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Catch-22
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1001 Monthly Group Read > July {2009} Discussion -- CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller

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message 1: by mara (new)

mara | 220 comments Mod
I'm posting this a little early because I'll be out of town on the 15th. Alack and alas I'm going to sit this one out. I never got around to reading this, deciding on more nonfiction this summer instead. Still looking forward to everyone's comments though! I did read about the first 100 pages and liked the way Heller pays attention to small detail to build character.


Sara I am on page 319. I like it so far, it's not what I thought it would be. I like his style of writing. He gives each character their own chapter so the reader can learn a bit about each character. I am not sure if I like Yassarian or not, at times I do and at others I find he's very childish and not a good character for the story.


Claudine Baldwin | 3 comments Glad to find that I'm not the only one who wasn't able to finish in time for the July 15th deadline. Not quite halfway but I hope to be done soon enough to take part in the discussions.


Eliza (elizac) | 77 comments This is one of my favorite books. I love the humor. I haven't read it in a while though so I'm thinking of a reread.


message 5: by LDB (new) - rated it 3 stars

LDB | 54 comments I am almost done and am waiting to finish before I post my thoughts. Can't wait to hear whatever everyone else has thought about this book.


Silver | 312 comments I read this book sometime ago, and I really enjoyed it. It is a very interesting read, and the sense of humur behind it was just great, the characters were interesting, and amusing. A wonderful story, that I think looks at the war in a way that speaks both of a great truth, while still bringing up the humur and truly humanizing the characters even in thier odditities. I found it both moving as well as amusing.


Melissa i feel out of place then.... I'm really not enjoying it. There are snippets and lines that are striking, but overall, I find myself telling myself that it's sure to get better. I'll stick with it since you all are enjoying it.


message 8: by C. (new) - rated it 5 stars

C. (placematsgalore) | 14 comments I just started reading this for the second time yesterday. Like the first time I read it, it's taking me a while to get used to it. But I love the opening!


Crystal King (crystallyn) I read this book a year ago and I struggled a bit to get through it, mostly because I wasn't really that into the characters and because I find war stories to be, for the most part, not terribly interesting. I liked his sense of humor and the situations the characters get into are pretty crazy, but the overall story just wasn't doing anything for me. Mostly I wanted Yassarin to just go home so the book would finally end.


message 10: by LDB (new) - rated it 3 stars

LDB | 54 comments I ended up giving this book 2 stars, although we will see if that changes as it sinks in. It was kinda like reading a slapstick movie and reminded me a lot of the tv series M.A.S.H. I didn't hate it but didn't love it either. There wasn't much of a plot to follow; rather it was a series of vignettes (often half told and returned to later) that moved from character to character. Nor were the characters very deeply drawn. I can't even say that I ever really got to know Yossarian and he was the character the author gave the most nuances to.

For those who have finished reading it, what did you think of the serious turn it took toward the end when we finally learn what happened to Snowden and are brought closer to the ugliness of war-time?


Megha (hearthewindsing) I read this book a few years ago and loved it. It is listed as one of my favorites. I am not sure if it will still hold up if I read it again.


Megha (hearthewindsing) LDB wrote: "For those who have finished reading it, what did you think of the serious turn it took toward the end when we finally learn what happened to Snowden and are brought closer to the ugliness of war-time?"

I liked the later parts of the novel much better because that's where things start to make sense. That's where it begins to have some meaning and turns into something more than just nonsense or slapstick comedy.


message 13: by C. (new) - rated it 5 stars

C. (placematsgalore) | 14 comments Megha wrote: "I liked the later parts of the novel much better because that's where things start to make sense. That's where it begins to have some meaning and turns into something more than just nonsense or slapstick comedy."

I agree. This is one of my favourite books, but it took me three attempts to get into it because the humour grated on my nerves, I couldn't keep the characters straight and I couldn't see where it was going. But I LOVED the last third or so - it was still hilariously funny, like the first part, but the humour was so black I couldn't decide whether to laugh or burst into tears. That scene with Snowden at the very end, to me, is still one of the most important I've ever encountered.

"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. The spirit gone, man is garbage."


message 14: by Megha (last edited Jul 18, 2009 05:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Megha (hearthewindsing) Choupette wrote: "I agree. This is one of my favourite books, but it took me three attempts to get into it because the humour grated on my nerves, I couldn't keep the characters straight and I couldn't see where it was going. But I LOVED the last third or so - it was still hilariously funny, like the first part, but the humour was so black I couldn't decide whether to laugh or burst into tears. That scene with Snowden at the very end, to me, is still one of the most important I've ever encountered.

"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. The spirit gone, man is garbage."


Exactly, I was very tempted to give it up after reading 100 or so pages. But it was during my vacations and I had nothing much to do those days. But I started enjoying it like anything in the second half. It was hilarious.

*** Spoilers ahead ******
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Yes, the scene with Snowden is surely a memorable one.
I also liked the part about the escape of Yossarian's room-mate (what was his name??). It came as a surprise.




message 15: by LDB (new) - rated it 3 stars

LDB | 54 comments Orr was Yossarian's room-mate. I loved Yossarian's reaction when he ultimately learned where Orr ended up.


Megha (hearthewindsing) Orr..right!
I can't remember what Yossarian's reaction was.
Hmmm...I have forgotten a lot of things. I should read it again, someday...


message 17: by LDB (new) - rated it 3 stars

LDB | 54 comments **SPOILER***

Finding out where Orr ended up kind of kicked him out of his funk and he decided he was just going to run away and head to Sweden (via Rome) to meet Orr, with the chaplain cheering him on. This whole episode follows the more serious part in Rome and is the silliness that brings the reader back to a lighter reading place.


Megha (hearthewindsing) Thanks for reminding me, LDB.


Rebecca | 7 comments I want to know what happened to Major Major Major Major! Did anyone catch what became of him? Poor Major Major Major Major.


message 20: by C. (new) - rated it 5 stars

C. (placematsgalore) | 14 comments Major Major Major Major was my favourite character! I loved that guy. "Some men are born to mediocrity, some achieve mediocrity, some have mediocrity thrust upon them. Major Major Major Major had all three." And the bit about his father's watercress farms... Tears of mirth.

Unfortunately, I can't remember what happened to him, if it was ever mentioned.


message 21: by LDB (new) - rated it 3 stars

LDB | 54 comments I remember asking myself the same question as I approached the end and then he never popped up again. I don't remember anything happening to him. He just kind of disappeared. Or is that what happened to him?! I may potentially remember a reference to him being "disappeared," but I can't truly remember.


Dianna | 82 comments I read this book not too long ago and I remember thinking it reminded me of M.A.S.H. and Hogan's Heroes. There were some really funny parts.


Derrick (afderrick) | 92 comments I'm still in the middle of this. I just don't have much time to read right now. I am enjoying the book a lot even though I only am hitting about 10-20 pages a day. I thought I was still at the beginning and realized I was 200 pages in already. Very captivating. I'll get through it eventually as I begin studying for other tests and trying to finish up MBA classes.


Melissa Well, I detested the first half, but I am really grateful I finished it. I agree with the MASH comments, and a lot of the conversations ran around like Groucho Marx.

********spoilers**********

I think the lightheartedness of the beginning made the seriousness of the second half more profound. The walk back to the hotel, after Nately's girl keeps trying to kill him, where he keeps seeing beatings, rapes, and murders.... pretty harrowing.


message 25: by C. (new) - rated it 5 stars

C. (placematsgalore) | 14 comments Reading it for the second, I do think the first half is a very clever way of portraying the feeling of being at war - or at least the feeling of being at war for people like Yossarian. We all kind of just accept war as being something that just has to be done every now and again, but Heller does a great job of showing just how illogical and crazy the whole concept is. And I thought his satire of not only war but of bureaucracy in general was very well done.

Unfortunately it's so full on that it's not much fun to read. But if it's this annoying in book form, imagine how much worse it would be to have to live through it! I've never been to war, so I don't know what it's like, but I think Heller is trying to give us a hint of just how awful it is.

The second half, I think (though I'm not up to reading it yet), shows the horror of war in a different way. And as everyone else has said, it is very effective. It's also more conventional, though the humour is still black as it comes.


Melissa The style in the beginning was killing me- the stilted, repetitive sentences like a child, and the run-on sentences that just went on forever.

Also, the timeline of the book confused me some. It jumped around, and I was unsure of the order as far as missions, events, hospitals stays, etc.

My question: God really takes a beating in this novel. Even the chaplain has doubts, as would anyone in a war situation. Granted his faith is renewed in the end, but would you say Heller (and/or his characters) promotes atheism?


Carly (csweder) It's interesting all of the criticism I am seeing for the first half of the novel. However, I think that was my preferred part. The long sentences and repetitive nature, and even contradictory statements I felt were designed to mirror the experiences of war--to be confused and monotonous. I thought it was brilliant. Designed to make the reader feel what it is like to be in war (as close as possible, without actually experiencing it, at least).


message 28: by Meera (new)

Meera I'm having trouble getting into this book. I've been reading maybe a chapter night which means that I might not be done for a while. I get annoyed by it not having a plot and every chapter is like a vignette that stands on its own. And so many characters! But then I occasionally find myself laughing out loud.


i.just.guess (ijustguess) DUDE, I freaking loved this book. The humor KILLED me, it was so sarcastic and dark and nuts. I ended up writing a crazy long blog entry about how much I love this book cuz I geeked out over it so much:

http://yeahijustguess.blogspot.com/20...

Aside from the awesome factor, there was so much to analyze and think about in themes and dialogue. I actually started off reading it apathetically, not really caring if it made sense or not, but Heller realy PULLS THE CRAZINESS TOGETHER in the end.

I feel like if you're patient, it completely pays off. The characters are unique and memorable, the wit is abundant, and the themes are really well thought out. There's a plot somewhere in there, it's just pretty much irrelevant and lost in the insanity, much like the actual war becomes irrelevant and lost in the insanity to the main characters.


i.just.guess (ijustguess) Melissa wrote: "My question: God really takes a beating in this novel. Even the chaplain has doubts, as would anyone in a war situation. Granted his faith is renewed in the end, but would you say Heller (and/or his characters) promotes atheism?"

I don't know if he PROMOTES it, but he's definitely giving the perspective that being engaged in war can kill faith in numerous ways.

Then again, he doesn't hide his biases against war and commanding officers, so I think he's not hiding his bias against religion either.


Suzanne Moore (suzeq) | 20 comments Just finished the book. The way the women/whores were treated upset me. Man is not just "matter" (maybe in flesh) but also beast, self-serving. I guess that's what war does to one ... respect disappears and fades away. What's left are false feelings for others while in reality actions are in response to animalistic needs or survival instincts. Most characters in this story seemed to lack a soul.


Christina Stind | 183 comments I must say, I'm disappointed in this book. I had expected a very funny read, an anti-war read and a book I would really enjoy.
But I didn't get that.
I did get a book against war and I did get the occasional humour - but the book was annoying to read. It felt more like series of short stories than a novel and it didn't really engage me. I had a bit of a hard time to finish it.

I did like the whole catch-22 idea:
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.
But besides that, I prefer MASH to this...


Michelle (fireweaver) | 104 comments just dropped this one back off at the library, and like a couple of you, this one didn't work for me either. i laughed out loud at several parts, and there were certainly gems of sparkling wit cast throughout...but i could never get INTO this book. i found it tediously repetitive, and yes, i get that this is a theme in the book - the repetition and monotony of war - but that doesn't make it interesting to read. maybe back in the heyday of The Greatest Generation and super patriotism, a snarky anti-war black comedy was deliciously subversive or even simply startling?

Suzanne, i likewise was bothered by the casually abusive treatment of women throughout. the constant references to 12 year old virgin whores (yeah, i know, they were all really 34) weren't funny either.

i got the same feeling from this one that i did with a number of the "classics" they made us read in high school. i could intellectually grasp the technical merit, and yet i just didn't give a damn about it in the least.


Christina Stind | 183 comments Michelle, I think you have a point. Some books you only appreciate on an intellectual level while others you just love. I think it's okay that it is this way and especially with books on a list like this - but I wasn't fan of this book either.


message 35: by Julia (last edited Aug 10, 2009 11:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Julia I enjoyed reading this book but I felt that it went on and on and on. I didn't feel compelled to go on by the last 1/4 of the book and just finished it because of my sense of duty to finish what I had started. I thought the book was very funny and I enjoyed the characters, just that I would have enjoyed them just as much with 100-150 pages less!


Carol | 104 comments I found this one to be worth reading, I had started it as a teen and didn't enjoy it at all. The way Heller introduces a character and a situation and then later another character and ties in the story line through the book kept me on my toes. Like the minister seeing a naked man in the tree and later finding out it was Yossarian. No one has mentioned Milo, he drove me nuts using war to make profit, bombing his own post, being Mayor of everywhere and respected in these towns. His need to justify his actions was fasinating. Orr was my hero, silently carefully plotting out his plan of escape and pulling it off.
Not an all time favorite but a very good book.


Jennie | 1 comments I just read Catch-22 last month for our own book club. And like many others in this group, most of us didn't finish it come discussion day..but we had a HOOT!! laughing at the hilarious outrageous crazy happenings and downright crazy characters...I was compelled to finish it to find out the destiny of Yossarian. Most difficult book to rate DEFINITELY!!


message 38: by LDB (new) - rated it 3 stars

LDB | 54 comments I wasn't terribly impressed by the book when I last posted about a month ago but I find that as I run into absurd situations in life, scenes from this book keep popping into mind. I keep referring to scenes and wanting everyone around to have read the book so they can get the comparison. When a book has such enduring and haunting qualities, you know it had an impact!


Dianna | 82 comments Good call LDB! :)


Alana (alanasbooks) | 124 comments I found it brilliant, although extremely harsh, which was probably the intent. It's witty, sharply funny, tragic, and incredibly thought-provoking. The treatment of all women was appalling, the fights between the colonels and generals trying to look better would have been funny if it weren't literally costing men their lives.

I listened to an audio version and I think that made a big difference in my enjoyment. The voice inflections made the scenes with the "Who's on First?" -type bits much more comical. And I kept thinking of M*A*S*H the whole time, for both the funny and the tragic moments.

Well done, although it left me wondering what really happened to Yosarian... but again, I guess that's the point?


Mon67 | 20 comments This is absolutely my favorite book ever together with Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West.

It's a masterpiece, so well written, so funny, so tragic, so witty!
I loved Milo's syndicate on eggs and stuff.
Completely visionary.

I reckon it's not an easy reading, but it's so enriching.


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