Saturday, August 23, 2003

This fall's pick for One Book, One Chicago is The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. There is a rumor floating around that this was a deliberate choice on the part of the Chicago Public Library as a way to get the city to start a conversation about war and opposition. Once again I've got to hand it to our libraries for being more gutsy than say our elected officials.

If you haven't read the book yet, now would be a good time. Don't buy it though. Check it out from the library.

From the title story:

They had no sense of strategy or mission. They searched the villages without knowing what to look for, not caring, kicking over jars of rice, frisking children and old men, blowing tunnels, sometimes setting fires and sometimes not, then forming up and moving on to the next village, then other villages, where it would always be the same. They carried their own lives. The pressures were enormous. In the heat of early afternoon, they would remove their helmets and flak jackets, walking bare, which was dangerous, but which helped ease the strain. They would often discard things along the route of the march. Purely for comfort, they would throw away rations, blow their Claymores and grenades, no matter, because by nightfall the resupply choppers would arrive with more of the same, then a day or two later still more, fresh sweaters—the resources were stunning—sparklers for the Fourth of July, colored eggs for Easter—it was the great American war chest—the fruits of science, the smokestacks, the canneries, the arsenals at Hartford, the Minnesota forests, the machine shops, the vast fields of corn and wheat—they carried like freight trains; they carried it on their backs and shoulders—and for all the ambiguities of Vietnam, all the mysteries and unknowns, there was at least the single abiding certainty that they would never be at a loss for things to carry.

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