Friday, September 30, 2016
Cephalopod Coffeehouse: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Hello, Cephalopod Coffeehouse participants!
This month I listened to Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain on Audible. I had heard a review of the novel on NPR when it was published back in 2012, and was interested in reading it but, for one reason or another, never got around to it. Thankfully, I recently saw a preview for the movie adaptation, and decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did.
The novel takes place during one day: a Thanksgiving day Dallas Cowboys football game, where Billy Lynn and his other Bravo Squad mates have been invited to participate in the halftime show, where none other than Destiny's Child will be performing. The soldiers have received this rather auspicious invitation because they have been deemed heroes, thanks to an embedded Fox News crew's footage of a firefight against Iraqi insurgents, and is the concluding event in their "victory tour" before they are sent back to serve another tour in Iraq.
One of my favorite scenes of the book is when the members of the Bravo Squad are given footballs and are shown into the Cowboys locker room for autographs. The depiction of these soldiers, who have literally risked their lives, kowtowing to these professional athletes is poignantly ironic. Fountain details the enormous investment made into the athletes: the planning, organization, and infrastructure needed for each game; the superior care and attention given to the players' physical needs. He also illustrates the economically depressed backgrounds of the soldiers, contrasting them with the "patrons" of the Cowboys, who can spend $1000 on a logo monogrammed leather jacket.
This book contains mature language and topics and may not be suitable for all readers. However, if, as I believe, the greatest end of a book is to engender empathy, this book is well worth your time.