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

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
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Oct 28, 2012

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There's a chapter in All Quiet on the Western Front where the main character returns home on leave to find himself utterly disconnected from his family and society. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a novel-length exploration of the same theme in the context of a Victory Tour for American soldiers from Iraq. Invited to a Thanksgiving NFL game, the men, through the narrator of Billy Lynn, encounter their fellow Americans. Throughout the day's events, soldiers and civilians have a difficult time understanding each other. While Ben Fountain's insightful prose provides a deep window into the psyche of young fighting men, there is little in the way of story arc. Each experience and flashback of the day circles around the central theme of disconnectedness with little character movement towards any emotional or psychological resolution. The novel is an interesting exercise in writing personal exploration, but lacks a traditional plot.
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Claudia Putnam Is that "but" supposed to be a criticism or just an observation? Many modern and contemporary novels lack "traditional" plots. As real life does not have a plot, I myself would not consider that to be a weakness.

Andrew Just an observation. If I had to put this into a defined genre, it would certainly be "contemporary" on account of the structure. Although there's an interesting juxtaposition in its treatment of a fairly traditional subject. The soldier returning home.

Claudia Putnam Interesting. I guess I'd just call it literary and leave it at that. We don't tend to think of literary fiction as having a genre.

Carol Storm Great review! If anything, I'd say you were a little too generous. Paul Baumer's thoughts and reflections are at least somewhat plausible given his background and schooling, ("he has written the first act of a tragedy that would do credit to the masters" says the schoolmaster) but Billy Lynn has an annoying habit of proclaiming his Texas ignorance over and over -- yet every word he ever says about war, greed, capitalism, etc. sounds like it just came right from the most exclusive coffee bar on the Upper West Side of Manhattan!

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