Following up on the conversations they held among themselves and with faculty and staff discussion leaders, incoming students at Ithaca College will have the opportunity to hear from the author whose work was selected for this year's First-Year Reading Initiative. Tim O'Brien, whose 1990 book The Things They Carried is a powerful testament to the men who risked their lives in the Vietnam War, will talk about his book on Thursday, September 8. The local community is also invited to hear O'Brien's free public presentation, which will take place at 7:00 p.m. in the Emerson Suites, Phillips Hall.
A finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Things They Carried is part novel, part memoir, and part short-story collection reflecting on O'Brien's experiences during and after the Vietnam War. It depicts the men of Alpha Company, including the character of O'Brien himself, who has survived his tour of duty to become a father and writer at the age of 43. The narrative raises intriguing questions on the connections between past and future, between memory and imagination.
After graduating in 1968 from Macalester College, O'Brien was drafted and served as a foot soldier in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Upon leaving the military he pursued graduate studies in government at Harvard University and was a national affairs reporter for the Washington Post. In 1973 he published his first memoir, If I Die in a Combat Zone -- one of the earliest books about Vietnam by a combatant--and in 1978 his Going after Cacciato won the National Book Award. O'Brien is currently serving as a writer in residence at Texas State University, San Marcos.
More information on The Things They Carried and related resources is available at First-Year Reading Initiative, a website put together by the College library and the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies.
In addition to O'Brien's talk, two programs will be held to further the discussion on issues raised by The Things They Carried. Both are free and open to the public:
Monday, September 12
7:00 p.m., Park Hall Auditorium
"Dismantling War: World War II, Vietnam, Iraq"
Disc jockey, video jockey, and digital artist Art Jones will offer a multi-screen live remix presentation that will extend the discussion on war and memory, with assistance from faculty members Barbara Dybbwad, Simon Tarr, and Changhee Chun. The program is offered in collaboration with the Human Studies Film Archive of the Smithsonian Institute.
Thursday, September 15
7:00 p.m., Klingenstein Lounge, Egbert Hall
"War and Propaganda"
Thomas Bohn, currently director of the Ithaca College Washington Semester Program and formerly the longtime dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications, will examine propaganda and war in historical and cultural terms using examples from major American conflicts.
The programs are sponsored by the Division of Interdisciplinary and International Studies.