Sunday, March 30, 2014

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain - Book Review

           Have to admit that I loved the setting of this book which made it very unique.  You have men from a unit called Bravo who have been fighting the war in Iraq during the Bush administration who have been invited to Dallas, TX, to see a football game between the Chicago Bears and the Dallas Cowboys.  

           There are an assortment of characters such as Abort, Mango, Dime, and Lodis, and of course, Billy Lynn.  All of them are considered heros for going off to fight the war and Iraq and now they will be honored at the game during halftime which includes a show with Beyonce when they were Destiny’s Child.  

           Much of the story is portrayed about glorifying them and people talking to them about the war.  How are we doing?  Are we going to win the war?  Is it going to be over soon?  

            As soldiers, many of the people in the Bravo unit aren’t put in the best of light to say the least.   I can see war veterans feeling offended especially by comments made by the soldiers when they were talking about Beyonce as well as a woman who was an executive for the Dallas Cowboys.  Of course, this is contemporary literature and the story is character driven so the story moves on this wondering how the soldiers will act in each chapter.  

            Billy Lynn is much different than the other soldiers and during the second part of the story, he meets a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader named Faison, a woman who is very religious.   Of course, Billy is in love with this woman and I’m wondering if anything will come of it before the story comes to an end.  

            While this is a great idea for a story, I felt that the writing was tough to follow.  Fountain at the very least has a lot of run on sentences that you would see in a William Faulkner book.   When you read this on a Kindle like I do, you would see the sentences take up as much as an entire screen many times.  For me, it was like swimming in molasses.  

             It seemed that Fountain was going for shock value in the book when it came to the dialogue and there were times that he went way over the top when it came to comments that the Bravo unit made about Beyonce for example.  Late in the book, there was a heckler who was drunk and obnoxious who was going on about the don’t ask don’t tell policy in the military.  It got to the point where it was a very nasty rant which I really didn’t want to read.   That was the main reason I couldn’t even buy the whole dialogue.  

              If Fountain wanted to create a heckler, then the least he could have done was have the heckler criticize Bush, Cheney, or even Rumsfield.   That would have been more believable since there would have been a lot to talk about when it came to them such as their slow response after 911, their ineptness at capturing Osama Bin Laden 
or the fact that Iraq didn’t even have chemical weapons.  

                With all that said, I think I would have given this book more than three stars if Fountain painted a more realistic portrayal of this time period and stayed away from shocking his readers.  

Ron Hummer

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