Q: Tell me something; why do you think we read; why do we read for pleasure?
Tim O'Brien: I can't speak for everybody; I can tell you why I do. I have a need to enter other worlds that aren't entirely my own. And by other worlds, I mean other personalities and other mindsets and geographically other places where I might be living there's an otherness that beckons to me that- and the otherness shines light on what I'm living or going through. It is not- you get trapped in your own problems and your own intricacies of your own life so you don't see them beyond them much, as least I have trouble. And a book or a magazine article or any piece of art can shine a kind of light on my own situation and I'm seeing it through another lens. And it might be the lens of a history book or the lens of another novel or poem and there's a little sunlight there, explosion that goes on in my heart where the otherness is attached to my own life in some way or another. Sometimes it's just to draw a tear from my eye and feel that someone is sharing the kind of pain I might be sharing or has gone through it or someone has experienced a job that somehow validates my own joys.
Q: Tim let's say aside from the book that you're writing for your sons, you wanted them to read three books; three books that you felt would really just inflame their heart, what one's do you think they'd be?
Tim O'Brien: Do you mean of mine?
Q: No, it can be or any. The world is your oyster.
Tim O'Brien: Oh goodness; there are so many books. That's an impossible question. What would I say? I mean it's such a...
Q: I know it's hard and it's not written in stone; it's not like every other book is going to disappear in the world except for those three. And you can jack it up to five if you want.
Tim O'Brien: Well I tell you I would want them to love reading and I would give them the Hardy Boys; I'd start there and say- I know they're not classics and I know they're formulaic and they not even one author but if they enjoy the Hardy Boys and it gets them to love the printed word and their imaginations are engaged, start there. I'd have them read Shakespeare by wide contrast. Not at six-years old obviously, but at some point. I'd want them to read The Stranger by Camus. I'd want them to read- I'd want them to read the things they carried. The key; I can tell you what I'm terrified of; I'm terrified that my sons will fall into what is increasingly becoming a culture of the movie and internet and kind of gamesmanship of a very violent sort and I'm terrified of that stuff. I'm terrified that they won't experience the joy of losing themselves in story. And so much of the world seems aligned against that now; the arcades and the computers that are just so- I mean my four-year old knows more about a computer than I do- four years old. Log on go onto his game websites and play it. And I'm constantly turning that damn computer off and trying to put a book in his lap. I can tell it's working, I mean- but I feel I have to be on constant century duty to make sure that their books are important to them and in an enjoyable way. That's not easy. And so I was trying- story time in our house is the big event; it's every night at bedtime. They'd go to bed with two books and a story from dad. And it's- I'm making up these stories lying in bed with these kids every night. And that's hard; I mean to come up with a new story every night. So I'm kind of- what I'm doing is kind of recycling old ones, adding new twists here and there. New things are happening to these characters. They prefer the raunchy. It's something of a difficulty; they like raunchiness in their stories. I don't know what it's about; they're boys. And by raunchy I don't mean dirty. What I mean is they're really radically off beat where a character forgot where his pants were that morning and had to go to school in his underwear and they'll chuckle at that. "What did he do?" He couldn't go to school in his underwear and I'd make up some solutions how he dressed himself. Whatever entertains them, I mean I'll go for it because I want them to get joy out of it. You know you don't- for kids this age, my kids' age it seems that books are treated even in school as a kind of a torture device. And now we're going to do that- when the approach has to be intense personal pleasure that books have given me over the years.
Q: I remember when I was a kid my mother taking books from me and saying "Not yet because I don't think you're ready for this and I don't want it ruined for you."
Tim O'Brien: Don't want it ruined, yeah.
Q: "Because if you try it now- just trust me, and you might not go back. And you will love it but I'm not sure you'll love it now." And I'm so grateful that she did that.
Tim O'Brien: I think that's probably a pretty canny way to do it; to withhold books that are not going to be pleasurable at a certain age and say you can do it later.
Q: And assuring me that it's worth the wait, as are Tim O'Brien. Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure. It really is; thank you.
Tim O'Brien: Oh thank you; I had a great time.
Q: I did too, thank you.