Literature and War Readalong September 30 2016: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk

Next up in the Literature and War Readalong 2016 is Ben Fountain’s novel on the war in Iraq Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Billy Lynn is Ben Fountain’s first novel. Before that he was mostly known as a short story writer. Many of his stories were published in prestigious magazines and received prizes (the O.Henry and Pushcart among others). A lot of people who already read this novel, told me how much they liked it. If I’m not mistaken, the book is set in the States and not in Iraq. It’s neither a war zone story, nor a home front story but a story of soldiers who are back home to celebrate a victory, before they will be shipped out again.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain,  307 pages, US 2012, War in Iraq

Here are the first sentences

The men of Bravo are not cold. It’s a chilly and windwhipped Thanksgiving Day with sleet and freezing rain forecast for late afternoon, but Bravo is nicely blazed on Jack and Cokes thanks to the epic crawl of game-day traffic and limo’s mini bar. Five drinks in forty minutes is probably pushing it, but Billy needs some refreshment after the hotel lobby, where over caffeinated tag teams of grateful citizens trampolined right down the middle of his hangover.

Here’s the blurb:

His whole nation is celebrating what is the worst day of his life

Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn is home from Iraq. And he’s a hero. Billy and the rest of Bravo Company were filmed defeating Iraqi insurgents in a ferocious firefight. Now Bravo’s three minutes of extreme bravery is a YouTube sensation and the Bush Administration has sent them on a nationwide Victory Tour.

During the final hours of the tour Billy will mix with the rich and powerful, endure the politics and praise of his fellow Americans – and fall in love. He’ll face hard truths about life and death, family and friendship, honour and duty.

Tomorrow he must go back to war.

*******

The discussion starts on Friday, 30 September 2016.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2016, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

18 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong September 30 2016: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

  1. I’ve had this one on my TBR list for several months and it never seems to make it to the top…probably because it’s an e-book (I tend to forget I have e-books sometimes). I’ll be curious to see how the discussion goes.

    Sam Sattler ( bookchase1.com )

  2. I started this one when it appeared on the list of The Morning News tournament books one year and found it quite gripping, but it was recalled to the library. September’s reading is looking really crammed so far, but I will keep this one in mind and see how many pages I turn in the next couple of weeks. I’d *like* to join you!

  3. I look forward to reading your commentary on this book.

    The fact that it is not a typical “Home Coming” book is a good sign that it might be sign that it might be creative and different.

  4. This looks interesting, Caroline. It is interesting that the book is not about the war front or the home front. Makes me think of Erich Maria Remarque’s ‘A Time to Love and a Time to Die’. Happy reading! Will look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

  5. I’ve read one short story by Ben Fountain titled “Near-Extinct Birds of the Central Cordillera.” The protagonist is a scientist who is conducting research in the jungles of Columbia in the hopes of protecting an exotic bird from going extinct. The scientist is taken hostage by a guerrilla group who believe he is a spy. (He has a camera, telescope, nets, and other equipment.) It was a terrific story and has stayed with me for a while now.

    I’ll be interested in your take on Billy Lynn. I found some parts of the story disturbing in the way that the soldiers are treated on their return. It gave me pause.

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