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University of Texas at Austin

Tim O'Brien:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: O'Brien, Tim, 1946-
Title: Tim O'Brien Papers
Dates: 1914-2018, undated
Extent: 48 document boxes, 11 serial boxes, 2 oversize boxes (27.57 linear feet), and 1,922 electronic files (36 GB)
Abstract: The bulk of the Tim O'Brien Papers 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. Also present are smaller amounts of personal and family records.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-05075
Language: English
Access: Open for research. To request access to electronic files, please email Reference.
Restrictions on Use: Certain restrictions apply to the use of electronic files. Researchers must agree to the Materials Use Policy for Electronic Files before accessing them. Original computer disks and forensic disk images are restricted. Copying electronic files, including screenshots and printouts, is not permitted.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchases, 2007 (R16545), 2012 (2012-12-002-P)
Processed by: Stephen Cooper, 2008, Katherine Casillo, 2013, Amanda Rousseau, 2014, Christine Bethke, 2018 Born digital materials processed, arranged, and described by Chance Adams and Brenna Edwards, 2015-2023.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Scope and Contents

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 B. 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 some photographs.
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 to 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 writers.
Series VI. Published Material, is divided into four subseries, A. Fiction, B. Book Reviews, C. Interviews Given by 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.

Separated Material

Books, audio recordings, computer disks, and personal effects received with the collection have been transferred to the appropriate departments within the Ransom Center.

Container List