Summary of “Spin”
This is a series of O'Brien's memories showing that war is not all violence and fear, but also includes moments of friendship, pranks, and human feeling. He is now narrating these memories at the age of forty-three as a writer. The bad moments play and replay, like Curt Lemon stepping on a mine, but so too does the memory of Mitchell Sanders prying off body lice and sending them in an envelope to his draft board in Ohio. There was the peaceful feeling of watching Norman Bowker and Henry Dobbins play checkers every evening in a foxhole. Some days you could look at the serene sky and forget war for a moment. He remembers people kidding Ted Lavender for taking tranquillizers, and Ted would just say that it was a mellow war. There was a lot of waiting and boredom, but even the calm was nerve-wracking. O'Brien's daughter tells him he is obsessed by telling war stories, but his excuse is, that is his material.
Commentary on “Spin”
The author adopts a sort of random reverie, a collection of odd bits, yet they are pointed in showing why at age forty-three he is still obsessed with his war stories. Most of the soldiers were nineteen or twenty and played “pranks,” as when Azar took Ted Lavender's adopted puppy and strapped it to a mine. He remembers Norman Bowker wishing his dad would tell him it's okay to be in the war without winning medals. He remembers Kiowa teaching them a rain dance. Most of all, he remembers the man he killed. The incident is brought up here for the first time but is revisited in several other stories.
O”Brien tries to explain that telling the stories about these things is more important than the memories. It does not matter whether things add up. For instance, the author Tim O'Brien does not have a daughter, but he can make his readers feel war through imagination and language.