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2 Ratings: 4.5
A book by Joseph Heller

Joseph Heller's manic, bleak, blackly humorous, and brilliant novel has become a classic of American literature, and "Catch-22" has entered the language as a term describing a no-win situation. Set during the last months of World War II, the … see full wiki

Tags: Books, History
Author: Joseph Heller
Genre: History
Publisher: Alfred a Knopf Inc
Date Published: October 01, 1995
1 review about Catch-22

A cherished favourite, although not quite a bed-time story

  • Oct 19, 1999
  • by
Pros: Brilliant literature, versatile novel

Cons: May or may not require repeated readings, suffers tedious "post-modern" pigeon-holing from the ivory tower, making actual discussion difficult

I didn't "get" 'Catch-22' the first time I read it. I was a pre-teen; I can be forgiven. I think, sadly, a lot of adults can maybe be forgiven for similar trespasses if they treat it as light reading: the book really does demand repeated readings and serious analysis...

...sort of. It isn't a Pynchon deal that _must_ be paid attention to. The worst indictment of 'Catch-22' is probably that it is simply a rather funny novel, or a good war yarn. It _is_ these things, but a lot more.

'Catch-22' aficionados are advised to seek out the 'critical edition' (try a used bookshop near a university), which has some oddly revealing parts: a chapter that wasn't included in the novel called 'Love, Dad' (a series of letters from home, with tragic end), and an interview with Heller about the book. If you _are_ a student reading this in hopes of cribbing an idea or two for a paper, don't read the interview; Heller shamelessly mocks the academics who subjected 'Catch-22' to over-analysis.

There has to be a happy medium somewhere inbetween the ivory tower analysis and the cursory read-through; I'm just not sure where it is. I read this book an average of twice a year, though; maybe it's just supposed to be a damn good book.

The sad part (outside of the book in question, I mean) is that Heller never approaches the brilliance of 'Catch-22' in his other novels. I haven't even looked at the "sequel" -- I don't want to ruin the spell of the original.

Another thing needing a mention is the movie: having both enjoyed, studied, and read this book to shreds I should probably hate it. I don't, and foist it off as an incentive to people who haven't read the book. I like the casting, and most of the idea translated well to the screen. This is another 'epinion,' though.

It is a must-read, if only so you _really_ know what a "catch-22" is. This is going to end up on every millenium best-of-the-twentieth-century list, so you may as well get to it now before it's redone as a film starring Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, which might leave a permanent bad taste, or just the wrong one.


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