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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Secret Synaptic Spark (For Now)

What was the last novel you finished that...

* got your attention with the first sentence and kept your interest until the last?
* made you laugh and weep in equal measure?
* left you with at least one character you won't forget?

In "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" (2012), Ben Fountain pulls off that authorial hat trick and more, doing so with a story taking place over just a single day. Fountain's politics preclude me recommending this book without a caveat but his funniest barbs are aimed at excess, not politics. In addition, his observations (e.g. "...with all the emotion of a flounder on ice", "...the unctuous patter of an undertaker murmuring pickup lines in a bar", "...chum in the shark tank of family dynamics") may sound tossed off but anyone who has ever tried to write will attest how difficult this is to actually do.

Turn around and Fountain goes from spot-on observations like those above to heart wrenching sentences like this: "She looks so good he feels himself empty out, no breath, no pain, no thought, no past, his whole life distilled to the sight of her striding toward him". Man, what a gift. If any of you read or have already read this book, please let me know whose music you heard in your head while doing so. I'll keep that particular synaptic spark to myself for now.            

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