Sunday, June 24, 2012

Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk

by Ben Fountain, Ecco Publishing, May 2012

...the Catch 22 of the Iraq War

In this entertaining satire of patriotic America we are introduced to the soldiers of Bravo Company and our hero Billy Lynn.  Bravo Company have become instant heroes because of their actions at al-Ansakar Canal.  In a brief 4 minute battle the soldiers have been recorded by an embedded Fox News TV crew valiantly and successfully battling a contingent of Al Qaeda.  For his actions in the battle Billy Lynn was awarded the Silver Star.  The Pentagon has taken Bravo Company out of Iraq and sent them on a public relations tour in the US.
All of the action in this story takes place on the last day of their tour.  It is Thanksgiving and the men of Bravo Company are feted at the Cowboys game at Texas Stadium.  They will participate in the half time ceremony, though their part in the activity is not well defined.  The day will include a meet-up with the Cowboys cheerleader and a half time performance by Destiny’s Child.  Both events are high on the list for the young soldiers.  Billy’s thoughts narrate this story.  He is an uneducated Texan who has ended up in the Army to avoid sentencing for a vandalism charge.  Flashbacks of the battle and Billy’s visit to his dysfunctional family are interspersed with the day’s activities at Texas Stadium.  During the battle one of Billy’s sergeants has died in his arms and he continues to grapple with that.    Billy is a very likeable character and probably a true portrait of the young men we send to fight our wars.

There are parts of this story that are absolutely spot on.  The actions of the young soldiers, drinking, partying and just in general carrying on in a controlled way, responsive only to their sergeant resonate as genuine.  But the absolute best part of this satire are the caricatures of the Cowboy’s owner (an unnamed Jerry Jones) and the “patriotic” Americans who support Bravo Company.   The writing in the novel is very funny and while it is not a book with much of a plot it is entertaining and thought provoking. Definitely the Catch 22 of the Iraq War.   

I read a copy of this book provided by the publisher.


NancyO said...

Very nice and unlike mine, succinct review! Just a quick comment, though...the main character is "Billy Lynn," not "Lind." Oops!I loved this book. Seriously.

Kathy said...

Nancy thanks for the pick up on the spelling! Went right by me, I appreciate you pointing it out!