'This book will be the Catch-22 of the Iraq War' Karl Marlantes
Ben Fountain is the author of the acclaimed short-story collection Brief Encounters with Che Guevara and a debut novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, which won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and the 2012 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2012 National Book Award. In addition, he has received the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Barnes & Noble Discover Award for Fiction, an O. Henry Award and two Pushcart Prizes. He was also shortlisted for the International Author of the Year Award in 2012. His fiction has been published in Harper's, The Paris Review, Zoetrope: All-Story and Stories from the South: The Year's Best, and his nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times among other publications. He lives in Dallas, Texas.
* This book will be the Catch-22 of the Iraq War. Instead of skewering the military, however, it skewers the society responsible for sending it to war, namely us. This funny, yet totally sobering, dissection of the American way of watching war will have you squirming at the same time you are laughing out loud; Fountain applies the heat of his wicked sense of humor while you face the truth of who we have become -- Karl Marlantes * Astonishingly brilliant ... The writing crackles off the page -- BERNARD CORNWELL Mail on Sunday * Too often nowadays even rather good novels fail to excite me - I suppose over the years I've read too many of them - which means that those which do are Events in my life. And now I can add Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk to the list. A blazingly good novel and a vital, important book about war and the world we live in -- Diana Athill * My favourite book of the year, a smart, funny, sad tale -- KATE ATKINSON Irish Times * Breathtaking, beautiful, startlingly authentic -- Patrick Hennessey, author of THE JUNIOR OFFICERS' READING CLUB Ben Fountain's novel is an exhilarating, funny, heartbreaking glimpse into the life of a young soldier and into experiences in which we are complicit - but about which we understand nothing. And it finds its mark in an incredibly personal way. The book has left me reeling -- Colin Firth * As close to the Great American Novel as anyone is likely to come these days - an extraordinary work that captures and releases the unquiet spirit of our age, and will probably be remembered as one of the important books of this decade -- Madison Smartt Bell * Passionate, irreverent, utterly relevant, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk offers an unforgettable portrait of a reluctant hero. Ben Fountain writes like a man inspired and his razor sharp exploration of our contemporary ironies will break your heart -- Margot Livesey * Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is not merely good; it's Pulitzer Prize-quality good ... A bracing, fearless and uproarious satire of how contemporary war is waged and sold to the American public San Francisco Chronicle * Brilliantly done ... grand, intimate, and joyous -- Geoff Dyer New York Times Book Review * [An] inspired, blistering war novel...Though it covers only a few hours, the book is a gripping, eloquent provocation. Class, privilege, power, politics, sex, commerce and the life-or-death dynamics of battle all figure in Billy Lynn's surreal game day experience New York Times * A masterful echo of Catch-22, with war in Iraq at the center ... a masterful gut-punch of a debut novel ... There's hardly a false note, or even a slightly off-pitch one, in Fountain's sympathetic, damning and structurally ambitious novel. By the novel's end, we're forced to reassess what it means to 'support the troops'. Does it simply mean letting them know they're in our prayers as we send them back into battle and go about our business? Does it mean turning them into gaudy celebrities? Or could there perhaps be a more honorable and appropriately humble way to commemorate their service? Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk asks us to consider the uncomfortable possibility that we don't really know the answer anymore Washington Post * Fountain's excellent first novel follows a group of soldiers at a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day...Through the eyes of the titular soldier, Fountain creates a minutely observed portrait of a society with woefully misplaced priorities. A pitch-perfect ear for American talk drives the satire New Yorker * With an almost perfectly well-judged, surprisingly understated -ending, the book feels to the reader much as the day feels to Lynn: you leave it with the sense of something spectacular and yet mournful having passed by in an exhilarating rush -- Robert Collins Sunday Times * Fountain has fashioned a novel that speaks, with great comedy and perhaps greater pathos, to the much larger absurdity of the Iraq war ... Fountain's dialogue and metaphors are often hilarious, and he is sharply observant as well -- Amy Waldman Financial Times * A fierce, exhilarating novel about the Iraq war ... And it is terrific: eloquent and angry, funny and poignant ... Fountain, like better-known writers of his generation such as Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace, has dragged this ironic, media-saturated style back in the direction of sincerity, with rich, sharply drawn characters that you care about -- Theo Tait Guardian * Fountain has come up with a clever and imaginative take on the classic American combat novel. He's done it with the kind of ambition that sent shivers down the spine of the young Tom Wolfe. Fountain is a child of the Wolfe generation -- Robert McCrum Observer * The book is lit up by verbal pyrotechnics ... this is an exhilarating ride; funny, oddly touching, written with garish clarity Independent on Sunday * Brilliant: funny, involving, warm-hearted, a book for our times -- Rachel Cook Observer * It is a masterpiece of war literature, which is always to say, of anti-war literature Australian Review * [T]he shell-shocked humor will likely conjure comparisons with Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse Five...War is hell in this novel of inspired absurdity Kirkus Review * A tour de force Sunday Times, best books to read this summer * It seems like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk should fall apart in several different ways and descend to the ranks of gimmicky first novels. Books aren't set over the course of a single day because that's generally not enough time to establish characters and provide enough drama and emotional resonance. But Fountain pulls it off by combining blistering, beautiful language with razor-sharp insight...Ben Fountain has written a funny novel that provides skewering critiques of America's obsession with sports, spectacle, and war Huffington Post * Ben Fountain stormed to the front lines of American fiction when he published his astonishing first collection of short stories, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara. His first novel will raise his stature and add to his splendid reputation. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is both hilarious and heartbreaking Pat Conroy * Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is funny, damning and calmly devastating ... Iraq War Fiction may yet be a modest genre, but Fountain's belated debut sets a fine example -- Tim Walker Independent * Ben Fountain's first novel is a barbed satire of America at war...This blurring of fiction, reality and America's epic capacity for the surreal is compelling -- Ben Felsenburg Metro * A boneshaker of a debut novel that is being referred to as the Catch-22 of the Iraq War. It's a blistering satire, and a breathless trip inside one combat soldier's head. An assault on the mind, as much as the land Scotsman * An exhilarating debut Wall Street Journal * Seething, brutally funny...[Fountain] leaves readers with a fully realized band of brothers...Fountain's readers will never look at an NFL Sunday, or at America, in quite the same way Sports Illustrated * Ben Fountain writes with sparkle and dark humour, with lively verbal dexterity and a mimetic ear for dialogue that allows this anti-war diatribe to fizz with as much light as shade Express * A searing satire ... [Fountain] conveys brilliantly the hollowness of the endless expressions of gratitude -- Miranda Collinge Esquire * A truly wondrous first novel Shelf Awareness * A character driven novel that is highly entertaining, often funny and ultimately moving ... not only a superbly entertaining book with a memorable central character, but an important book that says a great deal about our age Bookbag Online * Events of the day are so hilariously recounted that the reader is left dizzy with laughter, each extended episode a masterpiece of comic invention, a seething outrage never far from the surface of this brilliant, stunning book -- Allan Jones Uncut Magazine * Each chapter is assembled as ferociously tightly as one of Fountain's stories without seeming self-enclosed; the sentences are expansive and uninhibited and put together with close attention to modulation and register ... Fountain gets you to believe in the sound on the page -- Christopher Taylor LRB * Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is startlingly good. Like a reading wake-up call, it feels new and like nothing you've ever read before A Little Bird * Easily the best novel yet written on Iraq -- The National Saul Austerlitz * Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a lean, direct and muscular 307 pages, and is almost certainly the first great novel about the Iraq war Review 31 * Dubbed 'The Catch-22 of the Iraq war', this debut novel shows a day in the life of a soldier, who has returned home a hero The Times * [An] impressive, hugely likeable debut... exhilarating The Sunday Times * Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk will eventually be regarded as one of the defining novels of its age... It's satire with a heart, a dazzlingly, sharply written novel which seems to crystallise a moment in time -- Alastair Mabbott Herald * The best new book I have read so far this year... It contains prose so good that it left me purring with delight, not to mention roaring with laughter. The story too is compelling and beautifully constructed -- Sam Jordison Guardian Books Blog * Full of words that fly like precision-guided missiles Sunday Telegraph, Five of the Best: Modern War Fiction
Unfolding over the course of one Thanksgiving Day, Fountain's (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara) second novel follows Bravo Company, the eight survivors of a savage clash with Iraqi insurgents, on the last leg of their government-sponsored "Victory Tour" in this witty and ironic sendup of middle America, Fox News politics, and, of all things, football. One minute, the soldiers are drinking Jack and Cokes, mobbed by hordes of well-wishers demanding autographs and seeking "the truth" about what's "really going on" over there; the next, they're in the bowels of Texas Stadium, reluctantly hobnobbing with the Dallas Cowboys and their cheerleaders, brokering a movie deal with a smarmy Hollywood producer, and getting into a drunken scuffle with the stadium's disgruntled road crew, all in a series of uncomfortable scenes that border on the farcical. Texan Billy Lynn is the 19-year-old hero who learns about life and himself on his visit home to his family, and the palpable camaraderie between soldiers ground the book. But despite much valid pontificating on what it means to be a soldier and the chasm that exists between the American public's perception of the war and the blunt reality of it, the often campy writing style and canned dialogue ("We, like, we wanna do somethin' like you. Extreme, you know, cap some Muslim freaks...") prevents the message from being delivered effectively. Agent: Heather Schroder, ICM. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Billy Lynn is a member of Bravo Company, which acquitted itself heroically in a deadly confrontation early in the Iraq War. An embedded reporter captured the battle on widely broadcast video. Now, on the last day of a victory tour, an insane PR event put on by the army, the company is at a Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving football game. Native Texan Billy has been deeply affected by the death of squad leader Shroom, who gave him books to read and challenged him to think about what he was doing with his life. During a brief stop at home, Billy's sister urges him to refuse to return to Iraq. Billy also meets one of the fabled Cowboys cheerleaders, with whom he improbably forms an immediate and passionate connection, something that has opened a door to the possibility of a new, more hopeful life. But though Billy has had his eyes opened, in many ways he and his company are happier and feel more purposive as soldiers. VERDICT Employing intricate detail and feverish cinematography, Fountain's (Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories) vividly written novel is an allegorical hero's journey, a descent into madness, and a mirror held up to this society's high-definition TV reality. Tragically unhinged, it also rings completely, hilariously true. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/11.]-Jim Coan, SUNY at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.