A finalist for the National Book Award
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.Read more...
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A finalist for the National Book Award
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.
Among the Bravos is the Silver Star-winning hero of Al-Ansakar Canal, Specialist William Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native. Amid clamoring patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers on their cars, the Bravos are thrust into the company of the Cowboys' hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Among these faces Billy sees those of his family--his worried sisters and broken father--and Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy's mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar.
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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-02-27
- Reviewer: Staff
Unfolding over the course of one Thanksgiving Day, Fountain’s (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara) second novel follows Bravo Company, the eight survivors of a savage clash with Iraqi insurgents, on the last leg of their government-sponsored “Victory Tour” in this witty and ironic sendup of middle America, Fox News politics, and, of all things, football. One minute, the soldiers are drinking Jack and Cokes, mobbed by hordes of well-wishers demanding autographs and seeking “the truth” about what’s “really going on” over there; the next, they’re in the bowels of Texas Stadium, reluctantly hobnobbing with the Dallas Cowboys and their cheerleaders, brokering a movie deal with a smarmy Hollywood producer, and getting into a drunken scuffle with the stadium’s disgruntled road crew, all in a series of uncomfortable scenes that border on the farcical. Texan Billy Lynn is the 19-year-old hero who learns about life and himself on his visit home to his family, and the palpable camaraderie between soldiers ground the book. But despite much valid pontificating on what it means to be a soldier and the chasm that exists between the American public’s perception of the war and the blunt reality of it, the often campy writing style and canned dialogue (“We, like, we wanna do somethin’ like you. Extreme, you know, cap some Muslim freaks...”) prevents the message from being delivered effectively. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM. (May)
Talkin' about war down in Texas
The year is 2004, and the war in Iraq slogs on, with rising casualties and no sign of the weapons of mass destruction. When a squad of brave soldiers comes to the aid of their ambushed comrades and the subsequent firefight is captured by an embedded Fox News camera team, the men become instant celebrities.
That’s the premise of Ben Fountain’s sly, raucous, occasionally bawdy first novel, one that recounts the wildly improbable Thanksgiving Day that eight members of Bravo squad, including Texas native Specialist Billy Lynn, spend as guests of the Dallas Cowboys. Fountain employs his ample satiric gifts to depict how flag-waving patriotism merges with our worship of professional football in a single manic event.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk teems with a host of colorful characters, starting with the members of Billy’s squad—men with nicknames like “A-bort” and “Load.” Accompanying them is a Hollywood producer who’s optioned their story and thinks he’s about to persuade Hilary Swank to sign on to the project. There are the nubile Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders and the team’s slick, predatory owner. In a wickedly funny locker room scene, the football stars offer to make an excursion to Iraq (no more than a couple of weeks, of course) to polish off a few terrorists.
The fawning civilians (still recovering from the shock of “nina leven” and committed to the war on “terrRr”) are mesmerized by the soldiers’ courage, and yet somehow detached from their experience. Fountain perfectly captures the bewilderment of Billy and his cohorts at this phenomenon, made more poignant by the knowledge that the white Hummer limousine that will transport them from Texas Stadium at game’s end is the first step in their redeployment to Iraq.
No doubt there will be other novels that turn to humor to examine this troublesome period in our nation’s history. They will certainly find themselves up against some stiff competition when measured against this shrewd story.