978) In the Lake of the Woods (1994) July, July (2002) Going After Cacciato (1978)
OBriens central theme is the theme of courage; he equates courage with having moral integrity and strength to take control of ones life and do what he knows to be ethically right. All of his books deal in part with a characters willingness or unwillingness to serve in Vietnam and raise the question of which choice is the most brave and decent (Taormina)
Metafiction that storytelling truth is often truer than the “real” truth and that people create and live their lives with the help of memory and imagination. “Thats what fiction is for. Its for getting at the truth when the truth isnt sufficient for the truth.” (O’Brien)
National Book Award in fiction - Going After Cacciato Frances Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger - The Things They Carried Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize - The Things They Carried Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award - The Things They Carried James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians - In The Lake of the Woods Named best novel of the year by Time magazine - In The Lake of the Woods
National Magazine Award - short story: The Things They Carried Included in The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike - short story: The Things They Carried
American Academy of Arts and Letters Guggenheim Foundation National Endowment for the Arts.
"A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil. "