Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Wow. Where to start on this one. ‘Catch 22′ has long been on the ‘must read’ list for a couple of us. The selection of this book was inevitable for Liquorature. As a novel that sits on so many ‘greatest/best/top’ lists, it was bound to get targeted at some point.
I must first say, I am generally not a fan of non-chronology in writing. There are occasions where this works exceptionally well, but with a novel not being a visual medium, the reader is not privy to seeing visual clues (changing hair length, clothing, etc) to delineate the jumps in storyline. ‘Catch 22′ had me struggling to keep the flow clear. In hindsight, one can look back and see how it all works. While reading however, it seems disjointed.
The story itself is sort of a confounding mess, but sometimes, as has been said, it is more about the telling than the tale. There is no doubt, this is one of the funniest books I’ve read. Heller’s satirical take on all things bureaucratic is applicable to so much of our contemporary politically correct age that it is hard not to laugh and grit your teeth in frustration at the same time. The tale revolves around a group of WWII bombardiers and their subsequent attempts at getting discharged. This is where the catch come into play. Catch 22, to be exact. Interesting to note that this novel is actually the origin of that particular expression.
Outside the canon of a few select writers (Vonnegut, Rushdie, Robbins) I am not sure you will ever encounter a more absurd group of characters. From Yossarian’s raging frustration to the impotence of Major Major Major Major to Milo Minderbinder’s unique take on commerce, each character is liable to have you chuckling. Nately’s Whore (indeed the character’s title through most of the book) especially is an utterly ridiculous piece of comedy. Somehow it works.
Though I still am not sold on the storyline itself, the characters and situations make for an entertaining read. A brilliant twist ending helped ratchet up the rating on this one a little as well.
Long live Yossarian!