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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Paperback – 16 May 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (16 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857864408
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857864406
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 51,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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)

Book Description

To be adapted into a major motion picture directed by Oscar-winning director Ang Lee

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 27 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought this book was really excellent. It is hugely enjoyable and brilliantly written - engrossing, funny and extremely wise and shrewd about its subject and its characters.

The narrative has been well summarized here and elsewhere: briefly, Billy Lynn and his fellow soldiers of Bravo squad were filmed in a heroic firefight in Iraq and the Bush administration is now shipping them around the USA on a highly publicised "Victory Tour" to bolster support for the war. The book is an account of their last day of the tour seen through Billy's eyes and serves as a commentary on contemporary USA and its attitudes. It's a great read: excellently structured, involving and with a cast of brilliantly drawn characters including Billy himself who is a thoroughly engaging protagonist.

Ben Fountain satirises not so much the war itself as things like the hypocrisy, wilful ignorance and exploitation which surround it. He also shares JD Salinger's contempt for the phoney and how it has pervaded modern life. For example, of a rich businessman working a room: "Norm is confident, absolutely, he is the king of self-esteem, but this is the confidence of self-help tapes and motivational mantras, confidence learned as one learns a foreign language, and so the accent lingers in his body language, a faint arthritic creak in every smile and gesture." The book is full of these gems of insight as well as brilliant descriptive phrases like Billy ecstatically holding a beautiful cheerleader in his arms as she "breathes clouds of glory in his face," and I found the description of the half-time extravaganza so vivid as to feel I was there in Billy's shoes.

Some people have suggested that this is the Catch-22 of the Iraq war, but I'm not sure I agree. I think the style is closer to Hunter S.
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By D. Elliott TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 18 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story of `Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' is a sublime mixture of humanity and hilarity. Along with other soldiers of the Bravo squad in Iraq Billy has been hailed as a hero after a fearful firefight which was captured by TV news and is regarded as worthy of being made into a Hollywood movie. The soldiers' role is to bolster support for the Iraq war and they have been sent on a public relations tour of stage managed receptions in America before being returned back to combat duties. Apart from minor reflections and commentaries the time span covered by the narrative is concentrated on their final engagement at an American football game, though within this restricted period author Ben Fountain manages to develop credible characters to support his satirical tale. Billy is somewhat of a reluctant hero and is more capable of contemplation and consideration than other members of the squad apart from the Sergeant. His is a story of courage, hope and optimism set against fear, despair and foreboding to which Ben Fountain skilfully overlays propaganda and manipulation. `Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk' is a poignant and powerful indictment on the Bush era and America's attitudes to war.

Interwoven amongst revelations to Billy's background, his family, and his confusion over the future there are thought provoking insights with ample scope for interpreting pros and cons of waging war to support democracy and freedom set against the costs of trauma and death. Also there is scope for humour from the camaraderie, even love, within a group of soldiers similar to bonding between mountaineers in civvie street. There is bad language and the soldiers exhibit rather too much vulgarity but it is justified via self deprecation.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Much has been written by other reviewers about this wonderful book, nearly all doing justice to a significant addition to a great American novel tradition. Above the political and social commentary there is the wonderful creation that is Billy Lynn. He is the natural descendant of Huck Finn - not naturally articulate in speech but hugely articulate in his emotional understanding of his world and his naive questioning of the icons of market capitalism seem to echo all of us in questioning something that is beyond normal comprehension.

It is for this reason that the possibly overblown metaphorical language of the novel, particularly when describing Billy's reactions to the craziness and distortions around him, actually works. The novel defies us to underestimate Billy's capacity for feeling.

Like Gatsby, Billy is looking for something "commensurate to his capacity for wonder", and the love story at the core of the novel is especially poignant

This is a novel in the great American tradition.

P.S It is also very funny
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By SueKich TOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Jan. 2013
Format: Hardcover
Few books have entered the collective consciousness quite like Catch-22. Many have tried to usurp Joseph Heller's position as the No 1 war satirist. Many war novels are compared to Catch-22 on their front covers. But in truth, how many of these books deserve even to be mentioned in the same breath?

The front cover quote from Matterhorn author Karl Marlantes says: `The Catch-22 of the Iraq War'. True or false? Well, in this case, simply misleading. Because this is not a war book; this is a book about America. Ben Fountain's writing is breathtakingly good: inventive, engaging, in turns muscular and empathetic. Always believable. Often funny. Certainly, there are pyrotechnics but thankfully these are more reminiscent of Michael Chabon than Tom Wolfe. Here is a genuine and terrific new talent in his own right.

At the outset, the men of Bravo Squad are on two weeks' leave for a PR 'Victory Tour' of the States and we join them (ironically, on Thanksgiving Day) as they make their way by white Hummer limo to a Dallas Cowboys home game at Texas Stadium. Here, they will be feted as conquering heroes by big money, the media and chanting - and enchanting - cheerleaders. A film producer is along for the ride and has high hopes of making a movie of Bravo's battle exploits. But looming over all the excitement of the day is the prospect of returning to Iraq for the remainder of Bravo Squad's tour of duty.

The key character is 19-year old Billy, a thoroughly likeable character who, during the course of the day, becomes something of a "philosopher-grunt".
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