Today’s post is from Annie at Parr Library.
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Billy Lynn, age 19, is one of the eight members of the Army’s Bravo Squad to survive the Battle of Al-Ansakar Canal, Iraq, a battle that was filmed by the Fox News reporter embedded with the squad. The video of the battle turns Bravo Squad into America’s heroes, and results in a two-week victory tour back in the States culminating with an appearance on Thanksgiving Day at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, circa 2004.
Ben Fountain, the author of Billy Lynn, has lived in Dallas since 1983, so he gets the whole Dallas Cowboys thing. He (along with Larry McMurtry) doesn’t much like Dallas, but does consider it the quintessential American city, full of capitalism, free market evangelism, consumerism, materialism. “You justify your existence in economic terms by what you do and how much money you make.” And I have to say the full force of his book comes to fruition in the parts that deal with the Dallas Cowboys game. Billy and company are given a tour by the equipment manager into the bowels of the organization, and the state-of-the-art technology, the custom-made equipment, the first class gym, the gargantuan salaries, the sheer amount of money and food that goes into maintaining the men on this football team is over the top, especially to Billy who sees his and Bravo’s training, equipment and salaries in stark juxtaposition.
This book has been on almost every 2012 list of best books and was a National Book Award finalist (The Round House by Louise Edrich won). It has also received many comparisons to Catch-22, Joseph Heller’s classic war novel set in World War II. Heller’s book satirizes the attempt to control the horror of war by bureaucratizing it through regulations. Billy Lynn is more about the attempt to commoditize the war, sell it to the American people by making Bravo squad celebrities. Throughout the book a Hollywood deal maker trails the boys attempting to work a deal for a movie.
It’s a masterful book about the way things are that makes you wish things could be different.