The Big Read Blog (Archive)


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#6 by Jorge Miente via Flickr ( / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

 Three of the novels in The Big Read library are composed of interlinked stories: Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club, Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, and Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. Here's O'Brien's gem of an explanation (as you'll see, pun intended) on the structure of his novel.

I wanted to have self-contained stories; I think all chapters of books ought to be, anyway.  You shouldn't just arbitrarily end a chapter and say, "Well, continue it."  There has to be some sense of resolution. . . And yet, I wanted each section or story to receive the light of other stories the way it would in a necklace.  Or one gemstone would receive the light of the ruby next to it.  And that would receive the light of the diamond and other rubies.  So that although they are meant to stand alone, and one would hope you could appreciate the story on its own, it seems to me that in the end, you aim ambitiously for what  writers worth their salt aim at. . .making a book of art of some sort.  And that's the sense of pieces being in position so that they can reflect.  That was a big part of putting [The Things They Carried] together and deciding what to write.  So that pieces are capable of not just reflecting, but absorbing the light of other pieces.

Where are they reading The Things They Carried or another Big Read title near you? Check The Big Read calendar to find out.

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