Ben Fountain's short stories "Close Encounters with Che Guevara" was one of my favorite books. This is an experimental novel, with no plot, in a nondescript setting. There are no characters either. There's a movie producer who's a caricature of movie producers. Billy Lynn is a 19-year-old who was given a choice between prison or the army. Beyond that he has no backstory. No other character has a backstory. The soldiers on leave just eat pizza and drink beer and call each other gay. I gave up after 2.5 hours. The writing is good but it's not a novel.
Usually war books don't do it for me. But this story is so wholly different, I not only enjoyed it, but recommended to to several people. The entire story takes place on Thanksgiving Day, when Billy and his crew are attending a Cowboys game before deploying back to Iraq. Although everything unfolds over one day, the author manages to weave in a lot of other threads - about their time in Iraq, about the friendship the guys share, about the family drama on the home-front. It's a cleverly constructed story, but what I enjoyed most was the humor - both in the form of dialogue between the soldiers (which may offend some because it's f-bomb heavy, but it rang true and hilarious to me), and the more subtle humor, which the author used to deliver an almost-under-the-radar political commentary.
Never read the print version. I imagine this version is better because Oliver Wyman is such a damn good reader.
Catch-22, humor, sadness, satire
So many wonderful character voices. he is a one-of-a-kind reader. His reading made this one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to, out of about twenty.
"Oh, My People"
way up there
the image-packed prose
I'm not sure. Did he do The Art of Fielding?
there were many
sometimes -- and this may be because I listened to the book -- I felt the prose got very packed with images and details. Obviously good images and good details make for a literary experience, but there were places where the author waxed when I wish he'd waned. But the guy is a tremendous writer and deserves all the praise he got for this book. It's not a rollicking narrative, but it is a beautiful example of meditative prose. The interiority of the novel is amazing and you can tell the author is somebody who really thinks and ruminates and this is why he is to be treasured.
I had heard so much buzz about this book, I expected to love it or at least laugh out loud at moments. Billy Lynn is ok. Fountain wants us to believe that Billy Lynn is really struggling with returning to Iraq after coming back to the US on leave after a significant skirmish victory. The problem is that there really never seemed to be a question as to whether or not he would return with his squad; just that he is getting some pressure from his sister to act a certain way. That said, the main conflict was not believable for me. What was more intriguing was 19 year old Billy's observations of successful businessmen and what it took for them to succeed. This seemed to provide impetuous for Billy, perhaps for the first time, to think about his long term future, not just day by day living. Billy Lynn is not a bad book; I just think that it was overhyped.
While there were flashes of insight and some well-turned phrases, the majority of this book was a bit of a tedious read. Same old, same old relevations about war, America, etc., with a bit of cheerleader fantasy added in. I really did not like the story itself, but I loved the narrator's delivery. He was able to capture each character with an entirely different voice and persona, which made this a far more tolerable listening experience.
This book just kept getting better. The novel takes place in one day, at one football game. The more I listened, the more surprises and turns of plot. The author has a great feel for 2004 and life in Texas and football and film agents and guys on teams and, yes, young love. The narrator was very strong, good with his characters' voices. I will read The Yellow Birds next, the other highly praised Iraq war novel--but this one was entertaining and insightful. Very sympathetic characters too.
Ben Fountain’s new novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, has been compared to Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Such comparisons are optimistic.
Billy Lynn's is a light if entertaining read that takes predictable potshots at Texas, former President Bush, conservatives and United States military strategy, the last a subject so complex and so interconnected to political and economic initiatives that many are simply too ill educated to discuss the topic knowledgeably. But that doesn’t stop anyone from trying, which is one of the points of Fountain’s book.
Read Billy Lynn's for entertainment value. Don’t read it thinking it possesses the same brilliance as Catch-22; you’ll most likely be disappointed.
That’s not to say Billy Lynn's isn’t without insight. The book boasts a few wondrous moments (mostly humorous) and some well-crafted passages that prompt serious introspection.
Here’s but one example of a critical thought I suspect Fountain spent quite a bit of time polishing: “How does anyone ever know anything? The past is a fog that breathes out ghost after ghost, the present a freeway thunder run at 90 miles per hour, which makes the future the ultimate black hole of futile speculation.”
That’s good stuff.
It should be noted I found the narration quite good, too. The narrator's timely inflections and regional accents added to my enjoyment of this novel, definitely adding a star to the overall rating.
Perhaps I didn't read the summary well enough because I was really bored and disappointed with the novel. For some reason I expected some of the story to take place under wartime conditions. Instead it all centers around the "Bravo" teams presence at a major Football game. I kept hoping it would get more interesting but it never did.
The narrator was very good, but, in my opinion, just could not save a boring story
I will do more research before I order again. I have enjoyed all the other books I have listened to through Audible
??? They were all boring
Lawyer, reader, writer, performer. Just love listening to books and talking about it!
I am scratching my head over this one. I think it is more a misconception over what I thought I was getting, and the new paperback cover depicts that story better. This is really not a war / military book, it is a Dallas Cowboy Thanksgiving Day book which centers on the experience from the point of view of some US soldiers who are stateside for a short publicity tour. It is not a bad book, just not a good choice for me.