Billy Lynn is an infantryman, a 19-year-old being celebrated, along with his other Bravo soldiers, for their recent wartime heroism. Trouble is, he can’t quite get his young mind around why none of it makes any sense, although, by the end, it’s Billy’s maturity and clarity (even if a bit alcohol-soggy) that makes the most sense. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, is a heartbreaking book, one that takes place during a single, long day in Texas, specifically during a Dallas Cowboys football game. Like the L. E. said, it should be required reading for all politicians. (Horton Hears a Who should be, too, but that’s a different tangent.) Fountain brings us into Billy’s head as he reconciles a fellow soldier’s death, an intoxicating redhead who will either break his heart or save it, a loving but polarizing family and one very large and amoral businessman, not to mention the constant stinging attention of well-meaning people who shout “thank you” at every juncture. I think it’s Shakespearean at its core, given its time span and the universal themes Fountain tackles, together with some relevant – and modern – cynicism. But I loved it for its sweet and gutsy hero and his buddies, all of whom are in an impossibly horrific situation…because after all the celebrations they have to go back to Iraq. And they know they are already shattered. And so, what we really have here is not a support-the-troops party, but a way to foster more support for a war that should never have happened. Fountain has a great ear for male dialogue (one would hope) and the urgency of youth. Read it.
My friend Teresa is a voracious reader, although she was anxious over my last recommendation: “Woman, on page 234 and still no action for the Major” her last text read. She’s been taking very good care of my girls’ sparkly nails while absorbing and weighing in on those particularly intense
complaints vibes that are a teenage girl’s mood swings.
We met 12 years ago while passing each other on the street, each of us holding a black-eyed twin (my mom and her friend were holding the other black-eyed twins next to us), and became fast friends based on our distinct and rare dumbfoundedness at how we landed in such an affluent and weird town. She and her husband gave great parties – everyone in 6-inch heels and tailored shirts, tireless, moving from room to room, until the last diehards finally met in the center of the house, the window-free “party room.” Teresa maintained there was money hidden there by the previous owner but they hadn’t been able to locate it yet. Mr. Halfstory and I would just leave, overwhelmed by platters of Persian and Mexican food and good wine (the kind we get for gifts!), my natural social awkwardness finally exposing itself. “Woman, why are you running away?” she would ask me, appearing at my side, sparkly and bejeweled. I would try and explain our version of a night out: sitting in the newer car clutching bottles of cold Red Hook, maybe squeezing in a short nap. Hey, it was the only space unconquered by dog hair, cheese sticks and Playmobil weapons. We knew where the kids were because they were pressing their faces against the living room window and we were parked in the driveway. There are several women I would want near me in a battle (Annette, Jenn, Marcie, to name a few, mostly to keep me from poor decision-making tactics and uncontrollable emotions), and Teresa would most assuredly be among them. “Woman, don’t even get me started on J. Lo.”