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

by Ben Fountain

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7666312,088 (4.01)121
Member:mollygrace
Title:Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Authors:Ben Fountain
Info:Ecco (2012), Hardback, 308 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:novel

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

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Showing 1-5 of 62 (next | show all)
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 |
Ben Fountain's novel of the Iraq War, BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALF-TIME WALK, is that rare bird in contemporary fiction: a bestseller that deserved to be one. Fountain's nineteen year-old soldier protagonist's innocence brought to mind another fictional innocent, Melville's Billy Budd. But in Fountain's world, modern-day Texas, it wasn't so much the forces of evil that strove to bring down the young hero, but the collective forces of indifference and greed. Okay, maybe that does constitute evil. Whether Fountain's Billy will ultimately survive is left open.

But there's already been plenty written about BILLY LYNN, so I'm just gonna say it's a helluva good story. Although the first half of the book was just a mite sluggish, the last part more than made up for it. I didn't find any evidence that the author had ever served in the military, so I have to say he certainly did his homework, because he nailed the language and attitudes of our all-volunteer army. Fountain knows about right and wrong; and he's also done some hard thinking about the spectacle and ludicrousness of professional sports, and is not impressed. His porttrit of America's complacent civilian populace, and Dallas Cowboys organization in particular is hardly flattering. I suspect many of his fellow Texans were not pleased with this book. For standing up to that kind of colossal greed and hypocrisy, and for writing a extremely readable modern morality tale, this old vet salutes you, Ben Fountain. Highly recommended. (four and a half stars) ( )
  TimBazzett | Jun 20, 2014 |
Every year when Christmas is approaching our local supermarket puts Christmas cards out by the registers. The idea is to gather as many signatures as possible before sending the cards off to some of the troops. On the one hand the effort is nice. At least someone remembers those soldiers are still over there. But on the other hand there's a certain satisfaction in signing one of the cards that is undeserved for such a tiny action. This attitude is the main subject of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.

A violent fight with Iraqi insurgents has made the Bravo squad into American heroes. So the army has shipped the surviving members back to America to appear in a Dallas Cowboy's halftime show. After the show they are scheduled to return to Iraq to continue their tour of duty. They fully expect to stay there for a long time due to the government's stop-loss policy, which means that any soldier can be kept in the military for as long as they're needed. But for now they're home and Billy Lynn, the young man whose actions during the fight are celebrated the most, gets a chance to see his family and to connect with one of the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.

During their leave in America the soldiers are constantly greeted with “Thank you for your service” and “We support the troops.” But the people who say those things then either pull back into their own lives or, worse yet, exploit the heroes. The owner of the Dallas Cowboys, named Norm Oglesby in Ben Fountain's novel, is the most serious offender as he negotiates the film rights to their story. Again, here is a mixed motivation. Oglesby appears to be honoring the troops, but he's doing so in a way that will earn honor for himself and plenty of money as well.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk has a second subject which is just as interesting, although a little less unique. When America had a draft there were lots of soldiers sent to war who hadn't volunteered. Without the draft our military is filled with people who either wanted to be there, had thought they would only be spending a couple of days each month at an Army reserve center, or simply had no other options. Billy Lynn is different. He was told he had to join by a judge. But while he is in the army he finds men he admires, especially Shroom, a soldier who was killed in the battle that brought fame to the Bravo troops. He doesn't want to be there, but he also doesn't want to let down the people who depend on him or disappoint a few of the people who admire his warrior status.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is wonderful in the way it presents the complicated responses brought about by war, for both the soldiers and the people who stay behind. It's earned the praise it has received.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | May 17, 2014 |
I am at a loss for the words to describe this poignant, moving book and I don't believe I know how to write a worthy review...

I just feel like it's shook me up, much the way a true account would. Brilliantly written and a must-read for all. Get ready to question the way you feel about the Iraq War. ( )
  crashmyparty | Apr 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 62 (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)

(summary from another edition)

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