seak's Reviews > Catch-22

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
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bookshelves: audio, 2012

Have your friend report you as crazy. Problem solved.

Catch-22 is known as an anti-war novel, but I didn't get that from it at all. It's more an anti-military novel and possibly just anti-organizations in general.

Yes, there's a fair bit of expostulation about war, but Heller really goes into detail about the ineffectiveness of the military itself. Commanders focusing on tight bomb patterns rather than the actual mission.

I think one of the main reasons I read this, besides the fact that everyone else has, was just to find out what Catch-22 meant in the context of this book. It turns out that it has just as many applications within the book as it is commonly used today.

One of the first instances is when Yossarian, one of the main characters of the book, decides he's done flying missions and wants to go home. One way to do so is to be declared insane. The problem is, you can't be declared insane unless you see someone about it...but if you see someone about it, you're obviously not insane because you're worried about your sanity...catch-22.

"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 had 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."

It goes on to present other instances such as the general military sentiment that your commander is always right...unless they're not, then they're still right. Plenty of dialogue revolves around an officer speaking to a subordinate, the officer has his facts completely wrong, the subordinate tries to correct, and the officer then says, "You calling me a liar?" Of course, that would never happen, so...catch-22.

I think what makes this a classic is partly the writing itself. It's so circular, it often represents the idea it is presenting, catch-22. Not only is the dialogue repetitive all too often (way too often), the events seem to repeat themselves as well, going along with the idea that is catch-22, it's inherently circular, there's no way around it.

I have to say that this is more of a tiring novel than anything. I really enjoyed it from the very beginning, but it also begins to wear on you pretty fast. Each chapter deals with a new person, but almost always somehow connected to Yossarian. But as I complained about above, it's too repetitive for me and that was the beginning of a ruined joke for me. It's just not that funny after a while. This whole book could be so much better at just half the size.

Of course this is an anti-war novel even though I joked about it not being so (yes, that was supposed to be a joke) and that's the actual sad meaning behind Catch-22 comes in. Why is there war? Because of Catch-22. Why does Catch-22 give one the right to go to war? Because Catch-22 says so. If you can beat the other guy, then the law's on your side.

Good, even hilarious at times, but I just couldn't wait to be done.

3 out of 5 Stars

"What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can't all be worth dying for."
"Anything worth living for," said Nately, "is worth dying for."
"And everything worth dying for," answered the sacrilegious old man, "is certainly worth living for."
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Reading Progress

December 15, 2008 – Shelved
September 11, 2012 – Started Reading
September 11, 2012 – Shelved as: audio
September 11, 2012 –
page 85
18.76% "I get that a Catch-22 is inherently circular. One option doesn't work, so you go to the next and then back and every time it's the same. But the writing's kind of getting on my nerves with all the repetition and circular dialogue."
September 21, 2012 –
page 170
37.53%
October 2, 2012 –
page 250
55.19%
October 24, 2012 –
page 375
82.78%
October 25, 2012 – Shelved as: 2012
October 25, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Lloyd certainly not a novel to be read all in one go!


seak Yeah, that was a bad call on my part. It would be a LOT more enjoyable in small doses.


message 3: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Lloyd think I hit about page 300 and needed a lightweight fantasy before I read the second half!


seak Tom wrote: "think I hit about page 300 and needed a lightweight fantasy before I read the second half!"

That was a great idea. I've been known to do so with Malazan reads. I love the books, but sometimes I need something light to break it up.


message 5: by Nic (new) - added it

Nic Brownrigg Personally I agree with the first two comments. This book pretty much requires you to put it down and pick up where you left off tomorrow. It's still a good book, but impossible to read for long periods of time.


message 6: by Tom (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tom Lloyd certainly if you don't want to start feeling you're going slightly insane!


message 7: by Howard (new)

Howard I never did understand the term "anti-war novel." What a waste of time to write such a thing, if the point is to convince people that war is bad. Duh.


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