By Joseph Heller
Dell Publishing 1978
Borrowed from my Dad
Well....this book...it's a doozy.
I completely understand why so many people abandon this particular novel. It can be downright confusing - we are constantly introduced to new characters who are then abandoned for several chapters and it often seems more like a series of vignettes than a coherent story. There is humor throughout, but it's not a laugh-out-loud sort of humor. Rather, it's consistent absurdity.
At its simplest level, this book is about a bombardier during WWII named Yossarian. He has flown his quota of missions and is ready to go home. But his commander keeps increasing the number of missions, so Yossarian must come up with new and inventive ways to avoid being sent out. He and his friends are stymied by Catch-22: In order for a pilot to be relieved from duty, he must be insane. But the pilot who asks to be released understands that flying so many missions is tantamount to suicide and so he is not insane.
In spite of almost 500 pages of tangents, ridiculousness, and death...I found myself enjoying this book. Heller has some sort of magic that makes you feel like you can't connect to any of the characters until the sudden moment when you find your heart broken because another pilot has died. The complete dissonance between the hilarity of redundant orders and misunderstandings and the pain and agony of war is incredibly written and hits the characters and the readers at the strangest of moments. This is one of those books you sort of hate while you read it, but feel a great sense of accomplishment when you finish it.
This is a very strange book. It's hard to read, but unexpectedly worthwhile when you finish it. If you are trying to read this book and tempted to set it aside, stick with it. Under all of the absurdity is a truly tragic story of men who die and men who live, all without being quite sure what it is they are fighting for. After all, isn't war the most absurd thing of all?