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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Ben Fountain

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1,158957,025 (3.93)152
Member:theaelizabet
Title:Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Authors:Ben Fountain
Info:HarperCollins ebooks (2012), Kindle Edition, 307 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction

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

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Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
This was, to me, an almost unputdownable read. It is set in the Dallas Cowboy's Stadium over the course of a three hour game (with the odd flashback) and tracks the passage of a group of young soldier's victory parade, after a heavily publicised action in Iraq. The group lead by Sergeant "Dime " and featuring the 19 year old hero, Billy Lynn are sensitively portrayed but never glamourised by the author and in the end, I could feel nothing but pity for them as they faced the imminent return to front line action, albeit that that might be easier to face than the people they meet and interact with at the stadium. Billy Lynn is an unforgettable portrait of a boy, trained for nothing in his life, and forced into the army after extracting revenge for his sister's accident. Through him we ponder life, death, love and spirituality as he comes up against veritable monsters of the US system. A wonderful book. ( )
  johnwbeha | May 18, 2017 |
Phenomenal. ( )
  kallai7 | Mar 23, 2017 |
Several blurbs compared this book to "Catch 22". Like that classic, it is surreal, tragic and funny but more of a rumination on, and mockery of, how Americans dealt with the war in Iraq -- inanely chauvinistic, faux patriotic, slathered in the utter superficiality and self-absorption that describes today's American culture. The horror of "nina leven" requires balm for the national psyche and a war of retribution against "them" is as simple and good a resolution for our pain as any -- such is the virtue of a "good" war, especially one that doesn't inconvenience anyone and needs only our fleeting attention through self-satisfying "adoration" of those making actual sacrifices.

Billy Lynn and his fellow soldiers of "Bravo" squad were filmed by a news crew in a vicious fire fight with Iraqi insurgents and have become national heroes. They are on a "Victory Tour", a PR campaign to draw attention to the virtue and valor of America's finest. The book tells of the squad's day at a Dallas Cowboy's football game where they are put on "display" to satisfy America's need to feel good about this ugly war. What more sardonic a setting could there be than inside "America's Team" with all its Texas hyperbole -- the epitome of mindless and shallow pro-American sentimentality. The squad is a cross-section of American youth. Billy is an inexperienced, but thoughtful nineteen year-old from a colorful Texas family. Billy received a Silver Star for his few moments of bravery attempting to save a mortally wounded comrade. Billy is no John Wayne sort of hero; he mostly is fuzzy and confused about what happened, his actions entirely reactive to the tumult of the event. Sergeant Dime, the squad leader, is savvy and skillful in his handling of his men; they fear but adore him. He comes from what is vaguely described as "Old Money" somewhere in North Carolina. The men are accompanied by Albert Ratner, a movie producer from L.A. who is trying to work a movie deal on the squad's story that will, he claims, make them rich. Albert's negotiations via his cell phone and Blackberry with Hollywood throughout the book are hilariously told. Billy, Sergeant Dime and the squad members (whose crudeness and complete lack of class are charming) encounter characters throughout the day who riotously caricaturize American business, media and entertainment. They meet the rich, wealthy and famous -- the team's owner and his coterie of privileged hangers-on, the football team members described like specimens from a zoo and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, truly icons of insipidity on display, with one of whom Billy makes an instant romantic connection that he fantasizes will carry on after he returns to the war. They participate in the half-time show with marching bands, drumlines, dancers, Beyonce and Destiny's Child in performance, fireworks and more. This is so over the top as to be almost hallucinogenic in its bizzarness.

But, return to the war they must, after America is finished using them for its emotional purposes. Billy is urged by his sister to skip out on returning and tries to connect him to a shadowy anti-war group that will harbor him. He gives this serious thought because of his infatuation with his cheerleader girlfriend, but decides he cannot abandon his squad members. He has no illusions about the prospects that he quite likely will not survive the next eleven months in Iraq.

The book is funny, savage and biting, its scenes and characters so vividly representative of our national neurosis. It gives a strange but pleasurable satisfaction and justification for our cynicism. ( )
  stevesmits | Dec 3, 2016 |
A scathing indictment of NFL football and entertainment industries in the US. So rotten they are eagar to take advantage of young soldiers. How we all make ourselves feel better by fawning over children in the guise of heroes. ( )
  ghefferon | Nov 23, 2016 |
A thought provoking book that is at times hilarious, at times angry, at times full of wonder and cynicism.

http://nicolewbrown.blogspot.com/2016/08/billys-long-halftime-walk-by-ben.html

So they’ve lost Shroom and Lake, only two a number man might say, but given that each Bravo has missed death by a margin of inches, the casualty rate could just as easily be 100 percent. The freaking randomness is what wears on you, the difference between life, death, and horrible injury sometimes as slight as stooping to tie your bootlace on the way to chow, choosing the third shitter in line instead of the fourth, turning your head to the left instead of the right. Random. How that shit does twist your mind.
-Ben Fountain ( p 26-7)
Billy tries to imagine the vast systems that support these athletes. They are among the best-cared-for creatures in the history of the planet, beneficiaries of the best nutrition, the latest technologies, the finest medical care, they live at the very pinnacle of American innovation and abundance, which inspires an extraordinary thought—sent them to fight the war! Send them just as they are this moment, well rested, suited up, psyched for brutal combat, send the entire NFL! Attack with all our bears and raiders, our ferocious redskins, our jets, eagles, falcons, chiefs, patriots, cowboys—how could a bunch of skinny hajjis in man-skirts and sandals stand a chance against these all-Americans? Resistance is futile, oh Arab foes. Surrender now and save yourself a world of hurt, for your mighty football players cannot be stopped, they are so huge, so strong, so fearsomely ripped that mere bombs and bullets bounce off their bones of steel. Submit, lest our awesome NFL show you straight to the flaming gates of hell!
-Ben Fountain ( p 184)
Which means what, this melancholy, this mournful soul-leakage—that’s he’s in love? The bitch of it is there’s no time to figure it out. He and Faison need to talk—he needs her number! Along with her e-mail. And her last name would be nice.
-Ben Fountain ( p 211)
“When he died, it’s like I wanted to die too.” But this wasn’t quite right. “In a way it was like the whole world died.” But that wasn’t it either. “In a way it was like the whole world died.” Even harder was describing his sense that Shroom’s death might have ruined him for anything else, because when he died? When I felt his soul pass through me? I loved him so much right then, I don’t think I can ever have that kind of love for anybody again. So what was the point of getting married, having kids, raising a family if you knew you couldn’t give them your very best love?
-Ben Fountain ( p 218) ( )
  nicolewbrown | Aug 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (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.
Un accrochage avec des insurgés irakiens . Trois minutes quarante - trois de pure violence filmées par Fox News, désormais en boucle sur Youtube et les huit survivants de la compagnie Bravo deviennent du jour au lendemain les enfants chéris de l'Amérique . Billy Lynn ne pense, comme ses frères d'armes qu'à une seule chose : profiter au maximum de ses derniers jours de permission . Repartira t il pour l'Irak , laissant derrière lui ses illusions et son innocence ?
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -0400)

(see all 4 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)

(summary from another edition)

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