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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  1. Great review, I also enjoyed this novel and have reviewed it here. Totally agree with you, as you can see.

    Marianne from
    Let's Read

    1. Thanks for your comment. I also read and enjoyed your review. As long as there is war, this book will always be timeless about the insanity of it all.

    2. Unfortunately, I have to agree with you there.

  2. Sounds interesting but perhaps a bit to slow for me. Thank you.