My Quick Impression: It’s about laughing at and recognizing tragedy. Its my favorite book.
Review of “Catch-22”
Written by Joseph Heller.
Narrated by Jay O. Sanders.
Quick Summary: Catch-22 is the most confusing, funny, frustrating, and rewarding book I have read. The book shows the illogical aspects of war and life. This focus on illogical systems makes the book difficult to read. The book uses circular logic, contradictions and non-linear story telling to disorient the reader.
Should you read it? Yes.
What should you know before reading? You should not attempt to understand the plot or characters to begin. The plot is out-of-order. The story often talks about characters who appear to have nothing to do with the story. The plot comes together half way through the book. Until then, treat every section in the book as a simple short story, not connected to anything else. It is difficult, but it will be worth the effort.
Quick in Depth Overview, Spoilers:
Catch-22 is about the absurdity of war and bureaucracy. Heller uses circular logic to show the struggle and triviality of war and bureaucracy.
The prominent case of circular logic is the catch the book takes its name from, Catch-22. the protagonist, a WWII bomber named Yossarian, wants to leave WWII. He discovers there exists a means to leave, Catch-22. He learns that this means is only an illusion
Orr [Anyone] 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.
– Heller, Catch-22
On first glance, I find it hilarious that something this absurd could exist. Yossarian undergoes many wacky high jinks trying to out think the catch. As the story progresses, the horrific effect the catch has on the characters becomes known. The comedy ends when Yossarian learns Catch-22 does not exists. There is no documentation of its existence. A destitute old woman tells Yossarian the catch’s definition after the military removes her from her home.
Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can’t stop them from doing
– Heller, Catch-22
It was here that I realized all Yossarian’s struggles were for nothing, the system would never let him go. The original phrasing of Catch-22 only existed to give Yossarian a reason to chase his tail. All his efforts were for nothing. He comes to realize the only way to beat the system is to not be apart of it. He ends the book running away.
This book is my favorite book and has shaped much of my view on the world. I strongly recommend this book to anyone. Though, one should prepare themselves for confusion.
There should be a heads up when approaching this book. It was written in the 60’s by a WWII vet. It has old fashioned views of women and work place sexual harassment. User cravenwild discusses it better in her blog