Thursday, July 14, 2016

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

The standard "thank you for your service" for the military is a fascinating issue (which Kevin Power's also dealt with in The Yellow Birds) and Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2012) is a great fictional examination. It tells the story of soldiers (dubbed "Bravo Squad) in Iraq who saved fellow soldiers in a heroic mission, which happened to be filmed by Fox News and thus beamed back to the United States.

They were given two days to return to the U.S., both to see their families but then also to attend a Dallas Cowboys football game, where they would be feted and honored. The novel focuses largely on that day, with keen and really funny satire. The soldiers feel like props as they struggle to understand the motivations of the people fawning over them while mouthing platitudes about "ninaleven" and terrRsm." Ultimately the soldiers don't care too much about being thanked and want everyone to leave them alone. War actually feels more real to them.

Like the others, Billy is trying to come to grips with the death of one of their buddies, with his own religious beliefs, his future, and his personal relationships but Americans don't care much about that.

No matter their age or station in life, Billy can't help but regard his fellow Americans as children. They are bold and proud and certain in the way of clever children blessed with too much self-esteem, and no amount of lecturing will enlighten them as to the state of pure sin toward which war inclines (45-46).

Throughout, they have a producer trying to put together a film deal, which then connects to the red-blooded patriotic owner of the Cowboys owner (fictional) who talks about how much he loves them yet lowballs them all the same.

There's a lot to chew on in this book, and the writing is excellent. Fountain captures so well the spirit of the times, the desire for 9/11 revenge, and the disconnect between the average American and the war in Iraq.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP