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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Hardcover – May 1, 2012
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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is not merely good; it’s Pulitzer Prize-quality good . . . A bracing, fearless and uproarious satire of how contemporary war is waged and sold to the American public.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“A masterful echo of ‘Catch-22,’ with war in Iraq at the center. …a gut-punch of a debut novel…There’s hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain’s sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel.” (Washington Post)
“Fountain’s excellent first novel follows a group of soldiers at a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day…Through the eyes of the titular soldier, Fountain creates a minutely observed portrait of a society with woefully misplaced priorities. [Fountain has] a pitch-perfect ear for American talk…” (The New Yorker)
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a big one. This is the brush-clearing Bush book we’ve been waiting for.” (Harper's Magazine)
“Brilliantly done . . . grand, intimate, and joyous.” (New York Times Book Review)
“For Memorial Day why not turn to a biting, thoughtful, and absolutely spot-on new novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk…This postmodern swirl of inner substance, yellow ribbons, and good(ish) intentions is at the core of Ben Fountain’s brilliant Bush-era novel.” (The Daily Beast)
“Ben Fountain combines blistering, beautiful language with razor-sharp insight…and has written a funny novel that provides skewering critiques of America’s obsession with sports, spectacle, and war.” (Huffington Post)
“A brilliantly conceived first novel . . . The irony, sorrow, anger and examples of cognitive dissonance that suffuse this novel make it one of the most moving and remarkable novels I’ve ever read.” (Nancy Pearl, NPR, Morning Edition)
“Seething, brutally funny…[Fountain] leaves readers with a fully realized band of brothers…Fountain’s readers will never look at an NFL Sunday, or at America, in quite the same way.” (Sports Illustrated)
“Biting, thoughtful, and absolutely spot-on. . . . This postmodern swirl of inner substance, yellow ribbons, and good(ish) intentions is at the core of Ben Fountain’s brilliant Bush-era novel.” (The Daily Beast)
“The Iraq war hasn’t yet had its Catch-22 or Slaughterhouse-Five, but Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a contender… A wicked sense of humor, wonderful writing and, beneath the anger and outrage, a generous heart.” (Tampa Bay Times)
“It’s a darkly humorous satire about the war at home, absurd and believable at the same time.” (Esquire)
“Darkly comic…Rarely does such a ruminative novel close with such momentum.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Fountain’s strength as a writer is that he not only can conjure up this all-too-realistic-sounding mob, but also the young believably innocent soul for our times, Specialist Billy Lynn. And from the first page I found myself rooting for him, often from the edge of my seat.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“[A] masterly . . . tightly structured book [with] a sprawling amount of drama and emotion.” (The Rumpus)
“Passionate, irreverent, utterly relevant Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk offers an unforgettable portrait of a reluctant hero. Ben Fountain writes like a man inspired and his razor sharp exploration of our contemporary ironies will break your heart.” (Margot Livesey)
“[T]he shell-shocked humor will likely conjure comparisons with Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five…War is hell in this novel of inspired absurdity.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“A truly wondrous first novel.” (Shelf Awareness)
“[T]he Catch-22 of the Iraq War....Fountain applies the heat of his wicked sense of humor while you face the truth of who we have become. Live one day inside Billy Lynn’s head and you’ll never again see our soldiers or America in the same way.” (Karl Marlantes, bestselling author of Matterhorn)
“Ben Fountain stormed to the front lines of American fiction when he published his astonishing...Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. His first novel will raise his stature and add to his splendid reputation. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is both hilarious and heartbreaking.” (Pat Conroy)
“Fountain is the Pen/Hemingway Award winner of the bristly and satisfying Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, so I expect lots from this book.” (Barbara's Picks, Library Journal)
“Ben Fountain’s Halftime is as close to the Great American Novel as anyone is likely to come these days—an extraordinary work that captures and releases the unquiet spirit of our age, and will probably be remembered as one of the important books of this decade.” (Madison Smartt Bell)
“While Fountain undoubtedly knows his Graham Greene and Paul Theroux, his excursions into foreign infernos have an innocence all their own. In between his nihilistic descriptions, a boyishness keeps peeking out, cracking one-liners and admiring the amazing if benighted scenery.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“So much of Fountain’s work...reads with an easy grace.... [S]ometimes genius is anything but rarefied; sometimes it’s just the thing that emerges after twenty years of working at your kitchen table.” (Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker)
“Here is a novel that is deeply engaged with our contemporary world, timely and timeless at once. Plus, it’s such fun to read.” (The Millions)
“The chasm between the reality and the glorification of war hasn’t been this surreal since Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.” (Sacramento Bee)
“…wickedly affecting…Billy Lynn has courted some Catch-22 comparisons, and they’re well-earned. Fountain is a whiz at lining up plausible inanities and gut-twisting truths for the Bravos to suffer through.” (Philadelphia City Paper)
“[A] wonderfully readable book [which] does something similar to Why Are We in Vietnam?, asking hard questions about the cultural short-sightedness that contributed to our involvement in Iraq. As a veteran myself, I can attest that it’s spot on.” (BookRiot)
“To call Fountain’s work enjoyable would be an understatement because it quite simply is one of the best novels written in the past five years.” (Texas Books in Review)
“The best book about the Iraq War and Destiny’s Child that you’ll ever read.” (Entertainment Weekly)
Top Customer Reviews
I say that as a veteran (of Desert Storm) and an embedded journalist in Iraq in 2007-09, so I have some first-hand knowledge with what he describes. To me, the voices and actions of the characters are dead-on accurate.
It's got some flaws, which I'll get to first so I can finish strong. In my mind, the flaws are because he's trying so hard at writing something big and memorable, and it gets away from him at times.
The conclusion veers into melodrama. Up until the last 40 pages or so, I could pretty much buy the events as possible real-life occurrences. But the end features a couple moments where I couldn't quite suspend disbelief.
While the civilians he describes behave realistically, there's times when it feels very much like the author's "meta rant" against the American mindset - he sets up some characters as one-dimensional straw men so he can show his disdain. I agree with what he's presenting, but it doesn't always feel like a story - more like he's trying to inject a point into the fictional narrative. Which is fine, but not if it's obvious like it sometime is.
Most of the time, the story is told in present-day perspective with some flashbacks. Very occasionally, he switches into describing the future, and that's awkward. For me, I would have liked no 'future look' at all.
So, okay, those things threw me off.
Everything else is very strong. Marlantes called it a "Catch 22" of the Iraq War - but that's not accurate, because to me it's not really a satire.Read more ›
A colleague of mine likes telling this story: his wife finally asks him what he's reading after he repeatedly laughs out loud. He replies to her, "A war novel." There's a bitterness that underlies it all, to be sure (see my back-and-forth with one of the one-star curmudgeons for more on that), but that bitterness is frequently offset by Fountain's hip, hilarious, dead on observations and wonderfully fresh cache of similes. Here are just a (very) few examples:
"She performed with a multitasky air of distractedness, like she was watering plants while talking on the phone..."
"She was still capable of sad, skewed smiles from time to time, forcing the cheer like Christmas lights in the poor part of town..."
"His complexion is the ruddled, well-scrubbed pink of an old ketchup stain..."
"Billy makes a few of the cheerleaders for strippers--they have the tough slizzard look of the club pro--but most of them could be college girls with their fresh good looks, their pert noses and smooth necks, their scrubbed, unsullied air of wholesome voluptuousness..."
"They're just so pretty and genuinely nice, and toned, good God, their bodies firm as steel belted radials...."
"Their wonderful breasts keep noodging up against his arms, setting off sensory bells and whistles like a run of bonus points in a video game..."
"Back in the locker room the players have almost finished suiting up. The air is a pungent casserole of plastics, b.o.Read more ›
This book is a moving commentary on the state of America today. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry; it will provoke sympathy and anger.
Billy Lynn and his fellow grunts in Bravo Team return to the states for a hero's welcome, only to be confronted by an America completely unfazed, totally uninvolved in the war. Like "All Quiet on the Western Front," "Billy Lynn" shows the puzzlement of troops who return from deadly battle only to see a complete disconnection in civilian society. America appreciates Bravo's efforts, politely expresses their support for the troops, but don't interrupt America's quest for materialism and pursuit of our right to happiness.
Ben Fountain draws an excellent portrait of America's ambivalence towards the Iraqi War, something that we've never seen before. In all other wars (except for the brief Desert Storm), our troops were primarily drafted, pulled reluctantly into harm's way. Families everywhere had someone or knew someone in the service. Casualties and deaths reverberated through communities reminding everyone that it could have been their son or nephew. It was this reverberation, the cry of mothers, which ended the Viet Nam War. Young men had no control over their lives. Authors explored the ancient Greek concept of determinism: how much of our lives are determined by things we cannot control, such as chance and the environment in which we live.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I know there has to be character and plot development, but the really good parts of this book (Billy's interaction with different family members, his fellow Bravo soldiers, Norm... Read morePublished 20 hours ago by barthy
Technically well-written. It took a long time to get into the plot of the story. I had a difficult time identifying the characters and keeping them sorted out.Published 21 hours ago by JRDL
Few things split opinions more radically than war. And there's also the drastic split between what the war looks like abroad versus at home. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Making Good Stories
I think this book captures the country's disconnect with patriotic feelings and the reality of war. I highly recommend it.Published 12 days ago by Anne A. McKnight
Great book. As a veteran it resonated. America needs its 'Hero Industrial Complex' taken to task.Published 28 days ago by Andrew Nelson Gregory
The character Billy Lynn stays with you long after you finish the book.Published 1 month ago by terry cobb
Really liked this book. I can see people moaning about how it's un-American and so extreme and made up it's not how people really think of soldiers, etc, etc. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Barry