Critical Insights: Tim O'Brien Review

“Critical Insights: Tim O’Brien presents a thorough analysis of the writer many consider to be the voice of the Vietnam generation. Author of many essays, articles, and works of fiction, he is perhaps recognized most as the author of The Things They Carried, a book notable for its unique style and impactful content.

This volume first discusses Tim O’Brien via the approach to his work as a scholar, his early small Midwestern town upbringing, and his career‐fueling war experience as well as other biographical information. Four essays in the Critical Contexts section then set the stage for further analysis, examining, for example, popular culture at the time in which O’Brien came of age, and in Stefania Ciocia’s essay “Tim O’Brien, Ernest Hemingway and the Short Story Cycle Tradition,” the particular use of the short story medium.

The Critical Readings section then hosts 10 diverse essays consisting of two general overviews of O’Brien’s works, as well as essays focusing on particular pieces. In separate essays, Susan Farrell and Robert C. Evans take on The Things They Carried, discussing the book’s handling of trauma and its critical reception, respectively. Meanwhile, Derek C. Maus discusses the unhinged attitudes of the 1960’s in “Insanity and the Problem of Meaning in The Nuclear Age” while Owen Gilman, Jr,. compares O’Brien’s novel Lake of the Woods to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, examining the role of nature and use of narrative techniques.

A chronology of O’Brien’s life and a listing of his many works, followed by a select annotated bibliography and an index, attest to the profound respect this writer commands in contemporary American literary scholarship.”