I had been coming to this realization for a couple of years that I didn’t understand my country. I felt there was this huge gap between the reality of what we were engaged in, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the way it was being sold to the American public. I thought there was a story there. ~ Ben Fountain
And it’s a great story! A finalist for the National Book Award, there’s enough craziness, extreme masculine humor, power struggles, fighting, money, and sex to cover all the raw major drives. It’s Fountain’s gift to take these unconscious forces and show how they can easily be dressed up and marketed to serve political ends. But he’s also given us a protagonist that we deeply care about, with Specialist Lynn.
Billy is an army private who’s just come out of a fire fight in Iraq, where his team took grievous casualties. Filmed by an embedded Fox News reporter, Bravo squad became instantly famous. Sensing that Americans need a self-esteem boost concerning the war, the Bush administration has brought the remaining Bravos back to the U.S. for a two-week Victory Tour. After the funeral of their sergeant, the Bravos are taken across the country, where they are endlessly lauded, feted and thanked. Now it’s down to the last day before going back to Iraq, and they are guests of the Dallas Cowboys for the big Thanksgiving Day game, where they will also participate in the halftime festivities, and hope to meet Beyonce.
A Hollywood producer is with them, pushing all the buttons for their big movie deal. The alcohol is flowing, and they are meeting the fans, the players, the cheerleaders, the owner’s cabal . . .
Dude, what could go wrong?
Fountain’s novel expresses hard and horrible truths about human nature, but he folds in so many more truths about love, loyalty, and incomprehensible bravery that we swallow the pill. The humor and warmth of the novel carry us along, even as Fountain holds up an often unflattering mirror to our collective narcissism.