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The Binger of Books

I am a slow reader, and even slower blogger. That said, I can go into bouts of frenzied reading that can last for weeks. And then nothing. Hence the name Binger of Books.

Currently reading

Dust to Dust: A Memoir
Benjamin Busch

Billy Lynns Long Half Time Walk Review

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk - Ben Fountain

These are the main impressions I got from the book:


1) Fountain seemed to be so overly preoccupied with trying to sound like a modern 19 year old male, that he forgot he was actually writing a book.


2) Fountains own voice and opinion is so heavily laid on, he practically drowned out the characters and the story itself. The book became a vehicle for a very tedious, repetitive rant.


3) Nobody understands soldiers; nobody can understand what they've gone through. Ever. So don't even go there. We are all so unworthy, everyone should be ashamed.


4) Everyone they meet is completely clueless about the war and has the sophistication of a 7 year old kid.


Its scathing portrait of the excesses of capitalism and the shallow materialism of modern American culture are all worthy, and I share many of his views. But his writing is so heavy handed and contrived, he ends up saying very little past the obvious and clichéd. I was searching for some humanity in it all, something that said something about all of us in the grand scheme of things. But he just wanted to point fingers at the usual villains: the rich, the powerful, the dumb and numb, without much perception, insight or wit.


The third person prose throughout the book was obviously Fountains own deeply cynical voice, but this never really made much sense against Billie’s feelings and thoughts which were much more wondering and ambiguous. This weird juxtaposition just confused things.


Fountain accuses modern society of being unthinking and shallow, but he treats the characters in his book with the same shallowness, concentrating on the superficial. The young soldiers are never given the space to develop as characters so they all kind of melded into one two dimensional blob. They are more than masters of the profane and the put-down, more than tanked up horn dogs. But we never really get to know them individually.


I get it, he was using stereotypes to make a point, but I thought that was the very thing Fountain was arguing against; against shallowness. It didn't work for me. His exquisitely formed prose put-downs reminded me of the cheap shots politicians throw at each other, using the same language to gain points. Even if the arguments made may actually be relevant and true, everyone is sullied by it, their arguments lessened and so are they.


The book began well enough but it gradually disintegrated into a meandering mess that lacked any kind of pace and clarity of thought. I'm just short of finishing this (hard slog!) but I give it a generous a half star and that's just for the interesting premise. I've minused the rest for the epically missed opportunity. It's not good enough to simply support a book just because you support the ideas it contains – now that would be shallow of me.