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26 July 1990
The things they carried 
by Tim​ O’Brien.
Collins, 255 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 00 223603 6
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... 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 ...
22 June 1995
Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Tim​ Page.
Touchstone, 248 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 0 671 71926 2
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In the Lake of the Woods 
by Tim​ O’Brien.
Flamingo, 306 pp., £5.99, April 1995, 0 00 654395 2
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In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam 
by Robert McNamara.
Random House, 432 pp., $27.50, April 1995, 0 8129 2523 8
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... recently published books whose central themes revolve around Vietnam, the war and its consequences. Each, in his own way, is introducing us to his own ghosts. Two, former British war photographer Tim Page and former American grunt Tim O’Brien, face the darkness squarely. The third, former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, merely pretends to. In his own way, however, each writer tells the ...

Nuclear Fiction

D.A.N. Jones

8 May 1986
The Nuclear Age 
by Tim​ O’Brien.
Collins, 312 pp., £10.95, March 1986, 0 00 223015 1
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Acts of Faith 
by Hans Koning.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 9780575037441
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A Funny Dirty Little War 
by Osvaldo Soriano, translated by Nick Caistor.
Readers International, 108 pp., £7.95, March 1986, 0 930523 17 2
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Maps 
by Nuruddin Farah.
Picador, 246 pp., £3.50, March 1986, 0 330 28710 9
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Tennis and the Masai 
by Nicholas Best.
Hutchinson, 176 pp., £8.95, March 1986, 0 09 163770 8
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Dear Shadows 
by Max Egremont.
Secker, 310 pp., £9.95, March 1986, 0 436 14160 4
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... scale warfare by the threat of international escalation. Acts of Faith, Hans Koning’s scenario, warns of a danger of global nuclear war arising from the Hispanic connections of the United States. Tim O’Brien’s more discursive narrative, The Nuclear Age, breaks out in desperate little cries, like: ‘Beirut was a madhouse. The graveyards were full ... ’ This narrator is not really concerned ...

In Praise of Student-Teacher Attraction

Cristina Nehring: Francine Prose

29 November 2001
Blue Angel 
by Francine Prose.
Allison and Busby, 314 pp., £12.99, June 2001, 0 7490 0580 7
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... harassment – in other words, with teacher-student (or teacher-staff) romance. Not only Roth and Coetzee, but John L’Heureux with The Handmaid of Desire, Charles Baxter with A Feast of Love and Tim O’Brien with Tomcat in Love. Even Angela Argo is writing a novel about a teacher-student affair. She is writing it for Swenson’s class. And as she writes it, she lives it, art preceding life. It ...
22 February 1996
... is the difference between these two sequences: 14 24 33 38 42 47 and 14 17 22 24 42 47? The answer, in this case, is life and death. The first sequence represents the numbers played every week by Tim O’Brien and Steve Sumner until O’Brien’s death last June. The second sequence is the one that came up the night before he died. O’Brien had forgotten to renew his ticket and, believing he had ...

Several Doses of Wendy

Robert Baird: David Means

10 August 2016
Hystopia 
by David Means.
Faber, 352 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 33011 9
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... have all of these folks drifting around with the pivotal point of their lives buried, not sure if they should be digging around.’ In this respect, the novel lives in the long shadow of Pat Barker, Tim O’Brien and especially Ernest Hemingway, who is credited by Singleton with capturing ‘a new way of thinking and speaking that came from what was left out, from the things war had demolished and ...

Clutching at Railings

Jonathan Coe: Late Flann O’Brien

23 October 2013
Plays and Teleplays 
by Flann O’Brien, edited by Daniel Keith Jernigan.
Dalkey, 434 pp., £9.50, September 2013, 978 1 56478 890 0
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The Short Fiction of Flann O’Brien 
edited by Neil Murphy and Keith Hopper.
Dalkey, 158 pp., £9.50, August 2013, 978 1 56478 889 4
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... than most, involving a plot to keep the Irish from emigrating to America by turning all its land over to sago cultivation in order to prevent another famine. The hero is a diffident young man called Tim Hartigan, into whose mind we are allowed entry, as in the following passage: The forenoon passed quickly and it was about two o’clock in the early autumn day when Tim sat down to his heaped dinner ...
22 August 1996
A Perfect Execution 
by Tim​ Binding.
Picador, 344 pp., £15.99, May 1996, 0 330 34564 8
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... Tim Binding is a confident writer. His paragraphs, lengthy but under control, take swift possession of the thick sheaf of pages, imposing form. The narrative voice is modestly assertive. There is a tale ...

Purple Days

Mark Ford

12 May 1994
The Pugilist at Rest 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 17134 6
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The Sorrow of War 
by Bao Ninh, translated by Frank Palmos.
Secker, 217 pp., £8.99, January 1994, 0 436 31042 2
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A Good Scent from Strange Mountain 
by Robert Olen Butler.
Minerva, 249 pp., £5.99, November 1993, 0 7493 9767 5
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Out of the Sixties: Storytelling and the Vietnam Generation 
by David Wyatt.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £35, February 1994, 9780521441513
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... are normally told by survivors about others – friends or enemies – who didn’t make it. Often the story itself becomes part of the process of surviving. One of the purest examples of this is Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Man I Killed’, a preternaturally lucid description of a young Vietnamese soldier blown up by the narrator’s grenade. O’Brien’s precise, almost entranced detailing of the ...

Sheeped

Julian Loose

30 January 1992
The Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Alfred Birnbaum.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 241 13144 8
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... and his novels sell in unimaginable millions. In addition to six novels and six volumes of collected short stories, he is an industrious translator of the likes of John Irving, Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien and Scott Fitzgerald. Once the owner of a jazz bar who only had time to write in the small hours, he is now such a cult figure that there are even translations of his novels, complete with ...

Going Postal

Zachary Leader

5 October 1995
The Paperboy 
by Pete Dexter.
Viking, 307 pp., £15, May 1995, 0 670 86066 2
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Third and Indiana 
by Steve Lopez.
Viking, 305 pp., £10.99, April 1995, 0 670 86132 4
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... that as a reporter for the Oakland Tribune and the San Jose Mercury. Third and Indiana, his first novel, arrives garlanded with praise both from Dexter (‘Clean. Hard in all the right ways’) and Tim O’Brien, but Lopez is no Dexter. To begin with, he’s less original, in both subject matter and treatment. Gabriel Santoro, the novel’s 14-year-old protagonist, is a crack dealer in inner-city ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... of counter-narratives of British poetry. We will not find, on the one hand, poets such as J.H. Prynne and Iain Sinclair, or (apart from Roy Fisher) any of the poets collected in Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville’s 1987 anthology, A Various Art. Nor, at the other end of the spectrum, will we find poets such as Peter Robinson, Robert Wells or Clive Wilmer, or the Carcanet poets from the days when ...

Get a Real Degree

Elif Batuman: Down with Creative Writing

23 September 2010
The Programme Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing 
by Mark McGurl.
Harvard, 480 pp., £25.95, April 2009, 978 0 674 03319 1
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... US: a paradoxically enabling disablement’. ‘Almost all artistically ambitious authors in the postwar period “self-commodify” in this sense,’ McGurl continues, inviting us to ‘think of Tim O’Brien and his lifelong use of nine months in Vietnam.’ Indeed, think of Tim O’Brien. As a White Person, he couldn’t write about most of his life experience, which was probably just like ...

Merely an Empire

David Thomson: Eighteen Hours in Vietnam

20 September 2017
The Vietnam War 
directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
PBS, ten episodes
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... of his wounds. He is now a poet and a spokesman for veterans. We feel his romantic recklessness, as he tries to reconcile what happened to him with what he wished had happened. Another witness, Tim O’Brien (author of Going after Cacciato and The Things They Carried), has been a success in life, but is so anguished still that he has difficulty looking at the camera. Musgrave, on the other hand ...

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