Chad's Reviews > Closing Time

Closing Time by Joseph Heller
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May 30, 2008

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Read in June, 2008

While Closing Time is ostensibly the sequel to Catch-22, it is a remarkably different book in tone and style. Catch-22 was brimming with satire and absurd persons and situations. This style of writing is still present in Closing Time, particularly in those chapters about Yossarian, Chaplain Tappmann, and Milo Minderbinder, but it is significantly less noticeable there and almost completely absent from the sections of the book about Sammy Singer, Lew Rabinowitz, and their compatriots. The remainder is a fairly straightforward look at the lives these men lead and the memories they have of their youth.

The Singer and Rabinowitz story is compelling on its own but only very peripherally related to Catch-22. The stories of the returning characters are interesting, but frequently too bizarre. The bits about governmental incompetence and Yossarian’s dealings with nurse Macintosh, Minderbinder, and Gaffney are all excellent, but I am still unsure what to make of Tappman’s subplot or the great mystery of what lies beneath the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The ending makes perfect sense as a closure for both the themes of Catch-22 and Closing Time, but it leaves too much unresolved and open to interpretation for my tastes.

The best parts of the novel are flashbacks to events from Catch-22, often from a different perspective than originally described, and the Singer and Rabinowitz families’ battles against cancer. There are many references to the Ring Cycle and other Wagnerian works. I suspect that I would appreciate the novel much more if I were highly familiar with the librettos from these works, as Yossarian’s story seems to be somewhat intended as a modern retelling of Siegfried’s journey. Heller also references a man named Vonnegut who survives the Dresden bombings with Rabinowitz, in a rare literary allusion that I recognize.

As might be expected by its lesser critical acclaim, Closing Time is not nearly as good of a work as Catch-22, which was truly a masterpiece. It is, however, a fairly interesting novel, and recommended for anyone who has enjoyed Heller’s other work.
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