Sarah's Reviews > Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
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's review
Jul 18, 2012

it was amazing
Read from July 15 to 18, 2012

Stupendous instant classic, on innocence, ignorance and experience. Basically it's one long riff of consciousness from Billy, home from Iraq (temporarily) on a victory tour, and being treated to a barrage of experience that shows the war as business, as movie-making, as a sporting event, and set as it is at a Cowboys game on Thanksgiving, it could hardly be more perfectly contrived.

His reality is their reality's bitch; what they don't know is more powerful that all the things he knows, and yet he's what he's lived and knows what he knows, which means what, something terrible and possibly fatal, he suspects. To learn what you have to learn at the war, to do what you have to do, does this make you the enemy of all that sent you to the war?

... though for all this Billy and his squad have only been out there four months, and been in one - now legendary, but 3min43sec - battle.

The social observation is genius, and amusing where it's not despairing. Not at all subtle ("Americans are children who must go somewhere else to grow up, and sometimes die")*, and more regretful than bitter, despite the scathing irony throughout - it's Sinclair Lewis doing Apocalypse Now, sorta.

*This observation from Billy/narrator is quite near the end, and totally earned. Early on it would be trite but by the end it's proven, within the confines of the book, at least.

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