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 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

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PostSubject: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller   Tue Feb 15, 2011 10:20 pm

You may have heard of something described as being an "acquired taste". While this is usually in reference to food or drink, it sometimes refers to a novel. Catch-22 is such a novel.

It took a while for me to warm up to this book, but once I did I loved it and hated to see it end. The seeming absurdity of the characters and much of the dialogue, and the surrealistic flow of parts of the narrative, turned me off at first until I began to understand what, exactly, was going on.

The main character is a bombardier named Yossarian, who, for much of the book, seems to be the only one with an ounce of integrity and sanity. He, along with the rest of the bomber squadron, which is based on a Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy during World War 2, is under the command of a megalomaniacal yet very insecure officer named Colonel Cathcart, who keeps upping the number of mandatory missions (bombing runs) his crews must make. Yossarian wants to be declared insane so he can, understandably, get out of this predicament.

Unfortunately, "Catch-22" stands in his way. "Catch-22", in a nutshell, is this: a person is deemed insane if he keeps going out on missions that are mortally dangerous with no regard to his own safety. If a person is found insane, he must be grounded. However, for a person to be declared insane by a doctor, he has to have the presence of mind to ask for this declaration. If he has this presence of mind, then he is not insane, and can go up for more missions.

So, no one is ever declared insane, and must go up for all missions his commanding officer orders him to.

It turns out that Yossarian's reticence about flying more missions, in addition to the injustice of Cathcart constantly raising the number of missions a crew must make before they can be relieved, is based on a horrific experience on one particular bombing run, which is revealed bit by bit as the story progresses. Because of this experience he refuses, for a time, to wear any clothes, even appearing at a ceremony, where he receives a medal, stark naked.

I found myself cheering for Yossarian as the novel went on. He is one of the most interesting and empathetic characters I have read in a long time. And he is surrounded by other amazing characters, such as Milo Minderbender, a mess hall officer who takes the concept of capitalism to ridiculous extremes, and Aarfy, a pudgy, pipe-smoking officer who shows a shocking psychopathic streak near the end of the book.

This is one of those books that can make you roar with laughter on one page, feel outrage on the next, and horrify you on the page after that. While I admit it may not be for everyone's tastes, I still very much recommend it.

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So many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way.--Joni Mitchell
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PostSubject: Re: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller   Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:07 am

Thanks, I appreciate your thoughts on the book.
The interesting protagonist, the anti-war message, and the surrealism all make a great book by my standards. Unfortunately, I can't do anything about my interest for it this year, and I'll have to add it on to my bucket list...
As time flies, I find myself more busy.
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PostSubject: Re: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller   Sun Mar 06, 2011 2:57 pm

Sounds like an interesting book. I shall have find room for it on my ever growing list of books to read. Razz
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