Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Goodreads rating: 3.96/5 (380K+ ratings)
My rating: 4/10
First Published: 11 November, 1961
Genre: Satire; War Fiction; Historical Fiction; Dark Humour
A classic novel, Catch-22 follows Captain John Yossarian who is part of the US Air Force, and is primarily based on an island off Italy where his squadron is stationed during World War II. It is mainly about how they keep their sanity while waiting for the war to end, and how they keep themselves going.
This book took me 2 very very long months to read, and I didn’t enjoy it until the last 3 chapters. I think I just don’t ‘get’ satire – I think it might be too clever for me to be perfectly honest. I was bored. I also got confused because the story jumps around in time and character, and I found it difficult to figure out where in the timeline of events I was.
The tone of the book is generally upbeat in the beginning, but the mood significantly drops about two-thirds of the way through, and that was actually when it got a bit interesting!
I definitely had quite a few chuckles throughout the book, but overall I really didn’t look forward to reading it, or enjoy it.
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he would have to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle. “That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed. “It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.
One of the things [Yossarian] wanted to start screaming about was the surgeon’s knife that was almost certain to be waiting for him and everyone else who lived long enough to die. He wondered often how he would ever recognize the first chill, flush, twinge, ache, belch, sneeze, stain, lethargy, vocal slip, loss of balance or lapse of memory that would signal the inevitable beginning of the inevitable end.
“Haven’t you got anything humorous that stays away from waters and valleys and God? I’d like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can.”
The chaplain was apologetic. “I’m sorry, sir, but I’m afraid all the prayers I know are rather somber in tone and make at least some passing reference to God.”
“Then let’s get some new ones.”
Yossarian was cold, too, and shivering uncontrollably. He felt goose pimples clacking all over him as he gazed down despondently at the grim secret Snowden had spilled all over the messy floor. It was easy to read the message in his entrails. Man was matter, that was Snowden’s secret. Drop him out a window and he’ll fall. Set fire to him and he’ll burn. Bury him and he’ll rot, like other kinds of garbage. That was Snowden’s secret. Ripeness was all.
“A wild, moving, shocking, hilarious, raging, exhilarating, giant roller-coaster of a book” – The New York Tribune
“A dazzling performance that will outrage nearly as many readers as it delights”- The New York Times
“doesn’t even seem to be written; instead, it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper,” – The New Yorker
If you’ve read this, I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts or reading your reviews so please share any links!