Famed Novelist Tim O’Brien Speaks Feb. 6 at Gonzaga University Visiting Writers Series

January 24, 2017
SPOKANE, Wash. – Novelist Tim O’Brien, known for his work tapping into his experiences as a soldier in the Vietnam War, will read from his work at 7:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 6 in the Hemmingson Center Ballroom as part of the popular Gonzaga University Visiting Writers Series. Earlier that day, O’Brien will conduct a public question-and-answer session from 1:10-2 p.m. in the Hemmingson Auditorium.

O’Brien is best known for his work of fiction, “The Things They Carried” (1990), an acclaimed collection of semi-autobiographical, related stories inspired by his Vietnam War experiences, which was a finalist for the 1991 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. His novel, “Going After Cacciato” (1978), also about wartime Vietnam, is highly regarded as well. Gonzaga’s Center for Public Humanities is the primary sponsor of the event.

In an interview, O’Brien said he plans to discuss why he wrote “The Things They Carried,” what he was hoping to accomplish with it, and the genesis of the book. In particular, O’Brien said he will discuss “the life of the infantryman, the common foot soldier, and what it feels like emotionally, day by day, being caught up in a war – especially to be caught up in an unpopular and confusing one.” In addition, O’Brien said he will draw some parallels between Vietnam and current conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

O’Brien was born in 1946 Austin, Minnesota, and spent most of his youth in the small Minnesota town of Worthington. He graduated summa cum laude from Macalester College in 1968. From February 1969 to March 1970 he served as an infantryman with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, after which he pursued graduate studies in government at Harvard University. He worked as a national affairs reporter for The Washington Post from 1973 to 1974. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper’s, The Atlantic, Playboy, and Ploughshares, and in several editions of “The Best American Short Stories” and “The O. Henry Prize Stories.”

In 1987, O’Brien received the National Magazine Award for the short story, “The Things They Carried,” and in 1999 it was selected for inclusion in “The Best American Short Stories of the Century,” edited by John Updike. O’Brien is the recipient of literary awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has been elected to both the Society of American Historians and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. O’Brien currently holds the University Endowed Chair in Creative Writing at Texas State University. He lives with his wife and children in Austin, Texas.

This 2016-17 Visiting Writers Series began on Sept. 20 with a reading by Jenny Boully, followed by Gonzaga alumnus, writer, photographer and cook Jeff Koehler. Most recently, local authors Sharma Shields and Kris Dinnison read from their work during a co-presentation on Nov. 17. Following are the additional two series events this spring:

Lorna Dee Cervantes will read from her work at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28 in the Cataldo Hall Globe Room.

Brian Bedard will read from his work, along with winners of the annual Michael Gurian Writing Awards contest for Gonzaga students, at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 11 in the Jepson Center’s Wolff Auditorium.

Tod Marshall, English professor, award-winning poet, the Washington State Poet Laureate and the Robert K. and Ann Powers Chair of the Humanities at Gonzaga, organizes the Visiting Writers Series, which he started in 2007. All events in the series, are free and open to the public. In addition to Gonzaga’s Center for Public Humanities, this year’s series is also made possible in partnership with Gonzaga’s English department, Gonzaga’s Unity and Multicultural Education Center, Spokane Falls Community College, the Davenport Hotel, and the Gonzaga University Student Body Association.

For more information, please contact Tod Marshall at (509) 313-6681 or a marshall@gonzaga.edu.