Performed by Dylan Baker
A powerful fictional depiction of the reality of America’s doomed enterprise in Vietnam. It is the title story of a book in which O’Brien follows one platoon of grunts, and its fantastic literary conceit is that their experience can best be conveyed by detailed listings of the actual things that the men carried in their backpacks and pockets, and on their shoulders and necks. When the cataloging of these things makes the imaginative leap into a description of the less physical things they carried--to include such burdens as guilt, and fear, and memories--the piece earns its status as a great American short story.
This story appears on our download collection, Wartime Lives.