'Billy Lynn' A Full-Bore Tale Of A Day After Iraq

Play associated audio

Billy Lynn is a 19-year-old college dropout living in the small Texas town where he grew up. After he's arrested for trashing the car of his sister's ex, he's given two choices: face jail time or enlist in the Army.

He chooses the Army. And Iraq.

Author Ben Fountain's debut novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, is the story of what happens to Lynn after he joins Bravo Company in the early years of the Iraq war.

Fountain's writing debut came at 48 with his short story collection, Brief Encounters With Che Guevara. Weekends on All Things Considered guest host Laura Sullivan talks with the author, whose first novel has already won praise — and even comparisons to Catch-22.


Interview Highlights

On why he chose to set the novel almost entirely in one place — and in one day

"I didn't want any gimmicks. I didn't want any tricks. I didn't want there to be some mystery or big secret that was driving the narrative."

On his protagonist, Billy Lynn

"[He's] very conflicted about being honored and being considered a hero. ... He's been hoping and expecting and waiting to come across the person who's really going to listen to him and help him try to make sense of what he's been through. And he never finds that person."

On the role of language in his novel

"From the very start, the correct rhythm, the correct sound for this book was going to be a headlong, reckless, full-bore kind of rhythm to it. And I wanted to try to capture the intense experience that Billy and the other Bravos are having, this very vivid, almost overwhelming sensory experience. I wanted to try to capture that, not just the images that the language is evoking, but in the sound of the language itself. I didn't want to give the reader a rest."

On starting his writing career at the age of 48

"It just took me a long time to develop. And maybe if I had, you know, gone and gotten a Master of Fine Arts in writing or been more connected to a writing group, that would have saved me some time."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

MTV's Rewinding The '90s With A New Channel

The '90s are back! Pokémon has taken over the world again. A Clinton is running for president. And now, MTV is reviving '90s favorites like Beavis and Butt-head on a new channel, MTV Classic.
NPR

Salvage Supperclub: A High-End Dinner In A Dumpster To Fight Food Waste

The ingredients — think wilted basil, bruised plums, garbanzo bean water — sound less than appetizing. Whipped together, they're a tasty meal that show how home cooks can use often-tossed foods.
WAMU 88.5

The Politics Hour – LIVE from Slim's Diner!

This special edition of the Politics Hour is coming to you live from Slim's Diner from Petworth in Northwest D.C.

NPR

Writing Data Onto Single Atoms, Scientists Store The Longest Text Yet

With atomic memory technology, little patterns of atoms can be arranged to represent English characters, fitting the content of more than a billion books onto the surface of a stamp.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.