Archive Page - 08/16/13 40 years, 2,168 covers and 54,870 stories from PEOPLE magazine's history for you to enjoy
- Lance Bass: I Want My Wedding to Be the Royal Wedding Meets the Met Ball
- Read the Cover Story: Family and Friends Remember Robin Williams
- British Man Claims to Have Spent $150K+ to Look Like Kim Kardashian
- Craig Ferguson Tells Why He Won't Cry on his Final Episode of Late Late Show
- 13 Reasons Bill Murray Had His Best Year Yet
On Newsstands Now
- Matthew McConaughey: In His Own Words
- Jessa Duggar's Wedding Album
- Brittany Maynard's Final Days
Pick up your copy on newsstands
Click here for instant access to the Digital Magazine
People Top 5
LAST UPDATE: Thursday December 18, 2014 03:10PM EST
PEOPLE Top 5 are the most-viewed stories on the site over the past three days, updated every 60 minutes
- May 14, 1979
- Vol. 11
- No. 19
Vietnam Grunt Tim O'brien Gets Decorated on the Literary Front
A powerful Vietnam novel, Cacciato was not without honor before its upset victory. Fragments, which began to appear in magazines in 1975, won two O. Henry awards, and upon the book's publication John Updike wrote in The New Yorker that O'Brien is "reaching toward a masterpiece."
He is also reaching back into personal experience. Tim was drafted after graduation from Minnesota's Macalester College in 1968 and sent to Vietnam. (His two prior books, If I Die in a Combat Zone and Northern Lights, also were influenced by his Nam experience.) "I was against the war, but going off to fight was tradition and obligation," he says. Once in combat he felt about as comfortable as Yossarian. When he arrived in boot camp, he notes, "I didn't know how to work a gun. I had a college education and figured they'd put me behind a typewriter. I guess I deceived myself." For eight months he was a foot soldier with the 198th Infantry Brigade. He received the Purple Heart after catching shrapnel near Mylai a year after the massacre, and eventually made sergeant.
To get through the daily horror and fear, O'Brien fantasized. "I would spend all my time imagining I wasn't there," he says. This is the stuff of the' picaresque Cacciato, and Paul Berlin, its antihero, escapes in his mind to Paris via Mandalay and Delhi. Is Berlin really O'Brien? "No, I am part of each character."
The author admires with reservations Vietnam movies like The Deer Hunter. "It's art, not real," he says. "I wanted a book that would make people feel the war." He began plotting his novel in 1973 while a graduate student in government at Harvard and by 1976 had decided to forgo the degree and complete the book, which went through 20 drafts. Tim and wife Ann, 30, a production manager at Sail magazine, still live in Cambridge, Mass. His distraction is golf—one endeavor in which he'd like to take on colleague Updike.
The son of an insurance salesman and a schoolteacher in "the turkey capital of the world," Worthington, Minn., O'Brien is "wiped out" by his sudden celebrity. "I'm not an ivory-tower writer," he shrugs. "I just wanted to write a good, kind of funny, kind of sad story. That's what I like to read."
December 18, 2014
Treat Yourself! 4 Preview Issues
The most buzzed about stars this minute!