"Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk," a funny but biting critique of the Iraqi invasion and America’s indifference to the conflict, is the best book on the practice of PR since Christopher Buckley’s masterpiece, "Thank You for Smoking" of 1994.
Author Ben Fountain uses a “Victory Tour” of the US by Bravo Squad, the heroes of the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal, to bolster flagging support for President George W. Bush’s misadventure.
Army specialist Bill Lynn and his fellow jaded-by-the-war, $14,800 grunts are accompanied by a fast-talking deal-making Hollywood producer who promises a Platoon-like movie that will allow them to cash-in on their battle. They are pitched a bill of goods with talk of participation by Oliver Stone, George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Brian Grazer and guarantees of $100K advances each and a percentage of the gate.
A highlight of the Victory Tour is a trip to Texas Stadium as guests of Dallas Cowboys owner Norm Oglesby, a half-time show tribute and time spent with the DC cheerleaders.
Fountain’s 2012 book depicts Texas Stadium as a symbol of America’s decline, where image is trumped over reality. Years of TV shots of Texas Stadium have “imbued the place with intimations of mystery and romance, dollops of state and national pride.”
In reality, Lynn writes: “The place looks like a half-assed backyard job. The roof is a homely quilting of mismatched tiles. There’s a slumpiness, a middle-aged sag to the thing that suggests soft paunches and mushy prostates, gravity-slugged masses of beached whaleness.”
Our heroes are mostly loaded with endless Jack and Cokes and continually besieged by Cowboys fans that “thank them for their service,” while caring as much for the war in Iraq as the War of the Roses.
The media come across as clueless twits and Fox News, which endlessly plays a three minute and forty three second high-intensity clip of the Al-Ansakar action, serves as chief propagandist for the war.
Lynn -- begged by his sister to go AWOL and pestered by televangelist Pastor Rick to praise God -- and his squad mates get screwed by the just-bidness Oglesby, who agrees to finance the movie in the event they agree to advances of only $5,500. After Texas Stadium roadies beat the Bravos to a pulp, it’s back to Iraq for the squad.
To Fountain, America is cursed by excess and rampant consumerism. The USA is nothing more than a giant mall with a country attached to it.
Drawing on his inner Yeats, Foundation writes:
"For the past two weeks he’s [Lynn] been feeling so superior and smart because of all the things he knows from the war, but forget it, they are the ones in charge, these saps, these innocents, their homeland dream is the dominant force.
His reality is their reality’s bitch; what they don’t know is more powerful than all the things he knows, and yet he’s lived what he’s lived and knows what he knows, which means what, something terrible and possibly fatal, he suspects.
To learn what you have to learn at the war, to do what you have to do, does this make you the enemy of all that sent you to the war?"