On the strength of a National Book Award for his novel Going After Cacciato (1978) and a widely acclaimed short-story cycle, The Things They Carried (1990), Tim OÃ¢ÂÂBrien (b. 1946) cemented his reputation as one of the most compelling chroniclers of VietnamÃ¢ÂÂand, in the process, was cast as a Ã¢ÂÂVietnam writer.Ã¢ÂÂ But to confine OÃ¢ÂÂBrien to a single piece of ground or a particular style is to ignore the broad sweep of a career spanning nearly four decades.
In addition to detailed discussions of all of OÃ¢ÂÂBrienÃ¢ÂÂs workÃ¢ÂÂa memoir, If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973), and seven books of fictionÃ¢ÂÂthe sixteen interviews and profiles in Conversations with Tim OÃ¢ÂÂBrien explore common themes, with subtle differences. Looming large is the experience of Vietnam and its influence as well as OÃ¢ÂÂBrienÃ¢ÂÂs youth in Minnesota and the expectations of a Midwestern upbringing. Interviews allowed the writer to fully examine the shifting boundaries of truth and identity, memory, and imagination in fiction, the role of war in society; gender issues; and the craft of writing. OÃ¢ÂÂBrien approaches each of these topics and a host of others with a directness and an evident passion that will resonate with both readers and prospective writers.
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