From the Publisher
“Vulgarly, savagely, bitterly funny . . . A dazzling performance.”
—THE NEW YORK TIMES
“An extraordinary book . . . of enormous richness and art, of deep thought and brilliant writing.”
“Below its hilarity, so wild that it hurts, Catch-22 is the strongest repudiation of our civilization, in fiction, to come out of World War II.”
“An original. There's no book like it anyone has read . . . Heller is carrying his reader on a more consistent voyage through Hell than any American writer before him.”
“Explosive, subversive, brilliant . . . One of the most bitterly funny books in the language.”
—THE NEW REPUBLIC
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Worked on for many years and long anticipated (and perhaps dreaded) by admirers of the incomparable original, Heller's ``sequel'' shares with his great WWII saga a surreal sense of the absurd and of the fatuity of most human institutions. But it is hard to avoid a sense of keen disappointment, nonetheless. The satirizing of American contemporary life has been done so frequently-and often successfully-since the 1961 Catch-22, which helped make so much of that satirizing possible, that Heller is in effect competing with himself, and failing. Here again are John Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder, Sammy Singer, Chaplain Albert Tappman, and the giant Lew. Newcomers include Washington finagler G. Noodles Cook and the mysterious and ubiquitous know-it-all Jerry Gaffney. The wartime buddies are old men now, worried about their health, their sex lives and their children, but they find 1990s civilian life as corruptly absurd as the old Air Force days. There are flashbacks to the war, some of which recall the power of Heller's original inspiration; there are nostalgic passages about Coney Island, long Jewish dialogues that could have been penned by a whacked-out Neil Simon, bravura passages (notably, a magnificent wedding reception held at New York's Port Authority Bus Terminal) and hare-brained Pentagon meetings to discuss the new Shhhh super-quiet warplane. There are patches of vaudeville, dreamscapes, far too much sophomoric doodling, and longueurs when Heller seems simply to be filling pages. In the end, despite flashes of the old wit and fire, this is a tired, dispirited and dispiriting novel. 200,000 first printing; first serial to Playboy. (Oct.)
Two modern giants (LJ 2/15/70 and LJ 11/1/61, respectively) join Knopf's venerable "Everyman's Library." If you've been searching for quality hardcovers of these two eternally popular titles, look no further.
A sequel to "Catch-22"? Not possible, not desirable, and bound to fail. That said, "Closing Time" remains a brilliant book--broadly, about the end of culture, the end of the U.S. as a wonderful place for ordinary working stiffs, and death itself. Like the original novel, it opens with Yossarian in a hospital; there's nothing wrong with him except that he's old and no longer enjoys life. Someone is tapping his phone, and somehow that's connected with Milo Minderbinder and Chaplain Tappman. Milo, a defense contractor, is trying to sell the Pentagon a silent bomber that will do anything they want it to--of course it will, since the bomber will never be made or even drawn. Meanwhile, the chaplain becomes a military secret because he has begun to pass heavy water, and if the process can be patented it's worth millions. The president, very nice and incredibly stupid, also appears; he loves video games and inadvertently plunges the world into nuclear war. This plot line is loosely tied to a vast underground industrial complex that resulted when George C. Tilyou, a "Coney Island entrepreneur," became the first person in history to take his wealth with him, somehow sinking it, piece by piece, beneath the city. Maybe his empire has become part of secret, military goings-on, and maybe it's hell, and maybe they are the same. Can you oppose the very end of the earth? Heller's characters, at the end themselves, sort of do, but one really should read this novel as an expression toward the end of a grand career, a summing up. Heller is savage as ever, and--particularly in his brutal portrait of the decline of New York City--mournful.