Tim O'Brien (William Timothy O'Brien) Biography
(1946– ), (William Timothy O'Brien), Washington Post;
American novelist and journalist, born in Austin, Minnesota, educated at Malacaster College, Minnesota, and Harvard. O'Brien served with the US Army in Vietnam. Wounded and discharged in 1970, he subsequently became a reporter on the Washington Post; many of his journalistic pieces were collected in If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home (1973; revised 1979). Written from the perspective of an ordinary foot-soldier, these articles and his fictional works boldly confront the truth about Vietnam and vividly portray some of its worst aspects. Going After Cacciato (1978; National Book Award) is among the most outstanding fictional narratives of the Vietnam War. Narrated by a foot-soldier, Paul Berlin, the novel interweaves his horrific memories over the preceding five months with the imaginary adventures of a group of soldiers in pursuit of the deserter Cacciato in an epic journey across Asia and Europe to the Paris Peace Talks. This fusion of reality and fantasy is again used to great effect in The Things They Carried (1990). Other works of fiction include Northern Lights (1975), which explores the relationship of two brothers, one a veteran of Vietnam, who find themselves in the hostile environment of Arrowhead country in Minnesota; The Nuclear Age (1981), concerning a middle-aged man's paranoia about nuclear war; and In the Lake of the Woods (1994). See also Vietnam Writing.
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