There are so many titles Ben Fountain could have come up with. He could have gone with humor: War Stinks, and So Do The Cowboys. Or he could have gone George Lucas-style: Billy Lynn: A Hero's Return. Or he could have made it seem like a memoir: Billy Lynn: A Story About War, Football, and How They Both Shape Our Young Men. Or, what about Billy Lynn Needs Some Advil?
Instead, Fountain went with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.
For one thing, that title reveals that Ben Fountain is not stingy with words. It also reveals that the words he uses will be kind of poetic, a little sad, even a little bit strange. Like, what is a halftime walk, anyway? The notion we get is of a journey—and that's appropriate, since this book is nothing if not the story of Billy's journey through his own kind of hell, if you well.
And yes, we totally did just compare Texas Stadium to hell. Come on, even Texans themselves thought it was pretty fugz.
With this sort of strange title, Fountain makes it clear that what he's telling is a story, that although it has to do with football, it's not really about football. We get the suggestion that Billy Lynn is the protagonist, but that maybe the story isn't just about him. And finally, we get an early indication of how much of the story will take place in Billy's head. His walk across the field isn't actually long in a literal sense, after all. What makes it long is the way time collapses whenever Billy starts thinking, remembering, questioning life.
If you think back on defining moments of your life, you might remember them as being somehow long—even if they really were just moments—because there's so much packed into that short flicker of time. That's what Billy experiences, and it's what we as readers get to experience with him.