Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

As if to talk of such things properly we need a mode of speech near the equal of prayer, otherwise just shut, shut your yap and sit on it, silence being truer to the experience than the star-spangled spasm, the bittersweet sob, the redeeming hug, or whatever this fucking closure is that everybody’s always talking about.

This from Ben Fountain’s awe-inspiring new novel, which you should read if you haven’t, and I don’t say that often. The book thrums with sentences like this one, which I like for its attitude and mix of registers. We get both fairly high (“a mode of speech near the equal of prayer”) and low (“shut your yap and sit on it”) and the surprise of “the star-spangled spasm,” which is a wonderfully audacious way for a soldier to refer to our national anthem, and the way he dismisses “closure.”

I don’t think you need it to appreciate the sentence, but, for context, this thought flies through the head of one Billy Lynn while on a “Victory Tour” stop in Dallas after he’s peppered by a throng of reporters with questions about a firefight in Iraq, a firefight that has become a media favorite and that Billy’s still reeling from. I like people like Billy who know something important and aren’t afraid to speak it, no matter how it comes out, and this sentence captures his voice.

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