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I loved this book. It's the closest thing to Mark Twain I've read in a long time. Entertaining, poignant, ironic, and a tribute to decent people being manipulated by the charlatans.Then protagonist is a young soldier whose heroism in battle was captured by a Fox news crew. The Army sends him and his buddies on a publicity tour of the US. The high point is their attendance on Thanksgiving day at a Dallas/Chicago football game at Cowboys Stadium. The author does a marvelous job of showing Billy's inner turmoil, knowing he has to go back to the war when the game is over. He meets a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and it's instant love for both of them. Meanwhile, the owner of the Cowboys, a sleazy, manipulative Jerry Jones type, exploits Billy and his buddies, putting them on display in front of the thousands in the stadium and millions watching on t.v., throwing them into a halftime show as props for Beyonce and Destiny's Child.
The author does something few contemporary writers do - skewers American culture and politics while making us care about the individuals - Billy and his fellow soldiers, their families, the girl Billy falls in love with. The Cowboys' owner schemes to screw the soldiers out of their story so he can produce a movie, and the fans start out fawning over the boys, later either ignoring them, or wanting to fight them.
The book made me realize how hollow it must sound to vets to say "thank you for your service and/or sacrifice," and to talk about courage, honor freedom and the American way of life and so on, while 99% of us never serve, and go about our lives worshipping pop culture icons like Beyonce and pro athletes. Or as George W. Bush said, after 9-11, go to Disney World or go shopping.
The narrator does a great job of pacing and portraying the different characters.
This book is destined to become a classic that withstands time, and should be required reading in English classes, like Dickens and Twain.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
Can't say what drew me to this odd title--I knew that Ben Fountain received the PEN/Hemingway Award for the collection of short stories, Brief Encounters With Che Guevara--but I hadn't read the reviews or the publisher's summary. I didn't know that some critics are calling Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk this era's Catch 22, (oh! did we love Yossarian!) and THE best novel about the Irag war. I just saw this title on a list of suggested Beach Reads; "Beach" and "Read", two of my favorite words, and I was in. Turns out this was an unexpected treasure, the perfect approach, and an experience I won't be forgetting soon. So, I don't want to go into details and ruin your experience other than to say....WOW; I loved this book!
I thought it was almost perfection, from the very concept, to the brilliant depiction of Billy's youthful naivety and his contrasting soldier's wisdom, to the sentence structure, and every perfectly placed word. It was laugh-out-loud funny, then at once sobering, like laughing at someone that just biffed it on the stairs, then realizing the tumble resulted in a compound fracture. There are a lot of cliche's as far as characterizations go, and Texans probably won't like this one, but the powerful message contained in this short read goes far beyond little criticisms--indeed to the very core of what we as Americans value. The detailed description of the football team's equipment (in it's context) was as powerful and perfect as anything written, and could alone justify getting this book.
A short listen, at just 6 1/2 hours, but what an experience--what an impact. I'm just sorry that what I am sure will be the highlight of my summer reading is over before summer even begins.
50 of 53 people found this review helpful