Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

by Ben Fountain (Canongate Books) ISBN: 9780857864383

 

The nineteen-year-old American soldier, Billy Lynn, is home for a short promotional tour across the country with his squad, before he is sent back to Iraq. The story is set in the Dallas stadium on the last day of the tour. Through flashbacks the reader follows his personal growth.

 

His brave attempt to help a fellow soldier in Iraq is caught on camera and the Bush administration uses the opportunity to get support for the war. The decadence of limos, fancy hotels, and compatriots worshipping them as heroes, depresses Billy.

 

Cynically he calls it the ‘pussification’ of Bravo. He suspects the Americans secretly know better, ‘but something in the land is stuck on teenage drama, on extravagant theatrics of ravaged innocence and soothing mud wallows of self-justifying pity.’

 

Fountain was Malcolm Gladwell’s example in his essay about the 10.000 hours needed to become great at something. It took Fountain six years, but he has succeeded in writing a brilliant novel full of interesting metaphors and images. The phrase “The Catch-22 of the Iraq War” on the cover however is deceiving. The book is satirical, fast paced and funny, but stands on its own. It doesn’t need a reference to a literary work to win its praise.

 

Pauline Vijverberg

4/5

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