Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk


Ben Fountain

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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ben Fountain

Ben Fountain grew up in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, before his family relocated to Raleigh when he was a teenager. He attended University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he graduated in 1980 with a degree in English. Later, he pursued a law degree at Duke University, graduating in 1983. Fountain met his wife, Sharon Fountain, at Duke. Though he practiced real estate law for a brief period of time, Fountain was primarily fascinated by Haiti and its history of colonialism, racism, and ecological disasters. Despite the fact that he spoke little French and no Haitian Creole, he took his first trip to Haiti in 1991 and has since traveled there more than thirty times. These trips culminated in his first collection of short stories, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, which was published in 2006 when Fountain was 48. His first novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, was published in 2012. The novel has received a number of awards and recognitions, including a Whiting Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Fountain currently lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife and two children.
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Historical Context of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

The United States' conflict with al-Qaeda and terrorist groups can be traced back to the early 1980s, when the US supported Islamist guerillas in their fight against the Soviet Union. The earliest iteration of al-Qaeda was formed by Osama bin Laden. He declared war on the West as a whole, specifically the US and Israel, in the mid-1990s. Several attacks throughout the late 1990s culminated with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This begun the so-called War on Terror, which authorized President George W. Bush to use force to attack terrorism around the world. The US officially declared war on Iraq in early 2003 due to a belief that the country possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and had ties to al-Qaeda—neither of which were true, though support for the war was nonetheless strong throughout the first year of the war. As the government of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein collapsed, an insurgency developed against the new government and the still-present US forces. These rebel forces were responsible for more casualties than the initial war effort. By the time Billy's story begins in about 2005, President Bush had been reelected for a second term thanks in part to the efforts of the Swift Boat group, which sought to discredit Senator John Kerry's military service in Vietnam and curry favor for President Bush. By the time of the election in 2004, support for the war was waning, especially as it became more widely accepted that the war began due to questionable intelligence. Meanwhile, soldiers like Billy were dying at an alarming rate, partially due to the fact that they were under-armored.

Other Books Related to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is one of many novels that explores the American conflicts in the Middle East, including Kevin Powers' novel The Yellow Birds, which is narrated by an American soldier in Iraq, and Sinan Antoon's novel The Corpse Washer, which explores the conflicts of the area going back to the late 1980s from the perspective of a native Iraqi man. In addition, Billy Lynn is often heralded as the Catch-22 of the Iraq War, as it dives into the absurdity of war and the paradoxes inherent to organized, funded violence. Fountain's exploration of the media and the way in which it functions in modern society links back to Guy Debord's seminal 1967 philosophical work, Society of the Spectacle. In it, Debord directly critiques modern consumer culture and criticizes modern dependence on images to mediate experiences with reality, which is what Fountain takes issue with in his criticism of the Fantasy Industrial Complex.
Key Facts about Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
  • Full Title: Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
  • When Written: 2003-2012
  • Where Written: Dallas, Texas
  • When Published: 2012
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Satire; War Fiction
  • Setting: The Texas Stadium in Dallas, Texas, with flashbacks in Stovall, Texas and Iraq
  • Climax: The halftime show
  • Antagonist: Norm Oglesby, the roadies, and pussy boy; more broadly, the Fantasy Industrial Complex
  • Point of View: Third person limited

Extra Credit for Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Taking Realism Too Far. When director Ang Lee took on the film adaptation of Billy Lynn, he wanted to make it as realistic as possible—so he shot the film at 120 frames per second, a rate five times the normal frame rate. Though this creates a hyper-real and immersive effect for viewers, the format resulted in poor reviews as it's difficult to watch when a person isn't used to it. To make matters worse, the film could only be shown in its intended format in two theaters in the US, as only two in the country are capable of screening films at such a high film rate.

Method Writing. In an interview with the Fiction Writer's Review, Fountain described his writing process as "method writing," or the writing equivalent of method acting—a style of acting in which actors seek to emotionally identify with their character.