9. If I Die in a Combat Zone: Box Me Up and Ship Me Home

by Tim O'Brien

This is a kick-ass memoir of a foot soldier's 1-year stint in Vietnam. It is O'Brien's first book, written soon after the war ended. My first exposure to his writing was a short story called "The Sweetheart of the Song Tro Bong," which was a powerful read as well.

I don't know. There is something about writing that tries to tell the truth that rings clearer, that stands out above the mountains of published bullshit. Sort of like Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, another author's attempt to write about the most painful experience of his life. Some things must be written.

I enjoyed O'Brien's style, which is a shifting back and forth between a frank, matter-of-fact voice and a contemplative, heartfelt one. The latter gave the effect of being in the guy's head while he trapsed through mine fields, seeing the incredible natural beauty about him that was also blowing his friends to bits each day. It is the inner discourse of a man who morally objected to the war but didn't have to will to run to Canada or the riches to buy a get-out-of-Nam-free card.

It is a good philosophical read. The more I learn about Vietnam, the more obviously insane the whole thing was.


Jarrett said...

did you read this book 2x?

I read The Things They Carried and absolutely loved it. I do want to read his other writings, but the effect upon me was so strong that I am still not ready for another O'Brien meal.

Crumbolst said...

No, just one read.

Lantzvillager said...

I read both of these and really liked them both as well. Although I thought Box Me Up is probably the better book.

I have this theory that most writers about Vietnam have , at the most, one really good book in them.