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New York Times Calls Ben Fountain’s Book a ‘Legitimate Masterpiece’

Darin Strauss writes in the New York Times that this year he has read three masterpieces — and then, to drive the point home, he qualifies them as “legitimate masterpieces” (his ital). One of those books is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, written by Ben Fountain. (The other two books are Zadie Smith’s NW and Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue.) If you haven’t read the book yet, you ought to. Here’s Zac’s profile of Fountain from our May issue.

  • Zac Crain

    I haven’t read NW, but I plan to soon. I’ve read the other two. Telegraph Avenue is … not a masterpiece. It’s good — I can’t imagine a Michael Chabon novel that is not rewarding in some way — but it is probably a third too long, ends weirdly abruptly, and is show-off-y in a way that none of his books are. The single sentence that stretches over 12 pages is interesting, but it’s more like a writing exercise or a personal bet with himself to use a certain amount of semi-colons. And the random scene with a 2004-era Barack Obama took me out of the book so much, I couldn’t pick up Telegraph Avenue again for another week or so. It is 100-percent unnecessary.

    The writing is great. The individual sentences, the descriptions. It has really funny parts. I think it could have been a great 300 or even 350 page novel. It’s a good but certainly flawed 480 page one.

  • Eric Celeste

    Fine word, “legitimate”!

  • RAB

    Yes, but admit you have a man-crush on Chabon.

  • Zac Crain

    Oh, I’d never deny that.

  • Jerome Weeks

    And yet, ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ did NOT make the NYT’s top 10 of the year list.

  • RAB

    The NYT’s top 10 list was split into five fiction and five non-fiction. Hard to indict a book for not making it into the top five (although it seems like that’s your criticism)