Cover

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Title Page, Series Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface

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pp. vii-viii

Widely regarded as the leading American novelist to emerge from this country’s war in Viet Nam, Tim O’Brien has produced numerous books, stories, and essays detailing the personal and cultural traumas generated by that conflict. O’Brien’s narratives famously insist on their “truth” not as a matter...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xii

My first glance at O’Brien’s papers came during a 2009 conference at the University of Texas organized by Matt Cohen, on “Race, Ethnicity, and the History of Books.” During a spare couple of hours, I pored through the records of revision, large and small, for Cacciato and Things. During...

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1. How (Not) to Tell a True Ghost Story

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pp. 1-30

This is true. “How to Tell a True War Story,” a pivotal chapter in The Things They Carried and Tim O’Brien’s defining statement of the kinds of truth that are possible in narratives of wartime trauma, in the end “wasn’t a war story. It was a love story” (Things 81; original emphasis). What had seemed...

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2. For Sake of a Dead Woman in If I Die in a Combat Zone

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pp. 31-58

The year before he left for the war in Viet Nam, as a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, O’Brien served as student body president and spent weekends campaigning door-to-door for Eugene McCarthy, sympathetic to the Minnesota senator’s pledge to end the war (Herzog, O’Brien 11). As...

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3. Tunneling through Revision Sites in Going After Cacciato

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pp. 59-79

After completing Northern Lights and his year-long stint as a Washington Post reporter, O’Brien began working on Going After Cacciato in 1975, leaving Harvard the following year, as an ABD student. Three chapters appeared in periodical form in 1975: “Going After Cacciato” in Ploughshares, “Landing...

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4. Speaking of Character

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pp. 80-105

“Speaking of Courage” first appeared in the summer 1976 issue of the Massachusetts Review, focusing on a postwar Paul Berlin, who drives in slow circles around the lake in his Iowa hometown, imagining conversations with his father about the time “he’d almost won the Silver Star for valor” (246). The...

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5. The Real The Things They Carried

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pp. 106-138

Like all of O’Brien’s books except Northern Lights, The Things They Carried began its public life in magazines, appearing both in more commercial venues, such as Esquire (which ran five stories), McCall’s, Playboy, and GQ, as well as more intellectual journals, such as Granta and the Quarterly (edited at the...

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6. “Read a different book”: Annotating Hidden Histories in In the Lake of the Woods

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pp. 139-158

Addressing the Society of American Historians in 1995, upon winning the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for In the Lake of the Woods, O’Brien noted that his new novel’s “dramatic focus . . . is on the 504 murders committed by American soldiers on March 16, 1968, at the little hamlet of Tu Cung in Quang...

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7. “Along comes ’69”: Reading July, July between Magazine and Book

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pp. 159-186

July, July, O’Brien’s last novel (so far) “has been excerpted in both The New Yorker and Esquire,” the inside back flap notes in the first edition, at the conclusion of O’Brien’s biographical summary.1 This detail drops away in the book’s paperback reprints, though they retain the copyright page statement...

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8. Traumatic Textualities in Recent American War Fiction

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pp. 187-196

As the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have reached their official ends, still stretching unofficially into an unknown future, a substantial literature has begun to emerge from those conflicts, by veterans, civilians, correspondents, and military spouses, in the United States and around the world. This body...

Notes

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pp. 197-226

Works Cited

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pp. 227-248

Index

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pp. 249-259