Greg's Reviews > Catch-22

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
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's review
May 19, 2007

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Read in April, 2013

Considering I started this novel over six years ago and finally got myself to finish it, it came as no surprise that it tops the Most Read But Unfinished Books list. With common praises as strong as " of the funniest books ever written, a keystone work in American literature..." I thought if I was patient it would reward any extra effort I put in to stay with this book to the end. Now that I've turned the last page, I'm convinced I just read 463 pages of the same mediocre joke.

From the very beginning, I got the impression I was watching an Abbott and Costello bit for a WW2 USO show- complex setups of mildly absurd situations for unsatisfying punchlines. And each relies heavily on the fact that the protagonist Yossarian is the only logical character to be found. Catch-22, the namesake premise that drives Yossarian into perpetually more missions, is a perfect example. After a few chapters, my sentiment quickly shifted from, "That Yossarian! They sure got him in a pickle!" to "Wow, is there really no one else that makes any sense?" and then coasted through the rest of the book with "I'm just going to expect something strange is going to happen and hope to get it over with."

This is not to say that Catch-22 is all bad. There are lovely moments when the complexities between the characters connect with such elegance that I felt almost as excited as when I read Castle of Crossed Destinies. And Joseph Heller's prose displays a casual mastery that says exactly what needs to be said- no more, no less. In fact, several characters really start to tease out some emotional depth and clarity. But it’s usually immediately shut down because, well, that’s just not what this book is about.

So yeah, I get it. War crushes all lives except for those in power, and those in power are protected by a ridiculous bureaucracy that doesn't just border on absurd, but stomps its muddy boots all over the place then gets disgusted that no one has cleaned up. But changing the person telling the joke doesn't make the joke any less tired. I wanted to do my American Literary duty and like this book. But, like Yossarian, there's only so much I can take before I want out.

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Reading Progress

08/04/2010 "Just found out this is top in a "Books Never Finished" list. I concur."
04/30/2013 marked as: read
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message 1: by Jeni (new)

Jeni Pandolfi You have been reading this book since the beginning of time. Lets make power moves

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