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Novelist Tim O’Brien to Speak at Appalachian on Sept. 5

062102obrian_dl.jpgBOONE–Novelist Tim O’Brien will address students, faculty and staff during Appalachian State University’s fall convocation on Thursday, Sept. 5. The program begins at 10 a.m. in the Holmes Convocation Center. The public is welcome.O’Brien is the author of

“The Things They Carried,” this year’s selection for the university’s summer reading program. All incoming freshmen received a copy of O’Brien’s book to read during the summer and were invited to participate in small group discussions prior to the start of classes for the 2002-03 academic year.

The book title refers to the personal items soldiers carried with them during the Vietnam War. It tells the story of the members of Alpha Company who were killed and those who survived the war.

O’Brien, a Minnesota native, was a soldier in Vietnam from 1969-70. He was drafted into the U.S. Army’s Fifth Battalion Forty-Sixth Infantry following graduation from college.

Involved in anti-war demonstrations, he remembers the time prior to being drafted as “a horrid, confused, traumatic period-the trauma of deciding whether or not to go to Canada.” But the prospect of separation from family and friends, and alienation from the country he knew, resulted in his service with the army from January 1969 to March 1970. In a terse summary of his time in Vietnam O’Brien says, “I was a coward. I went to war.”

He received the Military Order of the Purple Heart in 1970. The medal is presented to soldiers wounded in combat.

Known as a “Vietnam writer,” O’Brien says, “In a general sense, all of my books are about betrayal and loss of faith. Vietnam is an example. I mean you go over there with all these naive ideas, believing in country and your president and your fellow man, and you find yourself disillusioned in important ways….And that’s my terrain as a writer, that sense of loss.”

“The Things They Carried” received France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Award. His other works include “Northern Lights,” “Going After Cacciato” and “Tomcat in Love.”

O’Brien is a writer in residence in Southwest Texas State University’s creative writing program.

In addition to his presentation at convocation, other activities associated with the reading program include a panel discussion with O’Brien in I.G. Greer Auditorium Sept. 5 at 1:30 p.m. and a reading and book signing in Grandfather Mountain Ballroom at 7:30 p.m.

On Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. O’Brien will talk about the writing process during a presentation in the Linville Falls Room in Plemmons Student Union.

To encourage others in the Watauga County area to read the book, a series of community events has been planned.

A panel of Vietnam veterans will speak at Watauga County Public Library Aug. 27 at 7 p.m.

O’Brien will participate in a reading and book signing at Watauga County Public Library Sept. 6 at 2 p.m.

Caldwell Community College’s Watauga Division will host the program “Music of the Vietnam Era” in Room 112 at 7 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Watauga campus.

Discussions focusing on the theme “The Ideas We Carry” will be held Sept. 10 and 11 in Plemmons Student Union’s Linville Falls Room at Appalachian. They are as follows:

On Sept. 10, history professors Michael Wade and James Winders will discuss “Popular Music During the Vietnam Era” from 2-2:50 p.m. Sociology professor Fred Milano will discuss “Women in Vietnam” from 3-3:50 p.m., and counseling center director Dan Jones will present “War and Trauma” from 4-4:50 p.m.

Presentations on Sept. 11 are “Art and War” with art professor Nancy Sokolov from 2-2:50 p.m. and “Responses to War: College Campuses, Vietnam and Sept. 11″ with psychology professor Skip Beck, military science professor Robert Speir and anthropology professor Gregory Reck from 3-4:25 p.m.