Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

4.3 82
by Ben Fountain
     
 

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A finalist for the National Book Award!

Three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare with Iraqi insurgents has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. Now they're on a media-intensive nationwide tour to reinvigorate support for the war. On this rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of the

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Overview

A finalist for the National Book Award!

Three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare with Iraqi insurgents has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. Now they're on a media-intensive nationwide tour to reinvigorate support for the war. On this rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside Destiny's Child.

Among the Bravos is Specialist Billy Lynn. Surrounded by patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers, he is thrust into the company of the Cowboys' owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Over the course of this day, 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Entertainment Weekly
“The best book about the Iraq War and Destiny’s Child that you’ll ever read.”
Texas Books in Review
“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.”
Los Angeles Times
“Darkly comic…Rarely does such a ruminative novel close with such momentum.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“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.”
The Rumpus
“[A] masterly . . . tightly structured book [with] a sprawling amount of drama and emotion.”
Shelf Awareness
“A truly wondrous first novel.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer
“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.”
The Millions
“Here is a novel that is deeply engaged with our contemporary world, timely and timeless at once. Plus, it’s such fun to read.”
Sacramento Bee
“The chasm between the reality and the glorification of war hasn’t been this surreal since Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.”
Philadelphia City Paper
“…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.”
BookRiot
“[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.”
Madison Smartt Bell
“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.”
San Francisco Chronicle
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.”
New York Times Book Review
“Brilliantly done . . . grand, intimate, and joyous.”
New York Times
“[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.”
Washington Post
“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.”
The New Yorker
“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…”
Harper's Magazine
“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a big one. This is the brush-clearing Bush book we’ve been waiting for.”
The Daily Beast
“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.”
Huffington Post
“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.”
Sports Illustrated
“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.”
Tampa Bay Times
“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.”
Nancy Pearl
“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.”
Margot Livesey
“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.”
Karl Marlantes
“[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.”
Pat Conroy
“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.”
Barbara's Picks
“Fountain is the Pen/Hemingway Award winner of the bristly and satisfying Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, so I expect lots from this book.”
Malcolm Gladwell
“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.”
Esquire
“It’s a darkly humorous satire about the war at home, absurd and believable at the same time.”
Jeff Turrentine
…a masterful gut-punch of a debut novel…Catch-22 is about to be updated for a new era. In his immortal classic, Heller was lampooning the military's attempt to bureaucratize the horror of World War II. In Fountain's razor-sharp, darkly comic novel—a worthy neighbor to Catch-22 on the bookshelf of war fiction—the focus has shifted from bureaucracy to publicity, reflecting corresponding shifts in our culture…There's hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain's sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…[an] inspired, blistering war novel…Mr. Fountain…sets up this Thanksgiving game as an artfully detailed microcosm of America in general, and George W. Bush's Texas in particular, during the Iraq war. 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.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Billy Lynn is a member of Bravo Company, which acquitted itself heroically in a deadly confrontation early in the Iraq War. An embedded reporter captured the battle on widely broadcast video. Now, on the last day of a victory tour, an insane PR event put on by the army, the company is at a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving football game. Native Texan Billy has been deeply affected by the death of squad leader Shroom, who gave him books to read and challenged him to think about what he was doing with his life. During a brief stop at home, Billy's sister urges him to refuse to return to Iraq. Billy also meets one of the fabled Cowboys cheerleaders, with whom he improbably forms an immediate and passionate connection, something that has opened a door to the possibility of a new, more hopeful life. But though Billy has had his eyes opened, in many ways he and his company are happier and feel more purposive as soldiers. VERDICT Employing intricate detail and feverish cinematography, Fountain's (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories) vividly written novel is an allegorical hero's journey, a descent into madness, and a mirror held up to this society's high-definition TV reality. Tragically unhinged, it also rings completely, hilariously true. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/11.]—Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060885618
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/27/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
77,000
Product dimensions:
5.44(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.79(d)

What People are saying about this

Nancy Pearl

“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.”

Margot Livesey

“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.”

Madison Smartt Bell

“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.”

Barbara's Picks

“Fountain is the Pen/Hemingway Award winner of the bristly and satisfying Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, so I expect lots from this book.”

Pat Conroy

“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.”

Karl Marlantes

“[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.”

Malcolm Gladwell

“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.”

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Meet the Author

Ben Fountain is the author of Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. He has received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, and a Whiting Writers' Award, among other honors and awards. He and his family live in Dallas.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Dallas, Texas
Place of Birth:
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Education:
B.A. in English, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1980; J.D., Duke University School of Law, 1983

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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: A Novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read fast. Really fast. Very few books slow me down. This book brought me to a standstill--and sent me back to read again. It knit the realities of combat to the realities of American civilian life. And with the same stitches, it bound the absurd fantasies of both experiences. It is no wonder that civilians who experience combat experience nothing the same way ever again. This slice of life was a story intricately spun and made into an uncomfortable but irresistible jacket. Thank you.
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
This book is as good as the best reviews say it is. It's very moving and sad and insightful and revealing. What happens to the young, impressionable men we send to war is something we can't comprehend without the experience ourselves. This story helps reveal a lot about them and also a lot about ourselves and our responses to them. And most of it happens during one professional football game at Cowboys stadium. What a clever way to tell their story. I loved this book.
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
Having a somewhat loose connection to the military lifestyle, I felt an instant connection to this book that goes deeper than a cursory glance just across the surface. It made BILLY LYNN’s LONG HALFTIME WALK real to me, yet I did have trouble initially getting into the story, because it’s told as much through flashbacks, bouncing in time from the present to the past, that I struggled initially with the author’s choice of storytelling. But once I caught on, I dove into the water headfirst, and I didn’t bother coming up for air. Sure, there are satirical elements to the story, and it presents a world that’s not all sugarplums and candy canes and apple pies, but it’s the world we currently live in, if not slightly exaggerated. And for me, that was most of the appeal of the novel. I loved the direct line of sight into the eyes of a soldier, a grunt and a squad that was suddenly blown up bigger than an atomic bomb because of the media attention, the Jumbotron, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and the Victory Tour. It’s a study in American excess, and it further cements the great American divide between the haves and the have nots. This novel is at times powerful, heartbreaking, funny, sad, but overall it’s a richly written piece of fiction that made me pause and reflect, if even just for a minute, at the direction our country has taken. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dark satire of war and the selling of war.
prenoun More than 1 year ago
Not so much a novel of the Iraq War as a novel of soldiers attempting to understand the country they've enlisted to protect. There are comparisons drawn between Americans' commitment to their pastimes and their disinterest in the world around them, and Fountain's book, while making no real statements about the war, is happy to engage this larger, slower target. Humorous and touchingly written, Fountain' characters are believable and vivid, and surely they're the reason this novel made the Book Award shortlist. It didn't win, but as an effort to map a post-9/11 America, and the war we refused to examine, Bill Lynn wholly succeeds.
SharonfromCO More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing anti-war book that embodies a certain essence of what it means to be an American in the 21st century. It took me a few false starts to get the rhythm of this story of class, race, and gender among many other things. Thought provoking and sadly funny--do not give up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It took awhile to get a feel for storyline, but thank God, I didn't give up. A terrific first novel! Should be in line for the National Book Award!
Lance_Charnes More than 1 year ago
It's 2007 or 2008, and the bloom is well off the Iraq War rose when news footage of a confused squad-level engagement vaults the surviving members of Bravo Squad into national celebrity. The Bush Administration trots them around swing states on a two-week "Victory Tour." The last stop is Dallas and an appearance at the Cowboys' orgiastic Thanksgiving Day game. This is where we meet Bravo, through the confused and overwhelmed eyes of 19-year-old Specialist Billy Lynn. The story of that day and all that led Billy and his Army comrades to it is told not through straightforward narrative but via a tour de force of near-stream-of-consciousness word purge, a swirl of hopes, dreams, fears, bewilderment, anger, disgust, horniness and loneliness. Billy, a native of hardscrabble East Texas, is exactly what you'd expect of a young man in his position: now a teenager, next a prematurely aged man, seeking guidance and strength from anyone who happens to be a few years older or even marginally wiser. He reveres his squad leader, SSGT Dime, while wondering whether the good sergeant really knows what he's doing; he bitterly misses "Shroom," a fellow squaddie and casualty of the firefight, who seemed to have all the answers, even if there weren't questions for them. In between, Billy does the things young men do after learning about mortality: he gets drunk, endures hangovers, sticks like Velcro to the now-men who shared his experience, acts out, and tries to cure a festering case of virginity. Fountain nails Billy's voice. So too does he nail the rest of Bravo, a modern-day grab bag of country and ghetto boys of all colors whose only common trait is that infantry duty in Iraq is better than any options available to them back home. They brag, swear, give each other merciless grief, say inappropriate things about and to women of all ages, fight and get stoned and cry when it all gets too much. I've met these guys; I watched them on their in-theater R&R in Qatar, rescued a few of them from the clutches of the USO, took them to dinner and sightseeing. Fountain got them mostly right, a great trick for someone who wasn't one of them. The plot? It isn't much -- Bravo stumbles from one encounter to another with an America that's become surreal to them. The superabundance of food, of stuff, of money, contrasts glaringly with their Spartan existence downrange. There's also a superabundance of need -- for reassurance (the repeated, childlike pleas: "Are we winning?" "Is it getting better?"), for hope, for validation -- that the people the Bravos meet turn to the soldiers to fill, and which the Bravos (who have their own glaring needs) can't begin to address. They also encounter profound cluelessness about the war among the civilians, the idea that it's a computer game or the action movie that the Bravos' Hollywood agent keeps trying to piece together. "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" might be the first great Iraq War novel. It's a war story in which no shots are fired in anger; indeed, the war is many thousands of miles away in physical space, and on another planet in the mental space of most of the characters who populate this novel. Yet it says so much about the war, the men and women who fought in it, and the country that sent them there. It could in many ways be "The Best Years of Our Lives" for a new generation. If you're a True Believer in the Iraq War, you'll find plenty to hate here, but everyone else ought to get something from this novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've heard wisdom is knowing you know nothing. I'm feeling wiser after reading Ben Fountain's "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk." To read this book is to enter a virtual reality world of a young soldier's experience with the civilian world after the rawest of wartime experiences. It's a surreal place where every sensation and thought is multiplied in intensity and then questioned for validity. I would put this on the "must read" list for: - anyone who has ever said "I know how you feel" - anyone who has counselled someone on enlisting in the military - every high school student - anyone affected by the politics of war - anyone who has been touched by war and terrorism, even if peripherally I'm not saying the book will change views. But I think it will make us more aware of the impact of those views.
bayareagirl More than 1 year ago
Creates the real aggression of war and juxtaposes it with the pretend aggression of football. The Bravo company are heroes, but not in the expected way. Dialogue perfect, humor and heart , all elevate this books to one of the best.  Reminds me of The Things They Carried, and Catch -22 in its exposure of the reality of war. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the saddest books to make you laugh, and it also manages to be thought provoking at the same time. This novel earns the right to be compared with a classis novel like "Catch 22".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Some of the descriptive phrases are so powerful that you are transported into the storyline. I will read this book again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is not easily characterized. It gives an insight into the thoughts of those service members we consider heroes, as well as those who are left at home. This book should become a statement for our times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We read this book for our book club. It made for an interesting discussion on the disconnect between the soldiers and the American public
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Did you read my bio?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tallpaw Mudpaw Riverpaw Dawnbolt Dustwind!!" She cheered then she touched noses with Tallpaw((sorry if i got the names wrong.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
WinterSong cheered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She touched noses with Mudpaw. ((If they don't show up in a few days, hm.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you once again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yes, there aare moments were you have to suspend your disbelief and women characters lack depth, but the quality of the writing is outstanding.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dbh
Anonymous More than 1 year ago