Tim O’Brien

Interviewed by DJ Bartel

Tim O’Brien showed up wearing his signature baseball cap. In photos, he always wears a baseball cap. It seems the cap is always Boston, but that day in Dodgerland, O’Brien’s baseball cap wore no insignia, and was beige. Once, long ago at Swanee, Tennessee, I saw Tim O’Brien (b.1946) read from his then-new book, a rock hard, poetic, meta-fictional account of the ghastly things soldiers must do, The Things They Carried. He wore a Red Sox cap. One wonders if he’s hiding male pattern baldness, but we won’t find out here. The cap never comes off.

While his earlier novel Going After Cacciato won the National Book Award, The Things They Carried has proved to be O’Brien’s most beloved and enduring work. Both books tell the bloody truth about soldiers fighting in an immoral war. Tim O’Brien is our Stephen Crane.

As a peacenik during the Vietnam War, I believed the worst that could happen to me was the draft. When I later read O’Brien’s books, they confirmed my belief. O’Brien was drafted, and assigned to 3rd Platoon Company A, 5th Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, which included the unit that committed the My Lai Massacre, but a year before O’Brien’s arrival.

He won a Purple Heart. He won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction. He won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award. He won the Pritzker Military Library Literature Award. And news of a new award won by Tim O’Brien reached me while he was on tour to promote the 20th Anniversary Edition of The Things They Carried, the day he showed up in a baseball cap. Listen.

DJ Bartel Interviews Tim O’Brien

1 – A Literary Ancestry – 02:57 Minutes

2 – A Naked Eye – 03:13 Minutes

3 – Art Elevates the Heart – 03:18 Minutes

4 – What Could Have Happened? – 04:25 Minutes

5 – An Incantation of Carry – 03:28 Minutes

6 – Tim O’Brien Reads From The Things They Carried – 03:21 Minutes