700 Sundays by Billy Crystal must be an absolutely astounding audio book because I can’t imagine what it must have taken to beat out Bryan Cranston’s reading of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. I was so convinced it was award worthy that I went looking it up and was sadly disappointed. This audio experience was one of the most affecting I’ve experienced, and Cranston’s work is simply masterful.
Tim O’Brien, through the way he weaves his narrative as beautifully read by Cranston (I know I’m going on about it, it was THAT good), tells us the story of the emotional truth of Vietnam. O’Brien covers the territory of his own experience, and also what we ask of soldiers in general during war. But perhaps even more meaningfully, O’Brien is telling to story of how people process the various things we all find ourselves dealing with in our lives – he’s simply using the war as the lens through which to tell his varied stories and observations.
I was struck with the craft of O’Brien’s work. The way in which he embraces creative non-fiction to unpack the multiple ideas of truth really spoke to me. The general structure of the book has O’Brien relating one set of events to us, and then in the next section approaching those same events from another angle, telling the reader where he may have lied in order to get at the broader truth, but then progressing the narrative until he finds us at another place where he is telling us the creative non-fiction version of events, and backtracking once again.
And the first chapter in the book, the literal things they carried, sets the mood perfectly for what is to follow. You should read this book, if you haven’t.