I first ran across The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, during my junior college Introduction to Literature course where we read the first chapter. I was unaffected. Most likely I wasn’t mature enough to appreciate what I was reading at the time. However, to my credit, as an adult I bought the book and it resonated with me, so much so that it’s become one of my favorite works.
The Things They Carried is a collection of essays written by a Vietnam veteran. We learn about the author’s experiences fighting in the war, being drafted, returning home, his childhood, and even revisiting Nam later. It’s not a particularly long book, but it does an incredible job of capturing the experience. Continue reading “7. The Things They Carried”
Imagine you’re watching someone draw. The artist starts with a few black lines and shapes. He fills in more detail, adds new lines, and reshapes space. He reveals something new, only to go back and fleshes out the picture, adding extra features. He shifts angles, starts to add in color, and little by little the drawing becomes complete. At the end, you’re left speechless.
This is how Catch-22 works. The story is nonlinear, and the reader gets large pieces of story or little bits here and there. The tale has a habit of doubling back on itself and meeting up with old narratives. Each new passage adds a greater understanding to the whole story. Continue reading “8. Catch-22”
A 1954 memoir, The Family Nobody Wanted is more than it appears to be on the surface. The story follows a childless couple, Carl and Helen Doss as they pursue their callings and dreams. As a businessman in the Great Depression, Carl feels called to sell his new painting company, at a loss, so he can go to school and become a pastor. Meanwhile, Helen longs to adopt.
The young couple does both. Carl goes to seminary, and though poor, the Dosses adopt their first child. Then, in the process of trying to adopt again, they discover that there is a category of orphan that nobody wants. Certain mixed ethnicity children (for instance, Chinese/Japanese) aren’t wanted by either people group. Consequently, the Dosses compassionately start building this incredibly racially diverse family, as they adopted one unwanted child after another. Continue reading “9. The Family Nobody Wanted”
Most people recognize E. B. White for Charlotte’s Web or Stuart Little, books I read as a child that simply don’t interest me all that much as an adult. Essays of E. B. White is something entirely different.
I started writing nonfiction during my senior year in college, which is where I took note of White’s essays. At the same time, my classmates in my nonfiction writing classes kept drawing parallels between my writing and E. B. White’s. I rather ignorantly disagreed; I didn’t particularly like or understand White’s essays. However, I kept my copy of Essays of E. B. White after my classes finished. Continue reading “10. Essays of E. B. White”