Seeing Curt Lemon blown up

James Wood

  • The things they carried by Tim O’Brien
    Collins, 255 pp, £12.95, May 1990, ISBN 0 00 223603 6

Tim O’Brien, who fought in Vietnam in 1968, went on to write two fine books: the memoir, If I die in a combat zone (1973), and the novel, Going after Cacciato (1979). This latest work, a collection of brusque but moving fictions about life in Vietnam, linked by autobiographical enquiries, has all the qualities of the first two books, the same hunger for fidelity. Going after Cacciato opened with a witness’s blasted catalogue, something between a lament and an army dispatch:

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