Book Fight!

Tough love for literature

Episode 259: Winter of Wayback, 1990 (“The Things They Carried”)

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Welcome to another Winter of Wayback season, Book Fight friends! After last year’s run through the 1950s, this year we’re skipping ahead to take on the 90s. It’s a decade we both lived through, though this season might end up highlighting our age difference.

For the next ten weeks we’ll be reading stories and books published in the 90s, revisiting favorite movies, and discussing other cultural touchstones of the decade.

We’re aware that there are currently a lot of 90s nostalgia projects, and we’re not trying to be another one. Instead, we’re going to dig into some of the best, most interesting, and weirdest writing published over the course of the decade, while looking at ways publishing changed over those ten years: the rise and fall of print magazines; the dawning of the internet age; and a generation of supposed “slackers” who embraced the DIY ethic of the previous decade’s punk scene to carve out their own alternative cultural niche.

We hope you’ll come along with us for the ride!

For this first episode, we’re discussing the title story from Tim O’Brien’s 1990 book The Things They Carried. It’s sort of unbelievable that neither of us had read it before, and we figured it was time to remedy that. We speculate about why the early 90s featured so many Vietnam stories, and why this story’s become such a touchstone in both literature and creative writing classes.

Also this week: we trace the brief history of a magazine targeted specifically at doctors’ offices (which managed to get a short story into the 1991 Best American Short Stories anthology). Tom dips into the Nintendo-dominated video game landscape of the early 90s. And Mike revisits Pump Up the Volume, a movie he loved as a teen and which may have indirectly led to the existence of this very podcast.

As always, you can stream the show right here on our site, or download the mp3 file to listen to later. Or check us out in Apple podcasts, where you can subscribe (for free!) and catch up on older episodes. We’re also available on Spotify, Stitcher, or just about any other podcast app. If for some reason you can’t find us in your favorite app, please reach out and let us know!

If you like the show, please consider subscribing to our Patreon, which helps us make a bit of money each month and keep the show going. For just $5 a month, you’ll get access to a monthly bonus episode, Book Fight After Dark, in which we visit some of the weirder, funnier corners of the literary world. Recently, that’s involved reading a paranormal romance novel, the debut novel of Jersey Shore’s Snookie, and the novelization of the movie Battleship (yes, based on the popular board game).

Thanks for listening!

Stream Episode 259:

Download Episode 259


Author: mikeingram25

writer, editor

One thought on “Episode 259: Winter of Wayback, 1990 (“The Things They Carried”)

  1. You guys talked about looking for stories/authors to read next. Can I make a suggestion? In the 50s there was a southwestern writer named Walter van Tilburg Clark who wrote a few short story collections and three novels. The collection “The Watchful Gods and Other Stories” has a few stories (“Hook”, “The Portable Phonograph”) that used to be used in a lot of creative writing classes as classic examples of modernist literature. The man himself was pretty interesting too.

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