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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walkby Ben Fountain
Synopses & Reviews
A finalist for the National Book Award!
A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at "the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal" — three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew — has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny's Child.
Among the Bravos is the Silver Star–winning hero of Al-Ansakar Canal, Specialist William Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native. Amid clamoring patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers on their cars, the Bravos are thrust into the company of the Cowboys' hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Among these faces Billy sees those of his family — his worried sisters and broken father — and Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy's mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar.
Over the course of this day, Billy will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-arms — soldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.
Poignant, riotously funny, and exquisitely heartbreaking, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a devastating portrait of our time, a searing and powerful novel that cements Ben Fountain's reputation as one of the finest writers of his generation.
"Unfolding over the course of one Thanksgiving Day, Fountain's (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara) second novel follows Bravo Company, the eight survivors of a savage clash with Iraqi insurgents, on the last leg of their government-sponsored 'Victory Tour' in this witty and ironic sendup of middle America, Fox News politics, and, of all things, football. One minute, the soldiers are drinking Jack and Cokes, mobbed by hordes of well-wishers demanding autographs and seeking 'the truth' about what's 'really going on' over there; the next, they're in the bowels of Texas Stadium, reluctantly hobnobbing with the Dallas Cowboys and their cheerleaders, brokering a movie deal with a smarmy Hollywood producer, and getting into a drunken scuffle with the stadium's disgruntled road crew, all in a series of uncomfortable scenes that border on the farcical. Texan Billy Lynn is the 19-year-old hero who learns about life and himself on his visit home to his family, and the palpable camaraderie between soldiers ground the book. But despite much valid pontificating on what it means to be a soldier and the chasm that exists between the American public's perception of the war and the blunt reality of it, the often campy writing style and canned dialogue ('We, like, we wanna do somethin' like you. Extreme, you know, cap some Muslim freaks...') prevents the message from being delivered effectively. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"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
"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
"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
"[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
"[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 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
"[An] inspired, blistering war novel...Though it covers only a few hours, the book is a gripping, eloquent provocation. Class, privilege, power, politics, sex, commerce and the life-or-death dynamics of battle all figure in Billy Lynn's surreal game day experience." New York Times
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
"Brilliantly done...grand, intimate, and joyous." New York Times Book Review
"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
"A truly wondrous first novel." Shelf Awareness
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"It's a darkly humorous satire about the war at home, absurd and believable at the same time." Esquire
"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
"Darkly comic....Rarely does such a ruminative novel close with such momentum." Los Angeles Times
"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
Both hilarious and heartbreaking.
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
Ben Fountain, the PEN/Hemingway award-winning author of the critically acclaimed short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, makes a brilliant foray into long-form fiction with Billy Lynns Long Halftime Walk (The Catch-22 of the Iraq War —Karl Marlantes). A razor sharp satire set in Texas during Americas war in Iraq, it explores the gaping national disconnect between the war at home and the war abroad. Fountains remarkable debut novel follows the surviving members of the heroic Bravo Squad through one exhausting stop in their media-intensive Victory Tour at Texas Stadium, football mecca of the Dallas Cowboys, their fans, promoters, and cheerleaders.
About the Author
Ben Fountain's fiction has appeared in Harper's, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope: All Story, and he has been awarded an O. Henry Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and the PEN/Hemingway Award. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dallas, Texas.
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