“Tim O’Brien replied that it was merely a story”

From a New York Times review, by John Schwartz, of an audiobook, “Fathers and Sons,” by Tim O’Brien:

Tim O’Brien came to fatherhood late. He was 56 in June 2003 when his first son, Timmy, was born. His second son, Tad, showed up two years later. He hadn’t been sure he wanted to have kids; his wife, Meredith, had been ardently for it, and the conflict had nearly caused a breakup.

But O’Brien—who brilliantly captured the terrors of war in works of fictions like “The Things They Carried” and “Going After Cacciato,” for which he won the National Book Award—is not a half-measures kind of guy. Once he committed to fatherhood, he found himself besotted, obsessed, joyous … and terrified. . . .

He tells a long story about a talk he gave at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference when Timmy was just a year old. In a lecture, he soberly stated that his son had just spoken his first words, and they were, “’Tis a tale told by an idiot.” It was a confection, T. Berry Brazelton meets magical realism. But it upset a middle-aged man, who cornered him afterward. “Your [expletive] kid,” he announced, “never quoted Shakespeare.”

O’Brien replied that it was merely a story, and that fiction writers “lie for money.” Their extended and entertaining argument ended with the man’s egregious accusation: “Your son has a terrible, terrible father.”

Mister literalist, you are so wrong.

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