HATTIESBURG -- Acclaimed
Vietnam War novelist Tim O'Brien will be the featured guest for
The University of Southern Mississippi's fall 2004 University Forum,
which will include a variety of programs and events continuing through
O'Brien, the author of "The Things They Carried,"
will speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at Bennett Auditorium. In addition
to O'Brien's presentation, a roundtable discussion panel on Oct.
21 will feature Hattiesburg-area veterans discussing their war experiences
and answering questions. The roundtable discussion will be held
at Gonzales Auditorium (Liberal Arts Building, Room 108) from 6:30-8
Funding for the O'Brien lecture has been provided
by the Southern Miss Honors College, the Southern Miss Center for
Writers, and a generous contribution from Montague, Pittman &
"We are extremely excited to have a writer of
O'Brien's stature coming to Southern Miss," said Dr. Brian
O' Neil, assistant professor in the Southern Miss Department of
History. "O'Brien's visit is quite timely in several different
ways. The ongoing war in Iraq and the presidential campaign between
Bush and Kerry have ignited constant references to the Vietnam War
in the media. I hope that O'Brien's visit and the related events
will help spur constructive debate both on campus and in the wider
Hattiesburg area about the Vietnam War and its legacies.
"With Veterans Day coming up next month, I also
hope that O'Brien's visit will help shine the spotlight on the service
of Hattiesburg-area Vietnam veterans, who at times have not received
their full due," O'Neil added.
After graduating form Macalester College in Minnesota
in 1968, O'Brien was drafted in the Army and served a 13-month tour
as a basic 'grunt' in Vietnam from Feb. 1969 to March 1970 (Alpha
Company, 5th Battalion, 46th Infantry of the 198th Infantry Brigade).
O'Brien's in-country combat experiences, as well as his postwar
reflections, have served as the basis for his fiction. His major
works, in addition to "The Things They Carried," (1990),
include "If I Die in a Combat Zone" (1973); "Going
After Cacciato," (1978), which won him the 1979 National Book
Award in fiction; "In the Lake of the Woods" (1994), selected
by "Time" magazine as the best novel of 1992; and most
recently "July, July" (2002). His work is famous for its
themes of guilt, complicity, and moral courage.
"Tim O'Brien is, without any question, an author of international
stature and it is a great privilege to have him on campus,"
said Southern Miss Honors College dean Dr. Ken Panton. "He
will share with our students the skills and experience that won
him a National Book Award for Fiction and made him a Pulitzer finalist,
so a lot of us will benefit from his visit."
Other programming, which will begin Oct. 12, will
feature a variety of films focusing on Vietnam, as well as a digitized,
self-guided tour of Mississippi veterans' oral histories and photographs,
titled "Heroism, Horror and Healing: Stories of the Vietnam
War and Beyond" that will be at the Hattiesburg Public Library
through Oct. 27.
Additionally, the city of Hattiesburg has declared
October Vietnam Veteran's Month.
"I want to emphasize the lesson I learned from
Vietnam--which should be the lesson that anyone should learn from
any war--which is that life is precious," said Butch Brown,
one of the scheduled roundtable participants who served in Vietnam
with the U.S. Army from 1969-70. "Don't take anything for granted,
and live each day with a purpose."
The planning committee for University Forum and accompanying
events included O'Neil; history professor Dr. Andy Wiest, who started
the Southern Miss Center for International and Continuing Education's
award-winning Vietnam Studies Program in 2000; Dr. Maureen Ryan,
an English professor who specializes in the literature of the Vietnam
War; Becky Montague, an English instructor at Jones County Community
College and a Hattiesburg civic leader; and Linda VanZandt of the
Southern Miss Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.
"Tim O'Brien's fiction about the Vietnam War
and its aftermath in America is the most important and sustained
literary commentary on that profound experience," said Ryan.
"He is, more importantly, one of our most prolific and accomplished
Wiest said having O'Brien at Southern Miss will benefit
the area's military veterans as well as the popular Vietnam Studies
Program at Southern Miss.
"The occasion of O'Brien's visit will focus campus
and community attention on the Vietnam War and on our (military)
veteran population, who served with such gallantry in that war,"
For more information on these events, contact Dr.
Brian O'Neil, director of the University Forum, at (601) 266-6494
or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.