Chairperson: Shane Hegarty
This exciting double bill brings together two outstanding American writers whose debut novels take an unflinching look at the realities of the Iraq conflict and the fallout from the war.
Kevin Powers’ debut The Yellow Birds was named on almost everyone’s list of the best books of 2012. Powers served with the US Army in Mosul and Tal Afar and in The Yellow Birds he set out to answer the question “what was it like?”, but soon discovered that “war is only like itself”. The resulting novel, about two soldiers and the rash promise that one makes to keep the other alive, is “a must read book... that can stand beside All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage” (John Burnside). It won the Guardian First Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Awards in the US.
Ben Fountain’s novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, takes a radically different approach. The Billy Lynn in question is a 19-year-old serviceman who emerges intact from a firefight in Iraq and is brought home by the Bush administration for a half-time victory lap at the Dallas Cowboys stadium on a Thanksgiving afternoon. Written with a merciless satirical eye and “the kind of ambition that sent shivers down the spine of the young Tom Wolfe” (The Observer), Billy Lynn has been hailed as the Catch 22 of the Iraq War and is currently being adapted for Film4 by Oscar-winning screenwriter Simon Beaufoy.