This evening I heard Tim O'Brien read an excerpt from The Things They Carried. It's been around for twenty years, and to celebrate the anniversary he did a reading at Barnes and Noble in Union Square. He wore a baseball cap and read a chapter from the book slowly for about eight minutes, then he read a letter from a 26 year old woman. It recounted, simply and elegantly, how his book had brought her and her father together. Time O'Brien started to cry as he finished reading.
I encountered a story from this book in a college English class. The book is a series of connected short stories about a platoon in the Vietnam War. It's been awhile since I read it, but I remember that it's a harrowing and brutal and eloquent book. Reading the title story may have been when I really fell in love not just with books, but with writing.
I brought my copy thinking I could get Tim O'Brien to sign it, but had to leave early to so I could go to class. At home I opened the book and found that it was already signed. I had forgotten that my friend, Chase, had given me a signed copy as a gift one year. One of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever been given. I need to read this book again.