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.
Say something about yourself!
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.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
Nearly 12 wonderful hours of audio about a day at a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game which allows the author Ben Fountain to masterfully provide us with a sometime-satirical panoramic view from the seat of Billy Lynn, a U.S. soldier who is flying back to Iraq the following day. He and the fellow members of the heroic Bravo Squad are being recognized as halftime.
We get a cinematic look at
a pro football game;
the war in Iraq and its impact on these young men's lives;
how heroes may be treated after all the hubbub or exploited;
our culture generally, and specifically, in movies and the entertainment (movies and music) industry, big time sports, billionaires blow-hards, the overwhelming emphasis on sex in advertising and television and how our society has reached the point that our press covers no-talent trog-GLAM-mites like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton while ignoring legit stories.
There's a bonus: a near-fantasy sequence when Billy meets a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.
Maybe you hadn't heard of Ben Fountain before this brilliant book was published. Pay attention. I'm not capable of quickly using the vocabulary needed to heap worthy praise upon Ben Fountain and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk."
So I'll say:
DO NOT MISS THIS BOOK!
When the rave reviews started for this book, I was dubious. Not my thing. A story about a 19-year-old Iraqi war vet? And from Texas? And a lot happening at a football game? Please give me another English upper-class mystery.
But I want to learn, expand my horizons, understand other people....and my book club agreed to read it. Was I in for a surprise.
Ben Fountain is a magician cleverly disguised as a writer. The reviews said the sentences were elegant, and they were, but they were more than that: they were transformative. The voice of a young decorated war veteran, describing what he had seen and experienced, and what witnessing the death of his closest friend in battle had done to him. Billy's visit to his own family in Texas, how they see him, their relationships, true, real. Billy's head-over-heels meeting with a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, their sky-rocketing reaction to each other. All the events led up to a conclusion that was not what I expected, but still feels authentic and right.
I've been thinking about Billy Lynn for weeks now. He and Ben Fountain did what great writing is supposed to do. They brought greater understanding and deep sympathy for the book's characters, and a new way of looking at the world. I can honestly say that his is one of the best books I've ever read.
This book is insightful, funny, heartbreaking all at the same time. A modern war masterpiece. And Oliver Wyman's narration is pitch perfect.
Billy Lynn, of course. Too young to drink (legally) yet old enough to have his best friend die in his arms, Billy Lynn has wisdom born of combat. He's still an innocent but not a sucker. His keen assessments of people and events around him provide the beautiful narrative arc of this book.
Oliver Wyman was perfect in every way, especially the way he captured the soldiers of Bravo Company.
This story seemed to be a vehicle for the author to portray people from Texas, Cowboys fans, and politically conservative Americans to be naive, thick, idiots. The book spends a lot of time trying to portray the Texans that Billy meets to be as patriotic, ignorant, idiots. It tries to draw a contrast to what average Americans think of the motivation was for the war in Iraq and what the 'Bravos' think the reality is.
Nothing was wrong with the narration.
Most of the Texans that the author tries to make look like idiots.
I did a year in Iraq with the Army myself (07-08). Soldiers know what they are getting into when they volunteer. I was glad to go and glad to return. No, civilians don't really know what it is like to be in a combat zone and go into harms way. But guess what, I don't expect them to. I don't judge civilians for not knowing what they cannot possibly know. BTW: I am not from Texas and I do not watch Fox News.
Lawyer/law professor , I'm interested in science, history, literature. I can tolerate a bad movie, but not bad writing. I read to learn .
A great satire of the Iraq war and the young men fighting it. A wonderful send up on American values and ignorance of the war's purpose. I loved the whole Dallas Cowboy/money machine riff. I laughed many times at the young soldiers vocabulary and emotions. Great narration. A book better listened to then read.
This very "male" story about war and soldiers and one infantry's experiences both in combat and in being home sheds light on several themes of war. The Bravo company comes home over Thanksgiving following a fierce battle in theater, to receive a heroes' welcome at a pro football game. The story surveys themes of war and its philosophical underpinnings: what is a hero? Can a soldier fit in to society upon return? Can civilians understand the cost of war? The best part of the story is its depiction of love and loyalty among the soldiers. But let me be clear: this story is funny, crude and full of rich description. It was a pleasure.
This book started off so badly, I felt rooked by the Audible editor's recommendation. HOWEVER, since I used a credit for this, I pluugged on. Who knew? It grew on me and I really liked it! It actually was worth listening to. Beware, there are strong stereotypes you just have to accept as honesty from the character and author's point of view. It is not politically correct. The narration was superb!
This one is near the top. I think I enjoyed the audio more than I would have the book - I'd have been tempted to skip over some of the dialog - and definitely wouldn't have had all the voices so distinctly in my head.
Not sure - war and football wouldn't be my go-to kind of book, but I read about this as one of the year's best fiction reads. It didn't disappoint. Amazing, laugh-out-loud funny at times, could bring you to tears at others. I don't have a personal perspective on war, but his depictions of Billy, his friendships, his family, his memories all seem very true to me. I kept thinking that this book would make a great movie - all the while our characters are trying to get their movie made. This speaks volumes to me - a book that takes place in one day at a football game that can develop characters, scenes, conflicts, suspense...enough for a movie is an amazing feat.
No - at times I thought his narration was a bit over the top...unnecessarily.
No - don't think I could sit still for that long, but I definitely had some driveway time as I wanted to finish a particular part.