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Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This

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Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Things They Carried

“It’s time to be blunt.
I’m forty-three years old, true, and I’m a writer now, and a long time ago. I walked through Quang Ngai Province as a foot soldier.
Almost everything else is invented.
But it’s not a game. It’s a form. Right here, now, as I invent myself, I’m thinking of all I want to tell you about why this book is written as it is. For instance I want to tell you this: twenty years ago I watched a man die on a trail near the village of My Khe. I did not kill him. But I was present you see, and my presence was guilt enough. I remember his face, which was not a pretty face, because his jaw was in his throat, and I remember feeling the burden of responsibility and grief. I blamed myself. And rightly , because I was present.
But listen. Even that story is made up.” - Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried

I am sorry to lay it on you, and I am not a bit sorry at all. What else would I do as a responsible writer of fiction? Hear me: I am forty three years old. I am a writer now. But I did not walk through Quang Ngai. I did not watch a man die on a trail. But you can guess the ending. Even that story is made up.

And so if we want to write stories, and we do, then we better walk that trail, we better feel the burden of responsibility, and we sure as heck better blame ourselves. We are present.

Whatever you write about, write about the things they carried.

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