Friday, March 22, 2013
A Written Word Review: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
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.