August 21, 2003

A collection of stories about an infantry platoon in the Vietnam War is this year's selection for the "One Book, One City" reading initiative.

"The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien will be highlighted in book discussions, readings, films and performances during the Chicago Book Festival in October.

Its selection was announced this morning by Mayor Richard Daley and Mary Dempsey, commissioner of the Chicago Public Library, at a news conference at the Canaryville branch library, 642 W. 43rd St.

The book's title refers to the things soldiers carried into war, from weapons and gear to mementos and private thoughts.

"One of the most fascinating aspects of Tim O'Brien's work is how he mingles and sometimes blurs fact with fiction," Daley said. "The stories unfold through the eyes of a diverse group of characters. At different points, it's impossible to discern what is truth, and what is fiction."

O'Brien, an author and veteran, will visit the city in October to discuss his writings and sign copies of his book.

Steppenwolf Theatre Co. ensemble members will read selections, the Old Town School of Folk Music will host a community song circle, and DePaul University will offer a graduate-level course on the book and host a staged reading and panel discussion.

Also, a film on the Vietnam War will be given a free screening every Saturday in October at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St. Featured films will include "Apocalypse Now Redux" (2001), "Platoon" (1986), "Deer Hunter" (1978) and "Regret to Inform" (1998).

The book also was winner of the 1990 Heartland Prize for fiction by the Chicago Tribune.

The Heartland Award is given annually by the Tribune for books that feature distinguished writing about the places and people of Middle America. This year's fiction winner was "Reversible Errors" by Scott Turow.

"The Things They Carried" is the fifth title named for the One Book, One Chicago program. Previous selections were "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, "Night" by Elie Wiesel, "My Antonia" by Willa Cather and "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry.