The materials in the Tim O'Brien Papers span not only his long career as an author,
but also much of his life from his birth in Austin, Minnesota, through his teaching
career at Texas State University San Marcos. The bulk of the collection is made up
of materials related to his novels and short stories, such as drafts, typescripts,
proofs, correspondence, interviews, reviews, and book promotion and publishing
items, but also present are smaller amounts of personal and family records
containing items as varied as O'Brien's baby book; short stories he wrote in junior
high school; correspondence from the summer he was drafted, basic training, and his
tour of duty in Vietnam; more than one hundred photographs of O'Brien and family
members; and personal documents such as his parents' marriage certificate, birth
certificates, and honorable discharge documents.
The papers are arranged in six series: I. Works, 1970-2007; II. Correspondence,
1977-2007; III. Career-Related, 1970-2007; IV. Family and Personal Records,
1916-2007; V. Works by Others, 1982-2006; and VI. Published Material, 1941-2006.
Upon arrival, the majority of the material was arranged roughly in the present
order; i.e., mainly grouped by novel, with some boxes containing unrelated items
that were arranged into corresponding series. O’Brien’s handwritten comments appear
throughout. Some of his notations appear to have been written for a contemporary
second party; others seem directed at future researchers.
Series I. Works is further divided into two subseries, A. Novels, 1970-2007, and
Short Works, 1970-2004. O'Brien's novels are well represented in Subseries A. with
typescripts, proofs, and galleys, almost all with various amounts of revision,
editing, and proofreading corrections, often in O'Brien's hand. Each novel also has
at least two folders of related correspondence comprised of business and fan mail,
as well as additional folders of interviews, reviews, promotion and production
materials such as advertisements, reading announcements, and dust jacket proofs, and
related works by others, including stage, film, and television scripts, theses, and
dissertations. (Series V. contains additional works by others, and Series VI.
contains short story excerpts from each novel as published in periodicals.)
Subseries B. Short Works contains drafts and proofs for essays, short stories, and
reviews written between 1989-2004, as well as some tearsheets from serials in which
some of the drafts were finally published. (Series VI. has a number of the actual
serials as well.) Also present in Subseries B. are materials related to "Vietnam in Me," an article in which O'Brien
describes his return to Vietnam more than twenty years after fighting there,
including a final draft, article contract, trip itinerary and notes, photographs,
and research materials.
The Correspondence Series contains chronological files of career-related and fan
mail, as well as alphabetical files of correspondence from other writers including
Ray Bradbury, Phil Caputo, Raymond Carver, James Grady, John Irving, Naomi Nye,
Joyce Carol Oates, George Plimpton, Oliver Stone, James Webb, and Tobias Wolff.
Perhaps most significant is the "literary correspondence" file, arranged
chronologically, which O'Brien describes as "some pretty fair stuff about my early
thinking/plans" regarding his writing.
Series III. Career-Related contains a large group of financial papers primarily made
up of literary contracts and royalty statements for novels, although some materials
relate to awards, grants, and endowments. Also present are interviews and reviews,
notes and research materials, speeches, lectures, and teaching notes, as well as
Series IV. Family and Personal Records primarily spans O'Brien family history
beginning with the lives of O'Brien's parents before his birth, documented by
certificates of birth, marriage, and military discharge as well as some photographs,
and continuing through his years at Harvard University, documented by class notes,
school records, and photographs. The intervening years are represented by O'Brien's
baby book and photograph, baptism record, correspondence prior to and during his
military service, junior high school through Macalester College correspondence,
newspaper clippings, and school records, and a folder containing material related
Lorna Lou Moeller, a childhood friend on whom the character of Linda in The Things They Carried was modeled.
Series. V. Works by Others contains play and movie scripts, theses, criticism, a
bibliography, and short works of fiction by fans, scholars, and professional
The final series, Published Material, is divided into four subseries, A. Fiction,
Book Reviews, C. Interviews Given and Articles about Tim O'Brien, and D. General
Periodicals. Subseries A. is arranged alphabetically by novel, listing the serial
publications in which corresponding stories or chapter excerpts were published.
Subseries B. is arranged alphabetically by title of publication with the article
title and year of publication listed, while Subseries C. and D. are arranged by
alphabetical title only. Overall the collection is in good condition.