THE THINGS THEY CARRIED
by Tim O'Brien; Houghton Mifflin 273 pages; $19.95
Tim O'Brien once said he would never have become a writer had it not been for his combat experiences in Viet Nam. Maybe so. For better or worse, he is fated to write about what he knows: the foot soldier's intimacy with fear and death. He did it well in If I Die in a Combat Zone (1973), and even better in Going After Cacciato (1978).
The Things They Carried returns O'Brien to Viet Nam through a series of sketches and stories that can be loosely read as an...