Catch-22

Joseph Heller
Catch-22 is like no other novel. It is one of the funniest books ever written, a keystone work in American literature, and even added a new term to the dictionary. At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war. His efforts are perfectly understandable because as he furiously scrambles, thousands of people he hasn't even met are trying to kill him. His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, he is trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. Catch-22 is a microcosm of the twentieth-century world as it might look to some one dangerously sane -- a masterpiece of our time.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2016-02-10
Yossarian Lives!!!!
The first third of this book made me think about what a horrible writer Ayn Rand was. To have one idea, one that was pretty despicable, that could be easily stated in full in about two sentences, and then write scenarios that express that one idea ad nauseum... well, it's nauseating.<br /><br />Heller, too, has a single idea to present here: war, its operations and administration, its causes and goals, is simply absurd. At every level, absurdity. The worst thing that could happen is to be the lone sane person capable of recognizing the absurdity of all of it, to be inescapably dog-paddling in the middle of a pool of absurd.<br /><br />For a long time, while Catch-22 is merely comically absurd, this repetition is suffocating. It bears little resemblance to the world I am familiar with and to the way people behave. I started getting that same feeling I had slogging through Atlas Shrugged. "O, Come On, I get it already. I don't agree with you, but you've made your point!" Eventually, though, Heller begins to hint at events that just are not laughable on any level. As the novel becomes tragically absurd, it gets considerably better.<br /><br />The progression of the novel is pretty masterfully achieved. While I chuckled inwardly a bit in the initial chapters, and lost patience with the repetition for several more, and then slowly was shown this light and a meaning, I have to believe Heller aimed for just my response in each section. I guess I respect the way I was played even if, in the end, I'm not really convinced.
This is honestly one of the funniest books I have ever read. Although it can be slightly difficult to follow at times due to the many jumps in the narration, the humor is fantastic, as is the satire. I definitely mean to reread this in the future.
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