Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

13325079From Goodreads: 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. (…) Over the course of this day, Billy will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-arms—soldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.
Poignant, riotously funny, and exquisitely heartbreaking, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a devastating portrait of our time, a searing and powerful novel that cements Ben Fountain’s reputation as one of the finest writers of his generation.

☺☺☺☺

I feel like I’ve been reading this book for a long time. It hasn’t been that long, but I had to take almost regular breaks while reading this book. It is sad. It is dense. And it is funny. Parts of it broke my heart, and other parts made me laugh out loud. There are plenty of clashes like that in the book. You have Billy, who is too young to drink, yet old enough to go to war. You have an extremely emotional and personal event (fighting for your life; your friend dying) flaunted during a victory tour through key election states. You have America’s Team celebrate America’s heroes in “kind of a crummy room, more like a union hall or underfunded rec center.” You have Billy reflecting on the different types of ever-present fear while he’s forced to make “small talk about the war.” At times, you just have to stop to think about how ridiculous it all is, though all the while you can perfectly imagine it to be true.

Billy, at times, feels breathless and overwhelmed by the sheer opulence of his surroundings, while trying to make sense of how it all works. Ben Fountain has the ability to leave the reader just as breathless:

“A baton twirler skips by in a blur of skin and spinning chrome. High school drill teams in one-piece leotards are doing a shoop-shoop sort of booty-bump routine, they are training to be strippers apparently. Drum lines wheel alongside the soldier column, flying squads of flag girls zigzag across the route and Destiny’s Child powers through it all with a back-leaning hip-heavy sashay strut that doesn’t look quite possible from where Billy is, as if some mystical combination of diva mojo and StairMastered thighs keeps them upright when mere mortals would fall flat on their ass. Up ahead troupes of dancers flank the stage, guys in floppy shirts and pants, caps to the back, girls in silver sports bras and royal-blue tights. Already there’s so much for the mind to absorb and then the disco lights get going, rows of blue and white strobes trimming the steel-pipe frame and everything flashing all at once, electro-visual spaz-pulse and epileptic overload, retinal scarring, frontal lobes blown to caterpillar fuzz—”

Can’t you just see it all in your mind?

I am an editor. I can’t help but notice incorrect punctuation or improper grammar—whether I want to or not. There are plenty of run-on sentences, missing punctuation, and other language oddities. And I have to say… it didn’t bother me one bit! I was feeling for Billy and Bravo the entire time.

Based on this book, I will be reading Slowly Down the Ganges by Eric Newby. It is one of the books Shroom is reading in Iraq.

 

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