Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
- Canongate Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 05 July 2012
- Modern & Contemporary
Showing 1-4 out of 11 reviews. Previous | Next
Truly amazing book. Billy Lynn is a soldier. He is one of eight soldiers of "Bravo Squad," ordinary army grunts in Iraq who one day find themselves in a brief but fierce battle that happens to be captured by their embedded reporter on video. The film of their battle makes them instant "heroes," so the pentagon decides to pull them out of Iraq and send them on a two weel "Victory Tour" around the US to drum up support for the war. The final appearance of the Tour is a Dallas Cowboys football game on Thanksgiving day. The whole story takes place on this one day, with brief flashbacks to a few scenes in the previous weeks.Fountain packs so much emotion and thought into every scene that I was often exhausted from reading, but in a good way. He manages to get you to think, but without being preachy. He is ironic, but without the smugness that often marks modern American irony. It's emotional without being maudlin, political without being partisan or polemic.This story isn't for everyone, but those who read it will be glad they did.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a novel that will have different meanings to military veterans and non-veterans. Of course, every novel has different meanings to every reader just as Proust wrote in In Search of Lost Time. Once the writer publishes his novel, the great French author stated, the reader is the sole determiner of its ultimate meaning. The unique characteristic of Ben Fountain's book is the clear distinction between the responses of people who have been in the military during times of war and those who have not.Billy Lynn is a 19 year old soldier in the Iraq War who was named a hero (Silver Star) after surviving a firefight with Iraqi troops. He and Bravo Squad are rewarded in the middle of their tour of duty with leave, a trip back to the US for the Thanksgiving holiday. During the two weeks at home, the members of the squad get to visit friends and family for a couple of days and tour the US on a "Victory Tour." The half time walk occurs in Dallas when the squad are taken in a stretch limo (instead of a cramped Humvee)to a Cowboy's game.The action of a single day at the game is told from the point of view of the Silver Star winner, and Billy walks around Cowboy Stadium under the loose but insistent control of his Squad leader, Sergeant Dime. The soldiers are hung over from a night of controlled partying, and they sneak drinks during the game even though strictly limited by Dime. Instead of deteriorating into a drunken comedy, Fountain takes readers on a panoramic view of US culture during the Iraq War. There are military well-wishers, pro football players, cheerleaders, family members, a flamboyant Cowboy's owner, angry roadies, Beyoncé and her entourage, and an unusual woman interested in Billy. All of these characters interact with Billy's squad of survivors of a deadly attack by insurgents in Iraq that lasted only minutes. The writing is subtly ironic without the over-the-top character stereotypes that are found in many novels today.The most interesting aspect of the novel is the dissociative state of Billy Lynn, the feeling he has that he is no longer a part of US life. He is an observer wondering at the motivation of people who desire Western comforts and excitements. The Army and the firefight have taken much of the emotion he had associated with accomplishment, easy living, national events, beauty, aggression, territoriality, work, sports, and most importantly, love. Even at 19 with limited education Billy has genuine insight and realizes he has a mental separation from his past civilian life. He wonders whether this private mental leave will be permanent and he will have to deliberately make other things matter. This process is true of young people who have served or are currently serving in the military. The service affects everything, much more than the surface appearance and expected behavior of the person. Fountain has captured the fundamental change that Billy has experienced and we veterans and active duty personnel can identify with the lasting dissociative existence of our post war era lives. Non-veterans can understand the sea change of soldiers in the novel and can enjoy the contrast with US citizens living in peace separate from distant wars. The wonderful writing describes soldiers' forced acceptance of permanent solitude and separation from the reinforcements of a comfortable life. Fountain also shows civilians' desperate avoidance of the terror of facing irreversible changes in the structure of their concepts of a stable cultural life.
Book is brilliant. In fact it may be in my top 10 favorite books of all time. The book takes place in one day at Dallas Stadium on Thanksgiving Day. Billy and his troop members are being celebrated for a heroic action in Iraq that was captured by an in bedded camera man. Billy is a nineteen and a virgin who is slightly overwhelmed by all the hoopla. Through his eyes we see the insanity of our modern culture and war.
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.
Reviews provided by Librarything.
No reviews here.