Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

billy lynn jacketBilly Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Bravo Squad’s Mind-blowing evening in Dallas.  This novel is a confluence of three big players in the nation that we call America.  Big Military, Big Sports, and Big Hollywood.  Billy Lynn is a nineteen-year-old grunt soldier in the United States Army serving a tour of Duty in Iraq.  He is from a poor part of rural Texas and has joined the army as part of a deal, either join the military of go to prison.    He is part of Bravo Squad, an infantry unit.  During a patrol their unit comes under heavy fire.  Billy’s cherished friend and mentor, Schroom, is hit and killed and dies in his arms.  But, amazingly, the whole firefight has been caught on tape by an embedded Fox news reporter and camera crew.  The footage becomes a hit in the states and the military is quick to hit on these men as a moral boaster for the war.  Billy wins the Silver Star for gallantry. They are sent on a two week “Victory Tour” of the United States. The book concentrates on one of the stops on the tour, a Cowboys game at Texas stadium.  There they are trotted out to the public at a half time show featuring the Cowboy cheerleaders and the musical group “Destiny’s Child”.   In addition to free seats to the game, they discover that they are to be part of the big half time show. During their tour they are joined (more like stalked and harassed)  by Albert, a movie producer, who wants to turn their story into a film and is constantly on the phone with Hollywood trying to make a movie deal.

Billy and the rest of the squad are on a surreal journey through America, being treated like heroes yet always knowing that they will be sent back Iraq after the tour is over, where they may or may not come back.  They are constantly bombarded by cries of “Thank you for your service, bless you for your sacrifice.”  Also questions:  “Are we winning?  What’s it like over there?  What’s it like to kill people?” 

This book encompasses all the contradictions of the Iraq war.  Looking for heroes in an American venture that has no heroes.

Joel



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