A whirlwind of a novel that exposes the absurdity of war, football, politics, and media. It uses dense, muscular prose to tell a story that is like a cross between the high octane absurdity of Carl Hiassen and the dark undertones of Nathaniel West' s The Day of the Locust
. I was also reminded of Matt Taibbi
's prose. The cover blurb compares it to Catch-22
by Joseph Heller, the classic American war satire. Only in this case, the military is a place of sanity while American society has gone crazy.
Billy Lynn is a 19 year old guy from small town Texas who enlists to fight in Iraq. He finds himself a hero after distinguishing himself in battle. The military decides to parade he and his fellow soldiers around the country for a victory tour, accompanied by a Hollywood producer who is trying to put together a film deal about their story. Hillary Swank wants to play Billy. The climax of the tour is a blowout halftime show during a Cowboy's game featuring the soldiers
The novel is set during this football game where Billy spends the whole time trying to get an Advil for a splitting headache, wondering he's supposed to be doing in the halftime show, and, even bigger than that, trying to understand the political and financial machinations that produce a huge football stadium, Hollywood producers, and magnates who leverage credit into empire.
Stream of consciousness is Fountain's technique, and the narrative is intuitive and easy to follow. The education of Billy Lynn is hilarious, sweet, sad, wild, and makes you mad that even though this is clearly satire, you can see it happening.
Other books mentioned in the text (a great clue for further reading--if you like this book, there's a good chance you'll like these):The HobbitFlashman at the ChargeHell's AngelsFear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American DreamSlaughterhouse-FiveCat’s CradleGorky Park
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Reviewed by Mrs. Hanson