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Loathed Titles > whats the deal with Catch 22

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message 1: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) Hello. i just joined this group, and I am a little shocked to see that no one has vented on Catch 22.... Anyone out there read it?

I bought it a few months back, based on tons of great reviews I read on other book threads, and I have to say.... I just didnt get it. I stopped about 60 pages into because I just couldnt torture myself any longer.

To me, it appeared as though the author of the novel suffered from ADHD. He couldnt stay foused on one storyline.

He would begin by introducing Yossarian, the main character. And then, while he was telling us a little about him, he would introduce another character and start going off into another train of thought.

He did this constantly, to the point where I had no clue who most of the people he was bringing into the story were, and why they would suddenly disappear... and then 20 pages later, reappear, but i couldnt remember who they were so I had to reread the first 20 pages all over again......

I was aggrivated, I wasnt understanding the story line. I mean... I GET the story line, but I wasnt following it. It was too all over the place for me...

It took me 2 weeks to get 60 pages in. Thats when I finally threw in the towel. (I never ever do that. I think there are maybe, MAYBE 5 books I couldnt finish)

Does no one else share my feelings here?

message 2: by Mark (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

Mark I loved this book. I found it to be utterly hilarious. I can understand how it can be hard to get into, though. It's so sarcastic about the military and war that the sarcasm could put one off. I still laugh about Major Major Major, a minor major character in the book. Could be I got it because I was in the Army for awhile.

message 3: by Kay (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

Kay | 20 comments Like Mark, I loved it. I'm not sure how much of it I really 'got' the first time around, but I read it every couple of years and it just gets better and better ... and funnier and funnier.

message 4: by Steve (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

Steve | 8 comments I too love Catch-22. It's wonderfully absurd but also frightening in its absurdity. One of my favourite books.

message 5: by Norman (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:41PM) (new)

Norman (normanince) | 48 comments I am another Catch-22 fan. Heller brilliantly uses humour to expose the inefficient and often corrupt underbelly of a war effort, even when noble aspirations are the foundation of that effort. And while mocking the absurd logic behind so many military decisions, he manages to create memorable characters who are ridiculous yet all-too-human. In short, I think the book is a masterpiece. (For those who struggle with the story-line, try watching the movie version before you tackle the book again. Both are well worth the time spent.)

message 6: by Ann M (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:42PM) (new)

Ann M | 39 comments I also loved Catch-22. The chocolate-covered cotton balls...

message 7: by Christy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:42PM) (new)

Christy (christymtidwell) | 4 comments Catch-22 is a weird book for me. I haven't been able to finish it, despite enjoying it when I pick it up. It's a funny and clever book and in small doses, I really, really like it. I just can't sustain my interest in it for long enough to finish it. At least not yet.

message 8: by Slinkyboy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:43PM) (new)

Slinkyboy Yes, Lori. Yes, yes, yes!

I really want to like this book. It has such a strong beginning. The tone is hilarious. The characters are engaging.

Then something happens. It's like the author gets sidetracked. Which would be OK if he actually came back to the story at some point, but he doesn't. He gets sidetracked from his sidetrack, and then sidetracked from that side track. The book becomes an endless stream of digressions.

I have tried to read this three times, and each time I've made it a little further, but ultimately I just walk away frustrated and disappointed.

I haven't given up though. I will try again... just not any time soon.

message 9: by Maria (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:43PM) (new)

Maria | 19 comments Lori, I'm not going to pretend that I didn't struggle with the same problem as you, but it truly is an amazing book. I think you'll find reading it a very rewarding experience. It was definitely one of the most stunning, memorable books I've ever read. And personally, I had to think back for a few minutes after reading your post to recall that it was hard to keep track of the characters at times, I was that ecstatic about the book when I was done.

message 10: by Patrick (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:43PM) (new)

Patrick For Lori, Sherri, and all here who had a hard time with Catch-22....

I love this book, but I can understand how you would find it hard to read. I have had a similar hard time with heller's Something Happened, even though i love Catch-22.

I will let you know, though, that I have never read anything that quite captures the absolute absurdity and hilarity of military life as well as Catch-22 does. Serving in the military exposes a person to bizarre ideas that pretty much define every person's role and their duties in the society of every day military life. The absurd humor of martial culture is something that most people just don't wouldn't think would be part of that experience, but soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines laugh and joke about this every day. In fact, I think it's one of the reasons why some people make a career out of the military - because it's so damned absurd, and you never know what's going to happen next.

If you enjoyed the TV show MASH, or the movies MASH, Stripes, Private Benjamin, or the first half of Full Metal Jacket, then you'll see something of the absurdity that Heller is trying to describe in Catch-22.

However, if you just can't get into this book, I understand, and this is not meant in any way to be hostile towards or critical of your opinion. Please don't take my comments in that way!

message 11: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) I dont hold any comments against anyone... each to their own, i say! And I still cant help thinking i am missing some major masterpiece when i lay this book down.

I never like to say I give up on a book. It literally kills me to do that. Because i know that somewhere in there something is waiting to reach out and grab hold of me. I just cant get far enough in to find it, i guess.

I end up rereading page after page becuase none of it makes sense. theres no pattern to it, no really frustrates me.

I have to admit, i am starting to feel some pressure to try again, but i am just not ready yet. i have too many books waiting in the wings, calling to me to be read 1st..... maybe one day.... maybe.....

message 12: by Maria (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:45PM) (new)

Maria | 19 comments Lori, I don't think it *literally* kills you. :D

I should add that Catch-22 being all over the place and nonsensical sometimes is part of Catch-22's point. But, yeah. I hope you return to the book someday.

message 13: by Melissa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:12PM) (new)

Melissa (melissaharl) I too love Catch-22 almost to death ;)

It is one thing that helped me survive high school.

I read it almost every day in my horrific 'World Government' class (should have been a good course, but it wasn't).

I would start laughing and the girl in front of me would want to know why. Sometimes I could tell her, sometimes I couldn't ... too 'adult' I guess

message 14: by Nathan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new)

Nathan (nathanheller) | 5 comments Uh... People who haven't bothered to finish the book probably shouldn't comment on how bad they think it is, especially since so much of the story comes together at the very end...


message 15: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) For Nathan,
If you read my original post here, you would see that I am not commenting on how bad I think the book is, I am commenting on the fact that the first 60 pages were making it impossible for me to continue with the book any further....

There is a difference. But feel free to take it as you like. Either way, it isnt going to make me want to grab it and try again....

message 16: by Laurel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:26PM) (new)

Laurel the dizzying prose style is meant to reflect the hysteria of war. the prose style actually contributes to the meaning.

i thought this book was hilarious and thoughtful. i think you should give it another chance, simply because it's practically a classic.

message 17: by Kathryn (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

Kathryn I have read this book probably 50 times. I read it the first time when I was 9. I think it's brilliant.

That said, I define a 'read' of Catch-22 as reading some portion of it. The first 20 times I read it, I read different parts. You don't have to start at the beginning, and you don't have to read to the end. Once I had the story nailed down, I started reading from cover to cover.

And literally 20 years after I read it the first time, I finally got a key story element. I had been missing it the whole time.

There are so many layers of genius in the characters and in the's worth it to hang on until you get through it.

message 18: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) im sorry, but how does someone read a book like that at the age of nine?I cant picture a nine year old being interested in a book like that. That is amazing to me.

message 19: by Saras (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:56PM) (new)

Saras | 2 comments I had the hardest time trying to summarize the plot of Catch-22 in highschool for my data-sheet. The way I saw it was that if you kept an eye on where Yossarian was in the great scheme of things, you could make sense of it.

Also, I think it's OK if you forget who a character is from earlier on in the book because I think the way the story is told is meant to reflect that in the game of war, it is easy to forget that each soldier is an individual and not part of a whole. I feel that Joseph Heller was trying to remind us that while the main character is Yossarian, his story is not the only story that deserves attention. He is only one among so many, and others may be going through the same or worse trials than him.

I also found that as I kept ploughing on through the story, I learnt not to TRY too hard to piece things together, and just enjoyed every little separate story individually. It will all come together of its own accord.

message 20: by Jan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Jan | 5 comments I have tried to read this book at least four times. I just do not get it. At all.

message 21: by Lori (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:58PM) (new)

Lori (tnbbc) thank goodness..... I always feel like some sort of mentally challenged reader when I say I dont get it, and cant get through it. Everyone reacts like Im a leper..!!!

message 22: by Judy (new)

Judy (judy5cents) | 26 comments I wouldn't expect a nine year old to want to read it, but I loved it when I read it at the age of 13. I don't remember being confused at all by the number of characters, even though there were quite a few. The absurdity really appealed to me and I didn't mind it being so disjointed. Each character had their own weird little story and fit perfectly in Yossarian's absurd universe

message 23: by Nancy (new)

Nancy | 7 comments Actually I had the same initial experience you had. I don't remember how many pages I read before stopping as my effort was about 42 years ago. I did give in another go a few months later and eventually got into it. I don't know what I'd think of it at 59 but I do remember thinking it was really good when I was 17.

Hopefully you all won't kick me off the Books I loathed Club for a first post that is not negative. I promise to trash something soon.

message 24: by Ceci (new)

Ceci (cecialbiceleste) | 8 comments I've read Catch-22 at least three times... It's hilarious and weird and absurd. I love it, it's one of my all time favs. Unfortunately none of Heller's other books even come close to it.

message 25: by Donster (new)

Donster I despised Catch 22. I think it was a total piece of shit, and never would have gotten the attention it did if it hadn't been made into a pretty good movie. It's repetitive, pointless, and not funny. I regret ever having read it, and I've never, ever understood why some people like it so much.

message 26: by Lori (new)

Lori Anderson (lorianderson) I just read it last month, and I liked it. But I also spent four years in the military, so I saw a lot of people that I worked with in his characters, so that made it especially funny to me.

It's certainly a dry humor, though, and black humor.

message 27: by Tom (new)

Tom CATCH-22 is pure genius. The American Novel about Authority and Its Abuses. I don't really see why people seem to have such a hard time reading it. It all made perfect sense to me. You just have to let it take you where it wants to take you.

Of course, if you need your novels easy and your stories sequential and your messages spoonfed to you, you should probably look elsewhere.

message 28: by Galen (last edited Jul 18, 2008 01:46AM) (new)

Galen Johnson (galenj) I read Catch-22 because it is my boyfriend's favorite book. We mostly share a sense of humor and trade books all the time, usually having similar opinions on them--at least in terms of humor. But I COULD NOT STAND this book. I have a cynical sense of humor, have the usual view of a liberal treehugger regarding the military, and I have a number of friends who are officers in various branches of the military and any discussion with them about their jobs usually ends in me collapsed on the floor, pounding my fists in frustration with the ridiculousness and waste of it all ('Well, its only half way through the year, and my guys have used up all their bullets. So we have to figure out how to get by the rest of the year without bullets. Maybe we can trade with another unit, because we have a lot of grenades still.' Um, we're at war? Could the government perhaps buy a few extra?)
I could appreciate Heller's criticism of the military and the unique way in which he does it, but I could never get into it. I found that Heller's writing style didn't lend itself to immersion. It is one of those books that accomplishes much, but is almost more frustrating because it could have accomplished so much more. I can see why it is considered a classic, and I think it deserves it because of the treatment of the subject matter and the unique style. Sure, everyone has a different sense of, and capacity for, humor, and no author is ever going to bat a thousand on this. But this book is unamusing to some people I find quite sharp and broad in their sense of humor, so I think it could have been improved. It was also incredibly wordy, and while I'm sure some of that was a device to further the feeling of confusion, I think Heller could have accomplished more than repetition with his wordiness. I'll probably reread it eventually just to see if another thirty years of life experience change my mind...but I kind of have my doubts. A- for effort, C- for execution, Mr. Heller.

message 29: by Dianna (new)

Dianna | 55 comments Wow, I tried to post a comment and I used a word from the book and my post got automatically deleted.


I laughed a few times while reading this book but since I already had an obsession that my retired military husband was messing around with w*ores, or even worse yet, some of the women in his unit, It was probably not the best book for me to read. I probably should not have watched M.A.S.H. for the same reason.

message 30: by Alie (new)

Alie | 8 comments This has been a staple of my list of all time worst books ever.

message 31: by Nanci (new)

Nanci Svensson | 26 comments Word, Lori.

message 32: by Jamie (new)

Jamie (jrschloss) | 2 comments I thought it was interesting and then got really boring. I also did not find it all that funny. I dont understand why people think Catch 22 is so great--other than the title and once you understand that seems to me you could skip the rest of the book. Mauldin's Up Front (best seller in 1945 or thereabouts) is more real, shorter, makes similar points, and I found far more humorous than Catch-22.

message 33: by Sharon (last edited Sep 01, 2013 11:42PM) (new)

Sharon (sharonmcgill) | 5 comments This book took me three attempts to read. But I'm glad I finally made it as one of those last chapters (I think it was just called "Snowden") really made the book for me. You get the gist of the humor in the first few chapters, and then it does seem ridiculously repetitive for a long time, which is why most people give up. But Snowden's death sort of explains how the rest of the book illustrates the reality/absurdity of war. Most of it is repetitive and boring--underlings bossed around by distant overlords with seemingly no logic whatsoever--yet there are those moments of chaos and terror lit by tiny flickers of humanity. However, I preferred Slaughterhouse Five, as it does much the same thing, only with more sci-fi and less skewed/confusing chronology.

message 34: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (goodreadscombarb-ken) | 3 comments One of the best anti-war books ever written.

message 35: by Anne (new)

Anne (almondine) | 1 comments Glad to see I'm not the only one. I bought it about 10 years ago, started reading it and then just couldn't get myself to actively stick with the story. A couple of years later, I tried again, and still didn't get past about a 100 pages. Being older and a little less hungry for constant excitement now, I WILL read it at some point. Such a waste buying a book and never really reading it. Especially if most people say it's brilliant. However, I'm still saving it for last on my to read-list. Too many fun books left on my shelf. Although maybe it's better to first swallow the bitter pill and then start with the sweet stuff. I'll post something again after I read it to see if anything changed in my opinion.

message 36: by John (new)

John Nice one! Catch-22 is one of those books that, if you tell someone you didn't absolutely positively love it, they look at you like you killed Santa, or something. I personally didn't mind it, although it did give me a cracker of a headache trying to keep all the storylines straight. It's not a bad book, but certainly (IMHO) not the classic that it's made out to be.

message 37: by Ketutar (new)

Ketutar Jensen | 40 comments "To me, it appeared as though the author of the novel suffered from ADHD."
Hmm... I have always been attracted to people with ADHD :-D

I found this book wonderful. So strong, so deep, so emotional, so... frustrating. I suppose that's the thing here. It IS "catch 22". In my opinion one is supposed to be confused, irritated, frustrated, bewildered, made run in circles and not get anywhere. When the boy gets shut and the a-hole has taken all the morphine and left the f-ing note in the medicine box... oh God! In my mind it is a perfect description of war. The helplessness, the powerlessness, the mindlessness...

I really enjoyed it, but I can understand it's not everyone's cup of tea. :-)

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