Read In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien Free Online
Book Title: In the Lake of the Woods|
The author of the book: Tim O'Brien
Edition: Mariner Books
Date of issue: September 1st 2006
ISBN 13: 9781616848507
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 27.43 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.2
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Looks real black and white now – very clear – but back then everything came at you in bright colors. No sharp edges. Lots of glare. A nightmare like that, all you want is to forget. None of it ever seemed real in the first place.
In The Lake of the Woods holds a special place in my memory. I first read it about sixteen years ago in a stifling un-air-conditioned and over-crowded classroom, and with all my 90s angst I was prime for it to get under my skin. It was the first time that I realized there were books out there that weren’t just about what they were about. After Lake, I sought out different books and expected more of them. Looking back at my age, gender, and disposition, perhaps it should’ve been Esther Greenwood who first spoke to me - that certainly would’ve been a more comforting stereotype. As it were, for better or for worse, it was John Wade.
At the funeral he wanted to kill everybody who was crying and everybody who wasn’t. He wanted to take a hammer and crawl into the casket and kill his father for dying…..At school when the teachers told him how sorry they were that he’d lost his father, he understood that lost was just another way of saying dead. But still the idea kept turning in his mind. He’d picture his father stumbling down a dark alley, lost, not dead at all…..He'd bend down and pick up his father and put him in his pocket and be careful never to lose him again.
This imagery early in the book sprung out at me when I first read it. The class erupted into snickers, and I giggled along with them. But later, I was left with the vivid picture of an awkward, hurting boy, rustling through blades of grass and scooping up his tiny father. John Wade’s desperate seeking stopped being an amusing image and started to become sad and lonely. After that, all the books I read had to be a little sad and lonely.
What O’Brien has created with Lake is a blurry, unfocused story to mimic the blurry, unfocused nature of things – childhood, marriage, war, life. The narrative skitters around dreamily; everything is given in snippets and suggestions. Everything in John Wade’s life seems as though it’s been filtered through a funhouse mirror. Everything is a distortion. His father was an abusive alcoholic who appeared to everyone else to be a wonderful guy. His mother (like his wife Kathy later on) survives through denial and justification. John performs magic tricks throughout his childhood, controlling and performing. He goes to Vietnam where the events are covered up, half-real, and like everything else, a contorted magic trick for the viewing public. The war, like his father, like his childhood and pretty much everything, is arranged to appear to the world to be something different. After the war, John goes into politics where yet again everything is choreographed to alter reality. Everything is an illusion. Everything we think we know is really just a product of the information we’re given. From our parents, to world events, to this stranger sleeping beside us year after year. How much of what we know to be true actually is true? John Wade spends his life manipulating and covering up. Look around you - he’s not the only one.
Our own children, our fathers, our wives and husbands: Do we truly know them? How much is camouflage? How much is guessed at? How many lies get told, and when, and about what? How often do we say, or think, God, I never knew her? How often do we lie awake speculating – seeking some hidden truth? Oh, yes, it gnaws at me…
Denial is a powerful tool that can sustain people for decades. John’s denial, Kathy’s, everybody’s. We tell ourselves it will get better, just hold on, things will work out. What would our lives be like now if we had made just one different decision? How much did we really mean to that one person who will never find the courage to tell us? How much different would things be if we had just spoken up, taken a different job, moved to a different place and reinvented ourselves? If our parents were just a little less tortured, a little more stable? If some men in suits had never signed away our life and innocence?
This is not a mystery novel. We’re not supposed to figure out what happened to Kathy, if in fact anything happened to her at all. This is a book of questions, not answers. And the questions you should be asking when you’re done reading is not “did he kill her?” That’s just the magic trick. At the minimum, you should be asking why we send the mentally ill to war. Why we’re so quick to condemn what we don’t fully comprehend. How reliable are our memories. And, will we ever be free of our demons?
Mystery finally claims us.
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Read information about the authorTim O'Brien matriculated at Macalester College. Graduation in 1968 found him with a BA in political science and a draft notice.
O'Brien was against the war but reported for service and was sent to Vietnam with what has been called the "unlucky" Americal division due to its involvement in the My Lai massacre in 1968, an event which figures prominently in In the Lake of the Woods. He was assigned to 3rd Platoon, A Company, 5th Battalion, 46th Infantry, as an infantry foot soldier. O'Brien's tour of duty was 1969-70.
After Vietnam he became a graduate student at Harvard. No doubt he was one of very few Vietnam veterans there at that time, much less Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) holders. Having the opportunity to do an internship at the Washington Post, he eventually left Harvard to become a newspaper reporter. O'Brien's career as a reporter gave way to his fiction writing after publication of his memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Send Me Home.
Tim O'Brien is now a visiting professor and endowed chair at Texas State University - San Marcos (formerly Southwest Texas State University) where he teaches in the Creative Writing Program.
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