Friday, September 7, 2012
HOW TO TELL A WAR STORY
TIM O'BRIEN, National Book Award-winning author of "Going After Cacciato" and "The Things They Carried," wrestles with truth in all his fiction, and in this particular case examines truth in a war story:
In a true war story, if there's a moral at all, it's like the thread that makes the cloth. You can't tease it out. You can't extract the meaning without unraveling the deeper meaning. And in the end, really, there's nothing much to say about a true war story, except maybe "Oh." True war stories do not generalize. They do not indulge in abstraction or analysis.
For example: War is hell. As a moral declaration the old truism seems perfectly true, and yet because it abstracts, because it generalizes, I can't believe it with my stomach. Nothing turns inside.
It comes down to gut instinct. A true war story, if truly told, makes the stomach believe.