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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben…
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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2012)

by Ben Fountain

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Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
I was very lax about writing up my reviews toward the end of the year, so I haven't said much about Billy Lynn, but it was interesting on several levels. It takes place during the 2004 Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving game halftime show. I happened to be at that show and interesting fact #2, my-very-famous-brother produced the show. I kept waiting for his character to appear, but it didn't. (Which is probably a good thing.) On a deeper level it was about the lip service Americans pay to war and warriors while having no idea of what actually happens during war and to its soldiers. And on yet another level it is about how slimy some Texans can be. And, trust me, it's pretty darn slimy. ( )
  spounds | Sep 30, 2014 |
"So much of life consists of inertia and drift, the brief savory and sour of any particular day tends to blur into the next so that it all becomes one flavorless wad." ( )
  kwbridge | Sep 6, 2014 |
I saw something that called this book "the Catch-22 of the Iraq War." I wouldn't say it's the same sort of broad farce, or as bitingly satirical as that, but the comparison has some merit. Billy Lynn is at home with his squad for a dog-and-pony show they've earned by surviving and performing bravely in a firefight in Iraq. They go someplace, get trotted out to meet and greet the public who are just oh-so-grateful to them for their service, and then get on a plane and go to the next place to do it all over again.

The book takes place at a Dallas Cowboys game, and in flashbacks to Iraq and time Billy (who is from Texas) was able to spend with his family before the game. Billy and his squad are public commodities - there's a movie deal in the works for their story, they're supposed to do some as-yet-unclear walk-on during the halftime show at the game, and everyone they talk to wants to feel like they have some sort of ownership of the squad's bravery. Everyone wants to hear a war story from the young, brave troops. (Side note: if you like this book and haven't read it yet, read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. It'll give you a perspective like no other on war stories.)

Billy is a great character - conflicted about the war and his role in it, contemplating the big questions of life and death, courage and duty, and just really wanting to get drunk and forget it all for a while, if he can. I felt like the book dragged a bit in a few places, but it was worth it for the great quotes that were scattered throughout, and for the thoughts on football as a sport and its place in American culture. War and football ... they have more in common than just the obvious comparisons about hostility.

Recommended for: people who are interested in nuanced attitudes about complicated topics, readers who want a book about war with a minimum of actual war scenes.

Quote: So many omens, so many signs and portents to read. It's the randomness that makes your head this way, living the Russian-roulette lifestyle every minute of the day. ( )
  ursula | Aug 23, 2014 |
I picked up this book based on both the topic(the Iraq war) and the good critical ratings. The book takes place during one Thanksgiving day at a Dallas Cowboy game. The book focuses on a group of soldiers who were involved in "heroic" battle and now are being trotted out by the Bush administration with a 2 week cross country tour to pump up war support. The book does a great job of getting into contradictions flowing through the soldiers and war supporters and detractors. There is the backdrop of the game, a potential movie deal, and the impending return to Iraq. Mostly told through the eyes of 19 year old Billy Lynn, it is well written with both humor and good insights into our approach to the war and to soldiers. I definitely recommend this book. It was a quick read and I intend to read the authors other book. ( )
  nivramkoorb | Jul 19, 2014 |
I somehow missed this book when it came out and only picked it up because it was #2 or #3 on the meta-lists of the best books of 2012. And it was excellent, although it would not rise to my personal #2.

The book takes place over the course of a Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving Day--beginning with the limo trip to pre-game and ending with entering the limo to return after the game. The action in the book thus takes place over about as long as it takes to read the book itself.

The protagonist is Billy Lynn, a genuine Silver Star-decorated war hero whose unit was captured on film by a Fox News crew, creating a viral sensation that led them to brought back to America on their victory tour. Appearing at the Dallas Cowboys halftime is the last stop on their tour and two days later they will be deployed back to Iraq.

Over the course of their time they are followed around by a Hollywood producer who has optioned their story, surrounded by cheerleaders, get signed footballs from players, are paraded around by the billionaire owner, get into fights with fans, get into even worse fights with roadies, and try to meet Beyonce (the featured halftime performer). All of this is depicted in an outsized and satirical manner that is in turns flattering and oppressive to the men of what is inaccurately called Bravo squad.

Although a war novel, you barely see the war--only the occasional description of the Fox News video, generally as perceived by someone meeting the soldiers, with the soldiers themselves having a very different recollection. In fact, it is more of an anti-war novel that has great respect for the troops but little-or-no respect for the prolific "honoring of the troops" by self-indulgent people, many of whom are only too happy to support someone else fighting a way.

At times, especially in the first half, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk does, indeed, feel somewhat long. But it picks up with a touching love story with a cheerleader and when the Hollywood plot picks up as well.

Overall, deserves a place on top 10 lists for 2012. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 65 (next | show all)
Every two or three years, if I'm lucky, I get my hands on a novel that I simply can't shut up about, a novel I shout from my humble mountaintop to anyone who will listen, a novel that I hand-sell any time I have a literate audience of one or more. In many cases, I'll purchase this novel, over and over and over, and put it in the hands of readers....One novel this year blew the top of my head off like no other, and that was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain....

No brow-beating, no navel gazing and no ranting. Just great storytelling, fully realized characters and sentences that crackle. In short, Fountain makes it look easy.
added by zhejw | editNPR, Jonathan Evison (Nov 28, 2012)
 
The novel is niftily postmodern, in that it deals with a heavily mediated reality. Bravo squad aren't even called Bravo squad, but that was what the "Fox embed" christened them. They hear their story being spun in real time: "Carl, what can I say?" says Albert, the movie producer, on the phone. "It's a war picture – not everybody gets out alive." The stadium is dominated by the huge "Jumbotron" screen; Billy wonders whether "maybe the game is just an ad for the ads". But Fountain, like better-known writers of his generation such as Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace, has dragged this ironic, media-saturated style back in the direction of sincerity, with rich, sharply drawn characters that you care about. Beneath the dazzle, there's a story as old and simple as Kipling's poem "Tommy": "They sent me to the gallery or round the music-'alls, / But when it comes to fightin', Lord! they'll shove me in the stalls!"
added by zhejw | editThe Guardian, Theo Tait (Jul 6, 2012)
 
The irony, sorrow, anger and examples of cognitive dissonance that suffuse this novel make it one of the most moving and remarkable novels I've ever read.
added by zhejw | editNPR, Nance Pearl (May 21, 2012)
 
There’s hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain’s sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel. (The whole story, with the exception of a flashback or two, takes place during the course of a single afternoon.) Billy and the other Bravos are, for the most part, uneducated, but they possess a rare intelligence that allows them to see things as they really are, which is not exactly the way the pro-war meme generators want Americans to see them.

By the novel’s end, we’re forced to reassess what it means to “support the troops.” Does it simply mean letting them know they’re in our prayers as we send them back into battle and go about our business? Does it mean turning them into gaudy celebrities? Or could there perhaps be a more honorable and appropriately humble way to commemorate their service? “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” asks us to consider the uncomfortable possibility that we don’t really know the answer anymore.
 

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Book description
A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at "the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal"—three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew—has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny's Child.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060885599, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, May 2012: Billy Lynn and his Bravo squad mates have become heroes thanks to an embedded Fox News crew’s footage of their firefight against Iraqi insurgents. During one day of their bizarre Victory Tour, set mostly at a Thanksgiving Day football game at Texas Stadium, they’re wooed by Hollywood producers, smitten by Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and share a stage at halftime with Beyonce. Guzzling Jack and Cokes and scuffling with fans, the Bravos are conflicted soldiers. “Okay, so maybe they aren’t the greatest generation,” writes debut author (!) Ben Fountain, who manages a sly feat: giving us a maddening and believable cast of characters who make us feel what it must be like to go to war. Veering from euphoria to dread to hope, Billy Lynn is a propulsive story that feels real and true. With fierce and fearless writing, Fountain is a writer worth every accolade about to come his way. --Neal Thompson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:49:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A satire set in Texas during America's war in Iraq that explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad. Follows the surviving members of the heroic Bravo Squad through one exhausting stop in their media-intensive "Victory Tour" at Texas Stadium, football mecca of the Dallas Cowboys, their fans, promoters, and cheerleaders.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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