The Things Tim O’Brien Carries

Question: What things do you carry?


Tim O’Brien: What do I carry? \r\n I carry a lot of years that I feel, that are—and that’s not\r\nall bad, it’s partly bad.  I\r\ncarry—what I think will probably come through in this talk we’ve had \r\ntoday is\r\nprobably a delight in doing what I do, and a belief in doing what I do, \r\nalong\r\nwith a sadness about doing what I do. \r\nAnd because two decades later, I’m fielding questions about war \r\nthat I\r\nfielded all those years ago.  I\r\nsay, oh my God, you know, it’s sort of back where we were and then \r\nsome—that,\r\nthat feels like a tangible burden. \r\nBut I carry with me these two kids that I mentioned, and even \r\nthough\r\nthey are not physically here, they’re all around me and the person I’ve\r\nbecome.  And they’re living inside\r\nme.  And I carry a slight, but\r\npalpable, feel of obligation to do justice to the savagery I witnessed \r\nand the\r\nsenselessness of it and the sadness of it.  And \r\nthat sense of obligation is with me, especially on\r\noccasions like this one where we’re trying to talk lucidly about this\r\nstuff.  To do justice to Chip, my\r\nbuddy, and for the ghosts of the dead Vietnamese and dead Americans and\r\nespecially their mothers and dads who are still bearing the burden—even \r\nthough\r\ntheir kids are long dead, I doubt they go to sleep many nights without \r\nsome\r\npoor woman in Orlando remembering her son of 40 years ago that she never\r\n got to\r\never hold again.  And that’s a\r\npretty solemn obligation.

Recorded March 22, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen

What burdens does the author of "The Things They Carried" still bear?

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