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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben…

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

by Ben Fountain

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950779,142 (3.94)136
Title:Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Authors:Ben Fountain
Info:Ecco (2012), Hardback, 308 pages
Collections:Your library

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

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Billy Lynn and the members of Bravo Company are at the end of their "Freedom & Heros" Tour and are about to be redeployed to Iraq. But first they have one last stop - the Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day. Spanning the course of one day, this book is a biting satire on the hypocrisy of the American public who is always thanking service men & women for their service to their country, but are not willing to sacrifice anything themselves and use the platoon for their own personal aggrandizement.

This is a darkly satiric novel that deserved to be on the short list for the National Book Award in 2013 ( )
  etxgardener | Nov 12, 2015 |
Billy Lynn is a soldier, 19 years old, and, thanks to an embedded Fox News camera crew, a big damn hero (to borrow a phrase). His long halftime walk isn’t his participation in a Thanksgiving Day football halftime show (starring Destiny’s Child), but rather the respite from the Iraq War that he and his squad, the Bravos, enjoy as a result of their celebrity. But
like all halftimes, it has to come to an end.

Although the action of Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk takes place entirely on the day of said game (at old Texas Stadium – it’s a period piece, after all), its scope is a whole lot more ambitious. By dropping Billy and his mates in the middle of a charged up exhibition of pure Americana, Ben Fountain uses it to comment not just on the United States as a whole, but particularly on how the nation has interacted with the wars of the Bush administration. Or, more precisely, how we didn’t (and continue not to, really).

Everywhere he goes, Billy is confronted by people from all walks of life who want him to know how much they think of him and the work he’s doing. The platitudes have become so routine and meaningless they’re rendered in a kind of shower of buzz words devoid of any real meaning or context. It’s a brilliant device. More simply, the disconnect between the kind words and the lack of understanding is best symbolized by Billy’s simple quest for an aspirin – when confronted with the easy task of treating a headache, the home front fails miserably.

In fact, one of the failings of the book is that the people Billy interacts with are so monolithic in how they treat him that they lose any kind of individual identity. Aside from his sister, who begs him to go AWOL rather than return to Iraq, nobody at home has any real interest in what’s going on in Billy’s head. There is no conversation, for instance, with a veteran from Vietnam or what not who might better understand what Billy has gone through.

Which is disappointing, because not a whole lot happens during the day the book chronicles. Since the people Billy meets are all pretty much the same, the interactions become increasingly dull as Fountain’s main point gets beaten in again and again. Throughout there’s a tease of a film deal for the Bravos’ story, which is amusing enough (the best chance to have it made is to have Hillary Swank portray Billy), but is ultimately unresolved.

One of the interesting aspects of the book is how many real world people and places are referenced. That makes it all the more jarring when Billy and crew meet the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who although he is clearly meant to be Jerry Jones cannot actually be Jerry Jones (for obvious reasons). It throws you off, as a reader, but you do get over it.

In the end, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk scores some points about modern American and our disconnect from the wars fought in our name (I came across it thanks to this article in The Atlantic, for example) and its dark undercurrent of humor makes it a quick read. But lacks the weight it might otherwise have carried.

www.jdbyrne.net ( )
  RaelWV | Aug 16, 2015 |
As this book was a gift from a co-worker I wanted to love it. I was disappointed; I guess I expected Joseph Heller.
Billy is a member of the Bravo Unit who is home from the Iraq war. They are being paraded around the country as war heroes. However as the story unfolds it becomes painfully apparent that while everyone verbally supports the troops, for most it is lip service at best. ( )
  AstridG | Aug 15, 2015 |
Tedious. Annoying. Unfunny. ( )
  thiscatsabroad | Aug 8, 2015 |
Darkly humorous, painfully ironic, and heartbreaking. ( )
  Sullywriter | May 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (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.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -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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