Author, Vietnam War veteran to read at UHV

Tim O’Brien
Tim O'Brien

A novelist who often writes about the Vietnam War and the effect it had on the American soldiers there will be the next speaker in the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review Spring Reading Series.

Tim O’Brien, winner of the National Book Award, will give a free talk beginning at noon on Thursday in the Alcorn Auditorium of UHV University West, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St. The talk is open to the public, and light refreshments will be served.

The Vietnam veteran will be reading from his book “The Things They Carried,” a work of fiction about a platoon of American soldiers in the Vietnam War and their relationships with each other and their loved ones. The book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and won the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger.

O’Brien also will be talking about where the book came from, why he wrote it as a fiction piece and why stories matter in people’s lives.

“There is something about a story that lets you become immersed in it,” O’Brien said. “If you like a book enough, you can picture yourself in that book and will root for the character.”

O’Brien earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., in 1968, the same year he was drafted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam. He served from 1969 to 1970. After that, he became a graduate student at Harvard University before leaving to become a newspaper reporter.

His writing career began in 1973 with the release of his memoir, “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home.” He has been called one of the best American writers about war.

“Being in Vietnam influenced my writing by making me acutely aware of the moral struggles people go through and the consequences of the choices they make,” he said.

O’Brien received that National Book Award in 1979 for his book “Going After Cacciato.” His novel “In the Lake of the Woods” won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction in 1995. He is the endowed chair of the Master of Fine Arts program at Texas State University.

“Chances are that if you were an undergraduate at any point in the last couple of decades, you read Tim O’Brien’s ‘The Things They Carried,’” said Uppinder Mehan, chair of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences Humanities Division. “Reading his stories provides an education about the horror and the banality of life as an ordinary soldier in the Vietnam War.”

Jeffrey Di Leo, editor and publisher of the American Book Review and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, encouraged community members to attend O’Brien’s talk.

“O’Brien is a remarkable writer who is well known in Texas and throughout the nation for his works about the psychological and emotional complexities of war,” he said. “We are looking forward to his visit.”

Other writers coming for the UHV/ABR Spring Reading Series are:

Percival Everett, March 8 – The author of nearly 20 novels, three collections of short fiction and two volumes of poetry, Everett is a prolific scribe whose themes have touched on everything from sports and westerns, to Greek mythology. The Los Angeles-based writer’s books include “Assumption,” “I Am Not Sidney Poitier,” “The Water Cure,” “Wounded” and “Her Dark Skin,” to name a few. “Swimming Swimmers Swimming” is his newest collection of poems out on Red Hen Press. Everett’s diverse interests also have seen him work as a musician, horse trainer and teacher. He has won the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Fiction and the New American Writing Award. His stories have been published in the “Pushcart Prize Anthology” and “Best American Short Stories.”

Wayne Miller, April 26 – Kansas City-based Miller is the author of three collections of poems, “The City, Our City,” “The Book of Props” and “Only the Senses Sleep.” He also works as an editor and translator of poetry, and he teaches at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, where he edits Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. Miller is the recipient of the George Bogin Award, the Lucille Medwick Award and the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America, as well as a Ruth Lilly Fellowship and the Bess Hokin Prize from the Poetry Foundation.

Authors who are part of the sixth year of the Spring Reading Series will attend roundtable discussions with UHV faculty and students, make classroom visits to area schools, give lectures open to the community, and go to receptions hosted by Friends of ABR patrons while they are in Victoria.

ABR, which started in 1977, is a nonprofit, internationally distributed literary journal that is published six times a year. The journal specializes in reviews of works published by small presses.

For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call Mehan at 361-570-4178 or go to

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler