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

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
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's review
Oct 07, 12

Read in October, 2012

I read this book after seeing what great reviews it got, and mine will be no different. It is a beautifully written novel about a young war hero's return home for a couple of days, to be honored before returning to Iraq.

While fictional, the book features incisive commentary about:
--the ridiculousness of energy independence
--why people join the army
--Dallas high society ("They could be the congregation of hte richest church in town, Our Anorexic Lady of the Upscale Honky Bling; the only people of color here are the waitstaff and several gregarious former players, fan favorites from yesteryear who invested wisely and kept their noses clean.")
--education/public schools and their role in preparing you for adult life
--a press corps that doesn't regularly question authority figures
--the contrast between the preparation and support system for NFL players compared to soldiers
--the ridiculousness of playing the national anthem before sporting events, ("The Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears, these are two privately owned, for-profit corporations, these their contractual employees taking hte field. As well play the national anthem at the top of every commercial, before every board meeting, with every deposit and withdrawal you make at the bank!"
--the fireworks of a halftime show versus that of war
--why a soldier stays in the army even while being conflicted about it

As well, the book also does a wonderful job exploring the contrast between combat and ordinary American life, and particularly how fake and immature the everyday world must seem to soldiers returning from the war. And the author also does a good job illustrating the callousness soldiers develop, weaving this throughout the book, but also evident in an offhand comment comparing NFL referees to "little Hitlers."

The book also is quite funny in parts, not least when the faux Jerry Jones figure tries to bully the soldiers into selling him their movie rights, by calling a general friend of his. Except the general turns out to be from Youngstown, Ohio and a huge Steelers fan.

This book is constructed very differently than almost anything I've ever read (although, notably, I have not read Catch-22, which I see this book compared to frequently), as it is almost entirely focused on the main character, and how he processes events and tries to come to terms with his mortality, his place in society, the war, etc. But ultimately the main character is so richly drawn that this approach adds to, rather than detracts from, the book.

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