Author Tim O’Brien, whose book “The Things They Carried” is the focus of the Big Read Holland Area throughout November, will speak candidly about war and loss on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 7 p.m. at The Commons of Evergreen.
The public is invited. Admission is free.
O’Brien’s talk has been scheduled by the Big Read Holland Area in partnership with the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series of Hope College. The Big Read Holland Area is developed around the theme “An entire community reading one book together.”
“The Things They Carried” is a semi-autobiographical account of O’Brien’s experiences during the Vietnam War. Published in 1990, the book is a collection of short stories that follow a platoon of infantrymen through the jungles of Vietnam.
A multiple award-winner, the novel has sold more than two million copies and has been translated into several languages. In 2005 “The Things They Carried” was named by the New York Times as one of the 22 best books of the last quarter century. It received the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award in fiction and was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. The French edition of “The Things They Carried” received one of France’s most prestigious literary awards, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. The title story from “The Things They Carried” received the National Magazine Award and was selected by John Updike for inclusion in “The Best American Short Stories of the Century.”
Raised in Minnesota, O’Brien graduated from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1968, with a degree in political science. He was drafted and served as a foot soldier in the 46th Infantry Regiment from 1969 to 1970, and was sent home with a Purple Heart after he was wounded by shrapnel in a grenade attack.
He first wrote about his war experiences in the memoir “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home,” published in 1973 while he pursued graduate studies in government at Harvard University. He subsequently was a national affairs reporter for The Washington Post for a year before turning to writing full-time.
His novels have sold more than three and a half million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages. He received the National Book Award in Fiction in 1979 for his novel “Going After Cacciato.” “In the Lake of the Woods,” published in 1994, was chosen by Time magazine as the best novel of that year. The book also received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was selected as one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times.
In 2010, O’Brien received the Katherine Anne Porter Award, presented by the American Academy of Arts and Letters for a distinguished lifetime body of work. He received the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation in 2012, and the Lifetime Achievement award from the Pritzker Military Library in 2013.
His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic, Esquire, Playboy, Harper’s, and numerous editions of “The O. Henry Prize Stories” and “The Best American Short Stories.”
The Big Read Holland Area is funded through a grant to Hope through the Big Read initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Arts Midwest. Herrick District Library is the primary area partner with Hope, with others including the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, Branch Capital Management, and several other area schools, churches, businesses and other community organizations.
Multiple area organizations have organized discussion groups for community members who have read the book, and classes in several area schools are participating as well. The public events, intended for all ages from teen through adult, began with an opening celebration and lecture at Hope on Monday, Nov. 2, and are continuing through O’Brien’s presentation.
O’Brien will also visiting a creative writing class at the college and will be addressing Hope students and high school students during an event at Hope earlier in the day on Thursday, Nov. 19. Tickets were distributed in advance for the latter event, which is sold out.
More information about the Big Read Holland Area and “The Things They Carried,” including a complete schedule with street addresses and a list of all partner organizations, is available online at blogs.hope.edu/TheBigRead.
Evergreen is located at 480 State St., in the “Y” formed by State Street and Michigan Avenue between 19th and 21st streets.