Austin-born author planning to return in April

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 19, 2002

"The Things They Carried," by Tim O'Brien is this year's chosen book by the Austin Page Turners for the city-wide read.

In its second year, the Page Turners, a group of about a dozen Austin residents, work to promote reading in the community.

"The idea is to bring people together. The more people have in common, the more they'll get along," said committee member Belita Schindler.

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The committee meets and looks at about 30 books and narrows it down to one.

The main criteria in choosing the book is for the author to be from Minnesota. Other factors are that the book needs to be available in paperback, the author should be someone that would be feasible to bring to Austin and the quality of the book's writing to be something not just for adults, but also for youths.

"This one just sort of came to the surface," Schindler said.

The Page Turners narrowed down the selection to three books.

"Mayor Bonnie Rietz found out that I was going to go for a reading and singing to Northfield and she told me (O'Brien's) book was one they were considering. She asked me if I would extend an invitation," Jim Herrick said.

Before the reading, Herrick talked to O'Brien about the Austin connection and gave him the letter Rietz had written with the invitation.

Herricks said O'Brien was excited and said he would love to visit Austin.

"He is a delightful man," Herrick said. "I know our community will be taken not only by the quality of his writing, but also by him as a person."

O'Brien, a nationally known author, was born in 1946 in Austin and spent most of his youth in Worthington. He graduated from Macalester College in 1968 and served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and worked at The Washington Post as a national affairs reporter.

"I think people will find it interesting and intriguing. That unique tie that he was born here and now is a nationally known author is exciting for us," Rietz said.

His book, "The Things They Carried," is a collection of 22 short stories about the Vietnam War. The book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was also received the France's Prix du Meilluer Libre Etranger (Best Foreign Book Prize).

In "Tomcat in Love," another of his novels, the first 30-40 pages O'Brien wrote about his upbringing Austin, Herrick said.

O'Brien's other works include "Going After Cacciato," which received the National Book Award in fiction; "In The Lake of the Woods," which received the James Fenimore Cooper Prize from the Society of American Historians and was named best novel of the year by Time magazine. His latest novel "July, July" was published October.

O'Brien will visit Austin April 7, 2003. The Hormel Foundation gave a grant to Friends of the Library and the Austin Wells Fargo bank also assisted with a donation to host O'Brien.

Roxana Orellana can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at