Every so often I take the liberty of writing a blog post that has nothing to do with photography. This is one of those times.
I recently finished reading a book by Tim O’Brien entitled The Things They Carried. It is ostensibly a book about the war in Vietnam. But it really isn’t. It is a book about war in general, except it really isn’t that either. It gets closer to say it is a book about what it is like emotionally to be a soldier in a war, but it really goes deeper than that as well. To me it is a book about dealing with the unfathomable, not only in war, but in life. And thus there are some personal, non-war related aspects of the author’s life mixed in among the remembrances of war. But these blend perfectly and seamlessly into the narrative.
Take for example when his first ‘girlfriend’ died of a brain tumor when both he and she were the tender age of nine. O’Brien dealt with it by visiting her in his dreams. His mother was concerned when he consistently wanted to go to bed early. Of course, she couldn’t know that he was going to bed to visit her in his dreams, where she was very much alive.
During one of the dreams he asks the girl what it is like to be dead and she thinks that this is a silly question.
She smiled and said “Do I look dead?”
I told her no, she looked terrific. I waited a moment, then asked again, and Linda made a soft little sigh. I could smell our wool mittens drying on the stove.
“Well, right now,” she said “I’m not dead. But when I am, it’s like…….I don’t know, I guess it’s like being inside a book that nobody’s reading”.
“A book?” I said.
“An old one. It’s up on a library shelf, so you’re safe and everything, but the book hasn’t been checked out for a long, long time. All you can do is wait. Just hope somebody’ll pick it up and start reading.”
Lest you think the book is morbid, it’s not. It is a book that has been highly acclaimed by an author who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. I was initially attracted to it because I am old enough to to have lived through the Vietnam war with memories of it nightly on the TV news, but young enough not to have had to go. But again, it really isn’t about Vietnam. It is a very worthwhile read. In fact, I am now starting to look into O’Brien’s other books. The Things They Carried……highly recommended!