Beautiful Writing, Part 6: Tim O’Brien

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(Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0.)

One of the most extraordinary books I have ever read is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. The book itself presents an interesting question: is this a novel or a collection of interrelated short stories? I do not intend to delve into that conundrum now, but it is something we often explore when I use this book in literature classes.

O’ Brien deals with the Vietnam War, writing, story, and memory, among other issues in this text, but what I want to show is the power and beauty of his writing. Following are several excerpts:

“Forty-three years old, and the war occurred half a life-time ago, and yet the remembering makes it now. And sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” (38)

“I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.” (179)

“I can see Kiowa, too, and Ted Lavender and Curt Lemon, and sometimes I can even see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights. I’m young and I’m happy. I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt between the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story.” (246)

Works Cited

O’ Brien, Tim. The Things They Carried. Broadway Books. New York. 1990.

 

 

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Quotations on Creativity

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“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

                                                                    Sylvia Plath

 

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“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

                                                                  Albert Einstein

 

George Bernard Shaw

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“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.”

                                                                 George Bernard Shaw

Quotations on Education

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“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

                                                                      Mahatma Gandhi

 

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“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

                                                                      Nelson Mandela

 

Margaret Mead (1972)

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“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

                                                                     Margaret Mead

Stephen King on Revision

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“To write is human, to edit is divine.”

“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”

 

“Your job during or just after the first draft is to decide what something or somethings yours is about. Your job in the second draft— one of them, anyway—is to make that something even more clear. This may necessitate some big changes and revisions. The benefits to you and your reader will be clearer focus and a more unified story. It hardly ever fails.”

 

All quotations are from

Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft

 

 

Quotations on Integrity

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“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters”

                                                                   Albert Einstein

 

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“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”

                                                                 Marcus Aurelius

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“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

                                                                Martin Luther King Jr.

Quotations on Thinking (Revisited)

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“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

                                                                             Socrates

 

 

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“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

                                                                              Albert Einstein

 

 

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“Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless of well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. It sees man, a feeble speck, surrounded by unfathomable depths of silence; yet it bears itself proudly, as unmoved as if it were lord of the universe. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man”

                           (Russell, Bertrand. Why Men Fight 178-9).

 

 

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“All good writing is inherently subversive.”

                                                                          Charles F. French

Quotations on Bigotry

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I have tried to keep political discussion and commentary out of my blogposts, but there are times that demand commentary. Since World War Two, the U.S. Military has lead the way in integration, and today was a step backwards. Bigotry is justified by a fear of change, and such thinking must be challenged.

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“What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”

                                                               Albert Einstein

 

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“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”

                                                   Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

 

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“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”

                                                  John E. Lewis