Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain (2012)

13648678 3The comparison with Catch-22 is warranted by the farcical outsized overdrawn dizzying exertions of a cast of warriors we observe together while out of combat and hoping to stay that way. Fug yes; now fuck yes. Yossarian’s days on ground, forlorn and scheming,  between the always extended number of bombing runs over Germany he must total up for one war takes him about as far away as the heroic showcased star spangled bannering of Billy Lynn’s ccartooncatch22rew of Iraq War infantry during the halftime show, before Beyonce, at Cowboy stadium for the annual Dallas Thanksgiving Day Game, sixty years after Dresden, even as America’s Team, stoic executers— Landry of stone face, Staubach of the Navy sacrifice gone, has decayed. Like a Mission Accomplished or an Errand in the Wilderness. Did I say comparison? The template is there as well. Ben Fountain, a combat veteran of Iraq, if not of tom-landry-1979-ji 2the rumble with Beyonce’s roadies and a near, quite innocently hot secret romantic tumble with a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader makes his nod to Joseph Heller— this love and theft— perfectly evident in the gut of the book.  Billy’s sister— “what do you mean they are sending you back tomorrow!!??” She takes the lead and plays right up close to the “Catch” as she endeavors to keep her bro— he’s a 19 year old west Texas hill kid, home now, thank you very much. Billy does take some long walks — from the Cowboy’s owner and his flak-catchers, the stink of oilmen and their wives (think of Fountain thinking of Wolfe first then Mailer here) in a  skybox hell to the half-tiBartleby-the-Scrivener-copy 2me show to Hollywood producer pitches— the film version of the 3 minute iPhone captured attempt to save his platoon mate- KIA- and the White House meet and greet in between to wheels up 0500 back to country.  Or maybe not.. read the book. My sense is that Billy Lynn’s walks, over a brief time— a flash in the field of fire… the three minute video a life time in comparison brought him the distance of Melville’s scribe Bartleby ready to take it all on in his own terms: “I would prefer not to.”  We can’t be sure if Billy returns, gets on the plane,  and following Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried and all the rest, as Fountain must,  war stories are always true and never true.

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