Friday, March 22, 2013

A Written Word Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

     "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" is the first book that I read in the year 2013 (I'm up to #12 now), and throughout the thousands of pages and millions of letters, it's still the novel that has stuck with me the most  nearing the end of March. Written by "late bloomer" Ben Fountain--"Billy Lynn" is his first novel, and Fountain is 54 years old--the book will be one that's remembered years down the road: it's filled with insight, hilarious dead-on dialogue and an everlasting sense of melancholy.
     Billy Lynn, a 19-year old solider on the cusp of an intricate understanding about the American general public, and his Bravo company are heroes: after a Fox News crew (embedded with the company during a ferocious battle, which even got a specific title: "The Battle of Al-Ansakar Canal") filmed the group, specifically Billy's above-and-beyond actions, the average American citizen worships the ground they walk on.
     Billy and the 7 other soldiers, all with distinct personalities and eccentricities that are realistic, scary and sad, begin a two week "Victory Tour" across America, shaking fat southern hands, answering questions about God, "terrRists" and "nina leven", all culminating in a halftime show during the Thanksgiving Dallas Cowboys game at Cowboy stadium, complete with a cocky billionaire owner and Beyonce shaking her "jelly" during the flashy musical mid-game number.
     Plenty of books have been written about the Iraq War (the non-fiction "The Forever War" being one of my other favorites), but never--until this wonderful novel--has the Iraq War come to American shores. These men, battle-worn and primed to pull the trigger instead of gorge on all of the excesses that America (and, specifically, its football culture) offers on a daily basis, are rock-stars. But instead of putting their guitars in their cases and heading off to the next city down they road, these boys--after the "Victory Tour" is up--have to re-lock and reload and head back to battle.
     Fountain's descriptions, humor and over-arching sense of the feeling one gets when witnessing the gorging mass that is the consume!consume!consume! American culture is a picture to behold. I found myself occasionally shaking my head in incredible agreement. Tough to pin down feelings are put into words that were seemingly impossible, yet this Pulitzer-worthy novel is full of passages like that. Billy is incredibly developed: a man/boy who is constantly aware of the ever-changing American consciousness and their almost-God-like feelings toward Bravo company. Everyone wants a piece of them--whether it be a shake of the hand, a kiss, or a blowjob.
     One could spend endless paragraphs writing about why "Billy Lynn" is a novel worth reading. If you've made it this far in the review, then you're probably planning on checking it out anyway. It's really a book that can bring a smile to your face and goosebumps to your skin: you can relate to it, it's full of joy and humor, and it's incredibly smart and cutting in its depiction of American fandom and excess.

No comments:

Post a Comment