Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Book Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Author: Ben Fountain
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Kindle for iPad
This book would be rated: R for language, sexual situations
It's Thanksgiving 2004, and Billy Lynn is on a victory tour of sorts. He's a nineteen-year-old from rural Texas, and along with seven other soldiers, a handler, and a movie producer, he has spent the last two weeks touring the country as the face of victory in the war in Iraq (a battle in which they engaged was caught on film by their embedded reporter and has been the rallying cry of the country for the last month). Today, they're at Texas Stadium for the Cowboys game, getting themselves drunk of Jack and Cokes, and hoping for a chance to meet Beyonce.
The book, which takes place almost entirely on Thanksgiving Day, is pretty wonderful. Many would consider it serious literary fiction (it's a finalist for the National Book Award and Fountain's short stories have won gobs of lit fiction awards), but it's also entertaining and hyped up and jangly in a way that literary fiction often isn't. Of course, there are some pretensions (Fountain likes embedding little prose poems of background noise a little too much), but Fountain really captures the ambivalence, fear, and excitement of Billy Lynn as he's thrust into the unreal situation of war, and then the even stranger situation of becoming an overnight sensation who still must go back to the battlefront when the cameras go away.