Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
By Ben Fountain
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780060885595, 320pp.)
Publication Date: May 2012
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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.
Ben Fountain is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. He has received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and a Whiting Writers' Award, among other honors and awards. He and his family live in Dallas.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is not merely good; it’s Pulitzer Prize-quality good . . . A bracing, fearless and uproarious satire of how contemporary war is waged and sold to the American public.”
-San Francisco Chronicle
“Brilliantly done . . . grand, intimate, and joyous.”
-New York Times Book Review
“[An] inspired, blistering war novel…Though it covers only a few hours, the book is a gripping, eloquent provocation. Class, privilege, power, politics, sex, commerce and the life-or-death dynamics of battle all figure in Billy Lynn’s surreal game day experience.”
-New York Times
“A masterful echo of ‘Catch-22,’ with war in Iraq at the center. …a gut-punch of a debut novel…There’s hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain’s sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel.”
“Fountain’s excellent first novel follows a group of soldiers at a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day…Through the eyes of the titular soldier, Fountain creates a minutely observed portrait of a society with woefully misplaced priorities. [Fountain has] a pitch-perfect ear for American talk…”
-The New Yorker
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a big one. This is the brush-clearing Bush book we’ve been waiting for.”
“For Memorial Day why not turn to a biting, thoughtful, and absolutely spot-on new novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk…This postmodern swirl of inner substance, yellow ribbons, and good(ish) intentions is at the core of Ben Fountain’s brilliant Bush-era novel.”
-The Daily Beast
“Ben Fountain combines blistering, beautiful language with razor-sharp insight…and has written a funny novel that provides skewering critiques of America’s obsession with sports, spectacle, and war.”
“A brilliantly conceived first novel . . . 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.”
-Nancy Pearl, NPR, Morning Edition
“Seething, brutally funny…[Fountain] leaves readers with a fully realized band of brothers…Fountain’s readers will never look at an NFL Sunday, or at America, in quite the same way.”
“Biting, thoughtful, and absolutely spot-on. . . . This postmodern swirl of inner substance, yellow ribbons, and good(ish) intentions is at the core of Ben Fountain’s brilliant Bush-era novel.”
-The Daily Beast
“The Iraq war hasn’t yet had its Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse-Five, but Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a contender… A wicked sense of humor, wonderful writing and, beneath the anger and outrage, a generous heart.”
-Tampa Bay Times
“It’s a darkly humorous satire about the war at home, absurd and believable at the same time.”
“Darkly comic…Rarely does such a ruminative novel close with such momentum.”
-Los Angeles Times
“Fountain’s strength as a writer is that he not only can conjure up this all-too-realistic-sounding mob, but also the young believably innocent soul for our times, Specialist Billy Lynn. And from the first page I found myself rooting for him, often from the edge of my seat.”
-Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] masterly . . . tightly structured book [with] a sprawling amount of drama and emotion.”
“Passionate, irreverent, utterly relevant Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk offers an unforgettable portrait of a reluctant hero. Ben Fountain writes like a man inspired and his razor sharp exploration of our contemporary ironies will break your heart.”
“[T]he shell-shocked humor will likely conjure comparisons with Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five…War is hell in this novel of inspired absurdity.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A truly wondrous first novel.”
“[T]he Catch-22 of the Iraq War....Fountain applies the heat of his wicked sense of humor while you face the truth of who we have become. Live one day inside Billy Lynn’s head and you’ll never again see our soldiers or America in the same way.”
-Karl Marlantes, bestselling author of Matterhorn
“Ben Fountain stormed to the front lines of American fiction when he published his astonishing...Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. His first novel will raise his stature and add to his splendid reputation. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is both hilarious and heartbreaking.”
“Fountain is the Pen/Hemingway Award winner of the bristly and satisfying Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, so I expect lots from this book.”
-Barbara's Picks, Library Journal
“Ben Fountain’s Halftime is as close to the Great American Novel as anyone is likely to come these days—an extraordinary work that captures and releases the unquiet spirit of our age, and will probably be remembered as one of the important books of this decade.”
-Madison Smartt Bell
“While Fountain undoubtedly knows his Graham Greene and Paul Theroux, his excursions into foreign infernos have an innocence all their own. In between his nihilistic descriptions, a boyishness keeps peeking out, cracking one-liners and admiring the amazing if benighted scenery.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
“So much of Fountain’s work...reads with an easy grace.... [S]ometimes genius is anything but rarefied; sometimes it’s just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen table.”
-Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker
“Here is a novel that is deeply engaged with our contemporary world, timely and timeless at once. Plus, it’s such fun to read.”
“The chasm between the reality and the glorification of war hasn’t been this surreal since Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.”
“…wickedly affecting…Billy Lynn has courted some Catch-22 comparisons, and they’re well-earned. Fountain is a whiz at lining up plausible inanities and gut-twisting truths for the Bravos to suffer through.”
-Philadelphia City Paper
“[A] wonderfully readable book [which] does something similar to Why Are We in Vietnam?, asking hard questions about the cultural short-sightedness that contributed to our involvement in Iraq. As a veteran myself, I can attest that it’s spot on.”