Tim O’Brien Gets to the Emotional Core at Politics and Prose

Yesterday, I spent a great deal of time at work reading since I was waiting for the seven o’clock hour to arrive when I would get to see the “great” Tim O’Brien speak at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.  Suffice to say, I’m nearly finished another book, got to eat at Chipotle — which I sorely miss from my days in downtown Bethesda — and made it to the reading for the 20th anniversary of O’Brien’s The Things They Carry with little time to spare — let’s just say there were only a couple of seats that were still empty, one of which was snatched by an older gentlemen and promptly moved to the front of the room for him to sit in.

Once there, we waited for O’Brien, who was not on time, though I would blame the D.C. traffic for that one.  But I did catch a glimpse of him in the P&P office drinking a beverage.

By this point I’m sure you’ve guessed that I purchased my copy of the new edition of the novel, which by the way was re-edited by O’Brien and reworked — something we learned during the Q&A when a teacher asked about the differences her students found in their varying editions.

O’Brien began the reading with a letter he received from “Nancy” (he changed her name) that talked about the power his books had emotionally for her family, particularly for her father, a Vietnam War Vet.  In the letter, Nancy explained how sharing the books with her father enabled him to open up to her about his time in Vietnam and ultimately it helped to repair his relationship with not only his daughter but his wife as well.  O’Brien was emotional while reading the letter and talked about how as an author, he simply wanted to tell a good story and that he had no intention of writing something that could repair families or have other emotional consequences.  He also talked about how books, particularly fiction, affect the entire human being, not just the mind.

Although he did not read from the book, he did talk a lot about his children (ages 4 and 6) and about his own trip back to Vietnam in 1994.  It was great to see the more personal side of the author, and I wonder if returning to D.C. on such a momentous literary occasion helped foster is emotional and more personal connection with the audience.

I’ll leave you with a photo my hubby took of me getting the 20th Anniversary edition signed by the author!  If you would like to see the other photos in the set, go here.

Has any author left you in awe after a reading?


Also check out this link from his discussion on Talk of the Nation:

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