Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Catch-22

Catch-22
By Joseph Heller
Dell Publishing 1978
463 pages 
Borrowed from my Dad

Catch-22

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? 

8 comments:

  1. Ah, another of those books that I feel guilty about. Maybe not guilty? Maybe ashamed. Because I haven't read it. I will, eventually. I think ;) I'm glad to know that it's worth the time!

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    1. I don't know that I would jumped to read it, but I borrowed it from my dad and I think he was wondering when he was going to get his books back!

      It's one of those books people love or hate - I guess you will have to see!

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  2. Wow, glad that someone liked it! haha. Ive tried to read this book, but honestly I can barely understand whats going on in it. I will try to read it again, and keep trying till i get through it, but I do wish that I enjoyed it in the way that you did.

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    1. I saw so many people say that they abandoned it within the first hundred pages. I will admit that it wasn't a book I was dying to pick up each day. I told myself that I would read 50 pages a day before I picked up anything else. I think it sort of grows on you!

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  3. I do think I'll give this book another try some day -- I wanted to finish it. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Thanks! I hope you enjoy it too. :)

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  4. I've not read this book before, but I want to because it has obviously become such a huge pop culture reference. I think 500 pages of tangents would be tough going for me, though!

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    1. I can understand your concern. This might be one you just have to get through a little bit at a time!

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