Monday, February 4, 2013
America and the War in Iraq
Title: Billy Lynn's long halftime walk
By: Ben Fountain
This excellent new debut novel by Ben Fountain, set in an unspecified year, but somewhere around 2005, is truly a thought provoking experience, touching on so many subjects having to do with modern life in America in general, and the War in Iraq in particular, but essentially it is the story of a 19 year old soldier coming to terms with his astute and ever expanding, yet still somewhat small understanding of his country, this war, and just where he personally fits into each.
This is a very political novel, directly alluding to many of the policies of the previous presidential administration, but at the heart of the novel is a less than 4 minute intense firefight in which the lead character is filmed by an embedded Fox News reporter coming to the aid of his fellow squad members, including his much respected and admired sergeant, who does not survive the firefight. In coming to the defense of his fellow soldiers and helping to repel the Iraqi attack, Billy and the others are seen "taking out" a few of the attackers. Once the footage is aired on television, Billy and the other surviving members of Bravo Co. instantly become not just the biggest news of the day, and of the week, the repeatedly replayed footage makes them national heroes, on a very big scale.
Most of the novel takes place in a single day, the last day of a 2 week "victory tour" around the country, largely designed to increase and promote support for the war. On this day, Thanksgiving, the Bravo Company are guests of the Dallas Cowboys football team, and it's mega wealthy politically conservative owner, and are to be part of the half time entertainment, which features as it's headliner Beyonce and Destiny's Child. Also traveling with Bravo is Albert, a middle-aged, very successful hotshot Hollywood movie producer, mutually liked and respected by the Bravos, who is in constant text mode trying to cut a movie deal about the now famous American Hero Soldiers. Hilary Swank is very interested in producing, but only if she can play the lead!
The novel is full of well developed characters, both large and small, and is poignant, touching, satirical, and very, very funny at times. And it is a finalist for the National Book Award.
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