Top positive review
Cracker of a read!
on 8 February 2017
Stoked by the prospect of watching a new Ang Lee adaptation just days away and thanks to its curiously scored and edited trailer, hinting at some Narrative within narratives, I snapped up this remarkable source book, an imagined memoir-of-sorts by Ben Fountain-an author I hadn't known about, but what a talent!
Good luck to Mr Lee in bringing this cracker of a satire with all its layers of orgiastic, trenchant verbiage to the screen. Playing out over a single day of a 19 year old just-returned war hero who is being honored along with his squad for a successful shock-and-awe mission in Iraq; as our lone hero drags his heels through the pomp and ceremony of the erected theatre of a Cowboys' Thanksgiving home game complete with a Destiny's Child performance, we the readers get to inhabit the amphitheatre of the "old soul" within him.
His inner monologue, a rigorous and continuous commentary on the misguided state-sponsored war he is a part of and the industrial fantasy-making culture machine that is erected around it, is often interrupted by the grotesquerie that invades his senses: from the pyrotechnics of the circus erected to the overwhelming pangs of lust for a cheerleader he's fallen for to his doting sister's persuasive pleads to withdraw from the military service to the flashbacks of the explosive incident-the reason for his unasked-for celebrity status-where he lost his best mate to his interactions with overfed, over-entertained squealing zombie-humans and punch-drunk-with-their-own self-importance corporate lizards.
There is also a continuous thread of his squad's story being juiced for a Hollywood adaptation that never quite gets off the ground, which brings to fore the book's and the author's concern for the uninvolved millions engaged in this documented, filmed and televised hyper-reality of war, organised sport and propaganda everyday: it has become the new drug that provides a welcome relief from the chaotic, unrewarding and intricate personal realities. It is interesting that this very well articulated, rip-through-every-artifice stance is encased in one giant thought experiment by this talented creator of fiction. He pulls off this young contemplative wartime hero with absolute triumph-with all of Billy's bile spread evenly between the "telling"-his fabulous expositions fashioned into soliloquies-to-self and "showing"- four incidents: a football game, a boy-leaving-home drama, a film deal and a minor love affair that unfold organically with a cast of full-blooded beings I could place and hear.
With a terrific sense of time, place and concern, in one long halftime, Fountain manages to give us a hero for the noughties generation, a generation that finds willingly and unwillingly gorging on increasing post-truth scoops of farcical politics, entertainment-on-tap, derivative culture products and virtual realities.