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A book by Joseph Heller

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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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K. Mennie ()
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Member Since: Oct 27, 2010
Last Login: Nov 23, 2010 02:45 PM UTC
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About this book


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 novel tells the story of an Air Force bombardier, the hapless Yossarian, who is convinced--quite rightly, of course--that people are trying to kill him. The famous "catch" is that the terrified Yossarian, who constantly and by increasingly inventive means tries to persuade his superiors that he is crazy and should be grounded, can't be grounded because his fear of dying proves that he is sane--and so he is assigned to more and more bombing missions. Heller makes the horrors of war, which include Yossarian's traumatized reliving of the particularly grisly death of a friend, into comedy with the help of a Dickensian cast of characters, including the elusive Major Major Major Major, the blackmarket profiteer Milo Minderbinder, the photographer Hungry Joe, and the wonderful
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ISBN-13: 978-0679437222
Author: Joseph Heller
Genre: History
Publisher: Alfred a Knopf Inc
Date Published: October 01, 1995
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