Monday, September 29, 2014

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch of Two Centuries (Classics)

Ever wonder where the expression “Catch-22” comes from?  Well, I did, so I finally read the book Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.  Captain Yossarian, a WWII Army bombardier discovers that Catch-22 is a regulation in which the men must continuously fly more missions, and can only stop flying them if they are deemed insane.  But if they themselves declare that they are insane and request to stop flying, it proves they have cognitive abilities and are considered sane. Therefore must fly more missions.

This book follows Yossarian who is trapped in the “Catch-22,” "damned if you do, damned if you don't" conundrum and must continue flying more and more missions, which the General continues to increase the moment Yossarian has met the set limit. It explains Yossarian's story as well as other airmen in chapters which tell and re-tell their experiences in a different light, revealing more and more about the situations and the men themselves.

It’s a book that humorously explores the ironies, rules and structure of the military.  But it’s the writing style, not the subject matter, that make this novel amusing.  Heller’s well-written, sharp wit abounds, as do paradoxical sentences such as:  “Everyone was always friendly toward him, and no one was ever very nice, everyone spoke to him and no one ever said anything.”  At times the book reads like an Abbot and Costello double-talking comedy routine like “Who’s on first?”

The book was first published in 1961 and has boasted a tremendous staying power over fifty-three years, blasting it into a modern classic.  While I enjoyed the book that has sold ten million copies, and I finally understand where “Catch-22” comes from, I thought it could have been a tad shorter.  It didn’t have me enraptured where I was eagerly turning each page wondering what will happen next.  It was more like reading a sitcom with serious undertones of war to balance it—like reading masses of M*A*S*H episodes.

Bottom line:  I give it a slow but steady thumbs-up.

Happy Reading,


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Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Book Review Montage

The Wedding

Summer is a busy time with vacations, bike riding, picnics, weddings, and more. That means less time to read, which in turn means fewer book reviews.  Therefore, I am taking a break and instead of offering a new review, I’m incorporating a list of some past book suggestions into the letter below, much like I did in last year’s Vacation Montage.  Click on the titles to read the reviews.  I must mention that although this letter refers to real events (I really did attend my niece’s wedding), it is entirely fictionalized, and any resemblance to living persons (who may or may not have attended the wedding) is purely coincidental—unless you’re one of the beautiful people, then by all means, consider it a compliment to you.

Dearest Gertrude,

Dog On It! [sic] I wish you could have been at the wedding. It was simply wonderful!

It was a grand and beautiful wedding like A Good American dream come true. You should have seen Brittany—she was gorgeous, just glowing.  There was almost a gasp as she walked down the aisle; she was a perfectly tailored vision in white. Brittany and Jeremy wrote their own vows about love, happiness, and The Importance of Being Earnest, then Kiss, Kiss, and “I now pronounce you man and wife.”  Voila!  Let the party begin.

As you know it was an outdoor wedding, right by the lake on Firefly Lane. The table settings and decorations were stunning. I’m sure it would even hold a candle to George Clooney’s upcoming nuptials.  I’ll let you know. I’m still waiting for the invitation.  They sure are cutting it close.  My niece seemed a little more organized. She got the invitations out well in advance. Ahhh,  C’est La Vie, I guess you do the best you can.

At the reception, I was seated next to some of our German relatives.  I guess Brittany thought I could entertain them in my long forgotten childhood tongue.  I felt like a real fool. I think I said something like "These Is My Words" and "Me Talk Pretty One Day," when I was trying to tell them how I needed to brush up on my German. Well, they got a good laugh out of it anyway.

Seated on the other side of me was that awful Rebecca. You know the one—the big mouth.  I dubbed her Lady at the O.K. Corral, because she kept shooting off that mouth of hers. She always pretends to be so prim and proper, but get one drop of alcohol into her spiteful, little system, and step back—The Metamorphosis is unreal. She became an obnoxious monster, a real Frankenstein.  The more she drank, the louder and nastier she got. She repeatedly referred to the bridesmaids as The Painted Girls.  And when they lined up for the bridal bouquet toss, she said they were like monkeys at feeding time in the Zoo. Then she went off about sweet, old Mrs. Dalloway.  Said her Perfume was overpowering, smelled like French Dirt  and she looked like a Mennonite in a Little Black Dress.  I mentioned how beautiful her hair was since she had it done just for the wedding. Rebecca snipped back, “Well she needed all The  Help she could get!”

I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I actually started dancing just to get away from her.  And you know how I don’t like to dance.  I did a few rounds with My Uncle Oswald and even Puddn’head Wilson and Those Extraordinary Twins.  Just when I was getting ready to sit down again, who comes Crashing Through the party but Lady Chatterley’s Lover! Can you believe the nerve?  He was already drunk and acting like a real Moby-Dick – if you know what I mean.  A whale of a brute in a blue leisure suit. He made quite a scene until the groomsmen quickly showed him the The Hundred Foot Journey to the gate. What excitement!

Well, it’s no surprise, but I’m not as young as I used to be.  Around 10pm I was Gone Girl.  I was exhausted and just had to go home, but I hear the party went on all night into the early hours of the morning.  I hope the new couple didn’t oversleep.  They had to leave on an 8am plane for their honeymoon.  Waldo told me Jeremy is the real adventurous type and wanted to go on a safari in Africa.  He’d already bought A Guide to the Birds of East Africa  and everything.  But she wasn’t having any of that--no Roughing It on the honeymoon.  Forget the tents on the Serengeti. This was supposed to be a luxurious retreat. He then suggested going to Italy to see the Beautiful Ruins and lounge Under the Tuscan Sun but she’d already been there, done thatIn the end they compromised and planned the perfect Caribbean getaway with quick stop at Harry Potter World first.  My, my, that will be nice. And we thought Niagara Falls was extravagant in our day!

Well, I wish them all the best.  They’re a lovely couple. 

Oh Gertie, aren’t weddings beautiful?  Congratulations Brittany and Jeremy!!