Catch-22by Joseph Heller
Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American lit-erature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—novels of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer. Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. Since its publication in 1961, no novel has matched Catch-22’s intensity and brilliance in depicting the brutal insanity of war. This fiftieth-anniversary edition commemorates Joseph Heller’s masterpiece with a new introduction by Christopher Buckley; personal essays on the genesis of the novel by the author; a wealth of critical responses and reviews by Norman Mailer, Alfred Kazin, Anthony Burgess, and others; rare papers and photos from Joseph Heller’s personal archive; and a selection of advertisements from the original publishing campaign that helped turn Catch-22 into a cultural phenomenon. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature.
“One of the most bitterly funny works in the language . . . Explosive, bitter, subversive, brilliant.” —The New Republic
“To my mind, there have been two great American novels in the past fifty years. Catch-22 is one.” —Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
“This novel is not merely the best American novel to come out of World War II, it is the best American novel that has come out of anywhere in years.” —Nelson Algren, The Nation
“It’s the rock and roll of novels . . . There’s no book like it. . . . Surprisingly powerful.” —Norman Mailer, Esquire
“To call it the finest comic novel of our day is faulting it. If Joseph Heller writes no other book, he will be well remembered for this apocalyptic masterpiece.” —Studs Terkel, Chicago Sun-Times
“Wildly original, brilliantly comic, brutally gruesome, it is a dazzling performance that will probably outrage nearly as many readers as it delights.” —Orville Prescott, New York Times Book Review
“One of the greatest anti-war books ever written.” —Vanity Fair
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Read an Excerpt
It was love at first sight.
The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.
Yossarian was in the hospital with a pain in his liver that fell just short of being jaundice. The doctors were puzzled by the fact that it wasn't quite jaundice. If it became jaundice they could treat it. If it didn't become jaundice and went away they could discharge him. But this just being short of jaundice all the time confused them.
Each morning they came around, three brisk and serious men with efficient mouths and inefficient eyes, accompanied by brisk and serious Nurse Duckett, one of the ward nurses who didn't like Yossarian. They read the chart at the foot of the bed and asked impatiently about the pain. They seemed irritated when he told them it was exactly the same.
"Still no movement?" the full colonel demanded.
The doctors exchanged a look when he shook his head.
"Give him another pill."
Nurse Duckett made a note to give Yossarian another pill, and the four of them moved along to the next bed. None of the nurses liked Yossarian. Actually, the pain in his liver had gone away, but Yossarian didn't say anything and the doctors never suspected. They just suspected that he had been moving his bowels and not telling anyone.
Yossarian had everything he wanted in the hospital. The food wasn't too bad, and his meals were brought to him in bed. There were extra rations of fresh meat, and during the hot part of the afternoon he and the others were served chilled fruit juice or chilled chocolate milk. Apart from the doctors and the nurses, no one ever disturbed him. For a little while in the morning he had to censor letters, but he was free after that to spend the rest of each day lying around idly with a clear conscience. He was comfortable in the hospital, and it was easy to stay on because he always ran a temperature of 101. He was even more comfortable than Dunbar, who had to keep falling down on his face in order to get his meals brought to him in bed.
After he made up his mind to spend the rest of the war in the hospital, Yossarian wrote letters to everyone he knew saying that he was in the hospital but never mentioning why. One day he had a better idea. To everyone he knew he wrote that he was going on a very dangerous mission. "They asked for volunteers. It's very dangerous, but someone has to do it. I'll write you the instant I get back." And he had not written anyone since.
All the officer patients in the ward were forced to censor letters written by all the enlisted-men patients, who were kept in residence in wards of their own. It was a monotonous job, and Yossarian was disappointed to learn that the lives of enlisted men were only slightly more interesting than the lives of officers. After the first day he had no curiosity at all. To break the monotony he invented games. Death to all modifiers, he declared one day, and out of every letter that passed through his hands went every adverb and every adjective. The next day he made war on articles. He reached a much higher plane of creativity the following day when he blacked out everything in the letters but a, an and the. That erected more dynamic intralinear tensions, he felt, and in just about every case left a message far more universal. Soon he was proscribing parts of salutations and signatures and leaving the text untouched. One time he blacked out all but the salutation "Dear Mary" from a letter, and at the bottom he wrote, "I yearn for you tragically. A. T. Tappman, Chaplain, U.S. Army." A. T. Tappman was the group chaplain's name.
When he had exhausted all possibilities in the letters, he began attacking the names and addresses on the envelopes, obliterating whole homes and streets, annihilating entire metropolises with careless flicks of his wrist as though he were God. Catch-22 required that each censored letter bear the censoring officer's name. Most letters he didn't read at all. On those he didn't read at all he wrote his own name. On those he did read he wrote, "Washington Irving" When that grew monotonous he wrote, "Irving Washington." Censoring the envelopes had serious repercussions, produced a ripple of anxiety on some ethereal military echelon that floated a C.I.D. man back into the ward posing as a patient. They all knew he was a C.I.D. man because he kept inquiring about an officer named Irving or Washington and because after his first day there he wouldn't censor letters. He found them too monotonous.
It was a good ward this time, one of the best he and Dunbar had ever enjoyed. With them this time was the twenty-four-year-old fighter-pilot captain with the sparse golden mustache who had been shot into the Adriatic Sea in midwinter and had not even caught cold. Now the summer was upon them, the captain had not been shot down, and he said he had the grippe. In the bed on Yossarian's right, still lying amorously on his belly, was the startled captain with malaria in his blood and a mosquito bite on his ass. Across the aisle from Yossarian was Dunbar, and next to Dunbar was the artillery captain with whom Yossarian had stopped playing chess. The captain was a good chess player, and the games were always interesting. Yossarian had stopped playing chess with him because the games were so interesting they were foolish. Then there was the educated Texan from Texas who looked like someone in Technicolor and felt, patriotically, that people of means -- decent folk -- should be given more votes than drifters, whores, criminals, degenerates, atheists and indecent folk -- people without means.
Yossarian was unspringing rhythms in the letters the day they brought the Texan in. It was another quiet, hot, untroubled day. The heat pressed heavily on the roof, stifling sound. Dunbar was lying motionless on his back again with his eyes staring up at the ceiling like a doll's. He was working hard at increasing his life span. He did it by cultivating boredom. Dunbar was working so hard at increasing his life span that Yossarian thought he was dead. They put the Texan in a bed in the middle of the ward, and it wasn't long before he donated his views.
Dunbar sat up like a shot. "That's it," he cried excitedly. "There was something missing -- all the time I knew there was something missing -- and now I know what it is." He banged his fist down into his palm. "No patriotism," he declared.
"You're right," Yossarian shouted back. "You're right, you're right, you're right. The hot dog, the Brooklyn Dodgers. Mom's apple pie. That's what everyone's fighting for. But who's fighting for the decent folk? Who's fighting for more votes for the decent folk? There's no patriotism, that's what it is. And no matriotism, either.
The warrant officer on Yossarian's left was unimpressed. "Who gives a shit?" he asked tiredly, and turned over on his side to go to sleep.
The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him.
He sent shudders of annoyance scampering up ticklish spines, and everybody fled from him -- everybody but the soldier in white, who had no choice. The soldier in white was encased from head to toe in plaster and gauze. He had two useless legs and two useless arms. He had been smuggled into the ward during the night, and the men had no idea he was among them until they awoke in the morning and saw the two strange legs hoisted from the hips, the two strange arms anchored up perpendicularly, all four limbs pinioned strangely in air by lead weights suspended darkly above him that never moved. Sewn into the bandages over the insides of both elbows were zippered lips through which he was fed clear fluid from a clear jar. A silent zinc pipe rose from the cement on his groin and was coupled to a slim rubber hose that carried waste from his kidneys and dripped it efficiently into a clear, stoppered jar on the floor. When the jar on the floor was full, the jar feeding his elbow was empty, and the two were simply switched quickly so that stuff could drip back into him. All they ever really saw of the soldier in white was a frayed black hole over his mouth.
The soldier in white had been filed next to the Texan, and the Texan sat sideways on his own bed and talked to him throughout the morning, afternoon and evening in a pleasant, sympathetic drawl. The Texan never minded that he got no reply.
Temperatures were taken twice a day in the ward. Early each morning and late each afternoon Nurse Cramer entered with a jar full of thermometers and worked her way up one side of the ward and down the other, distributing a thermometer to each patient. She managed the soldier in white by inserting a thermometer into the hole over his mouth and leaving it balanced there on the lower rim. When she returned to the man in the first bed, she took his thermometer and recorded his temperature, and then moved on to the next bed and continued around the ward again. One afternoon when she had completed her first circuit of the ward and came a second time to the soldier in white, she read his temperature and discovered that he was dead.
"Murderer" Dunbar said quietly.
The Texan looked up at him with an uncertain grin.
"Killer," Yossarian said.
"What are you talkin' about?" the Texan asked nervously.
"You murdered him," said Dunbar.
"You killed him," said Yossarian.
The Texan shrank back. "You fellas are crazy. I didn't even touch him."
"You murdered him," said Dunbar.
"I heard you kill him," said Yossarian.
"You killed him because he was a nigger" Dunbar said.
"You fellas are crazy," the Texan cried. "They don't allow niggers in here. They got a special place for niggers."
"The sergeant smuggled him in," Dunbar said.
"The Communist sergeant," said Yossarian.
"And you knew it."
The warrant officer on Yossarian's left was unimpressed by the entire incident of the soldier in white. The warrant officer was unimpressed by everything and never spoke at all unless it was to show irritation.
The day before Yossarian met the chaplain, a stove exploded in the mess hall and set fire to one side of the kitchen. An intense heat flashed through the area. Even in Yossarian's ward, almost three hundred feet away, they could hear the roar of the blaze and the sharp cracks of flaming timber. Smoke sped past the orange-tinted windows. In about fifteen minutes the crash trucks from the airfield arrived to fight the fire. For a frantic half hour it was touch and go. Then the firemen began to get the upper hand. Suddenly there was the monotonous old drone of bombers returning from a mission, and the firemen had to roll up their hoses and speed back to the field in case one of the planes crashed and caught fire. The planes landed safely. As soon as the last one was down, the firemen wheeled their trucks around and raced back up the hill to resume their fight with the fire at the hospital. When they got there, the blaze was out. It had died of its own accord, expired completely without even an ember to be watered down, and there was nothing for the disappointed firemen to do but drink tepid coffee and hang around trying to screw the nurses.
The chaplain arrived the day after the fire. Yossarian was busy expurgating all but romance words from the letters when the chaplain sat down in a chair between the beds and asked him how he was feeling. He had placed himself a bit to one side, and the captain's bars on the tab of his shirt collar were all the insignia Yossarian could see. Yossarian had no idea who he was and just took it for granted that he was either another doctor or another madman.
"Oh, pretty good," he answered. "I've got a slight pain in my liver and I haven't been the most regular of fellows, I guess, but all in all I must admit that I feel pretty good."
"That's good" said the chaplain.
"Yes," Yossarian said. "Yes, that is good."
"I meant to come around sooner," the chaplain said, "but I really haven't been well."
"That's too bad," Yossarian said.
"Just a head cold," the chaplain added quickly.
"I've got a fever of a hundred and one," Yossarian added just as quickly.
"That's too bad," said the chaplain.
"Yes," Yossarian agreed. "Yes, that is too bad."
The chaplain fidgeted. "Is there anything I can do for you?" he asked after a while.
"No, no." Yossarian sighed. "The doctors are doing all that's humanly possible, I suppose"
"No, no." The chaplain colored faintly. "I didn't mean anything like that. I meant cigarettes...or books...or...toys."
"No, no," Yossarian said. "Thank you. I have everything I need, I suppose -- everything but good health."
"That's too bad."
"Yes," Yossarian said. "Yes, that is too bad."
The chaplain stirred again. He looked from side to side a few times, then gazed up at the ceiling, then down at the floor. He drew a deep breath.
"Lieutenant Nately sends his regards," he said.
Yossarian was sorry to hear they had a mutual friend. It seemed there was a basis to their conversation after all. "You know Lieutenant Nately?" he asked regretfully.
"Yes, I know Lieutenant Nately quite well."
"He's a bit loony, isn't he?"
The chaplain's smile was embarrassed. "I'm afraid I couldn't say. I don't think I know him that well."
"You can take my word for it," Yossarian said. "He's as goofy as they come."
The chaplain weighed the next silence heavily and then shattered it with an abrupt question. "You are Captain Yossarian, aren't you?"
"Nately had a bad start. He came from a good family."
"Please excuse me," the chaplain persisted timorously. "I may be committing a very grave error. Are you Captain Yossarian?"r
"Yes" Captain Yossarian confessed. "I am Captain Yossarian."
"Of the 256th Squadron?"
"Of the fighting 256th Squadron," Yossarian replied. "I didn't know there were any other Captain Yossarians. As far as I know, I'm the only Captain Yossarian I know, but that's only as far as I know."
"I see," the chaplain said unhappily.
"That's two to the fighting eighth power," Yossarian pointed out, "if you're thinking of writing a symbolic poem about our squadron."
"No," mumbled the chaplain. "I'm not thinking of writing a symbolic poem about your squadron."
Yossarian straightened sharply when he spied the tiny silver cross on the other side of the chaplain's collar. He was thoroughly astonished, for he had never really talked with a chaplain before.
"You're a chaplain," he exclaimed ecstatically. "I didn't know you were a chaplain."
"Why, yes," the chaplain answered. "Didn't you know I was a chaplain?"
"Why, no. I didn't know you were a chaplain." Yossarian stared at him with a big, fascinated grin. "I've never really seen a chaplain before."
The chaplain flushed again and gazed down at his hands. He was a slight man of about thirty-two with tan hair and brown diffident eyes. His face was narrow and rather pale. An innocent nest of ancient pimple pricks lay in the basin of each cheek. Yossarian wanted to help him.
"Can I do anything at all to help you?" the chaplain asked.
Yossarian shook his head, still grinning. "No, I'm sorry. I have everything I need and I'm quite comfortable. In fact, I'm not even sick."
"That's good." As soon as the chaplain said the words, he was sorry and shoved his knuckles into his mouth with a giggle of alarm, but Yossarian remained silent and disappointed him. "There are other men in the group I must visit," he apologized finally. "I'll come to see you again, probably tomorrow."
"Please do that," Yossarian said.
"I'll come only if you want me to," the chaplain said, lowering his head shyly. "I've noticed that I make many of the men uncomfortable."
Yossarian glowed with affection. "I want you to," he said. "You won't make me uncomfortable."
The chaplain beamed gratefully and then peered down at a slip of paper he had been concealing in his hand all the while. He counted along the beds in the ward, moving his lips, and then centered his attention dubiously on Dunbar.
"May I inquire," he whispered softly, "if that is Lieutenant Dunbar?"
"Yes," Yossarian answered loudly, "that is Lieutenant Dunbar."
"Thank you," the chaplain whispered. "Thank you very much. I must visit with him. I must visit with every member of the group who is in the hospital."
"Even those in the other wards?" Yossarian asked.
"Even those in the other wards."
"Be careful in those other wards, Father," Yossarian warned. "That's where they keep the mental cases. They're filled with lunatics."
"It isn't necessary to call me Father," the chaplain explained. "I'm an Anabaptist."
"I'm dead serious about those other wards," Yossarian continued grimly. "M.P.s won't protect you, because they're craziest of all. I'd go with you myself, but I'm scared stiff. Insanity is contagious. This is the only sane ward in the whole hospital. Everybody is crazy but us. This is probably the only sane ward in the whole world, for that matter."
The chaplain rose quickly and edged away from Yossarian's bed, and then nodded with a conciliating smile and promised to conduct himself with appropriate caution. "And now I must visit with Lieutenant Dunbar," he said. Still he lingered, remorsefully. "How is Lieutenant Dunbar?" he asked at last.
"As good as they go," Yossarian assured him. "A true prince. One of the finest, least dedicated men in the whole world."
"I didn't mean that," the chaplain answered, whispering again. "Is he very sick?"
"No, he isn't very sick. In fact, he isn't sick at all."
"That's good." The chaplain sighed with relief.
"Yes," Yossarian said. "Yes, that is good."
"A chaplain," Dunbar said when the chaplain had visited him and gone. "Did you see that? A chaplain."
"Wasn't he sweet?" said Yossarian. "Maybe they should give him three votes."
"Who's they?" Dunbar demanded suspiciously.
In a bed in the small private section at the end of the ward, always working ceaselessly behind the green plyboard partition, was the solemn middle-aged colonel who was visited every day by a gentle, sweet-faced woman with curly ash-blond hair who was not a nurse and not a Wac and not a Red Cross girl but who nevertheless appeared faithfully at the hospital in Pianosa each afternoon wearing pretty pastel summer dresses that were very smart and white leather pumps with heels half high at the base of nylon seams that were inevitably straight. The colonel was in Communications, and he was kept busy day and night transmitting glutinous messages from the interior into square pads of gauze which he sealed meticulously and delivered to a covered white pail that stood on the night table beside his bed. The colonel was gorgeous. He had a cavernous mouth, cavernous cheeks, cavernous, sad, mildewed eyes. His face was the color of clouded silver. He coughed quietly, gingerly, and dabbed the pads slowly at his lips with a distaste that had become automatic.
The colonel dwelt in a vortex of specialists who were still specializing in trying to determine what was troubling him. They hurled lights in his eyes to see if he could see, rammed needles into nerves to hear if he could feel. There was a urologist for his urine, a lymphologist for his lymph, an endocrinologist for his endocrines, a psychologist for his psyche, a dermatologist for his derma; there was a pathologist for his pathos, a cystologist for his cysts, and a bald and pedantic cetologist from the zoology department at Harvard who had been shanghaied ruthlessly into the Medical Corps by a faulty anode in an I.B.M. machine and spent his sessions with the dying colonel trying to discuss Moby Dick with him.
The colonel had really been investigated. There was not an organ of his body that had not been drugged and derogated, dusted and dredged, fingered and photographed, removed, plundered and replaced. Neat, slender and erect, the woman touched him often as she sat by his bedside and was the epitome of stately sorrow each time she smiled. The colonel was tall, thin and stooped. When he rose to walk, he bent forward even more, making a deep cavity of his body, and placed his feet down very carefully, moving ahead by inches from the knees down. There were violet pools under his eyes. The woman spoke softly, softer even than the colonel coughed, and none of the men in the ward ever heard her voice.
In less than ten days the Texan cleared the ward. The artillery captain broke first, and after that the exodus started. Dunbar, Yossarian and the fighter captain all bolted the same morning. Dunbar stopped having dizzy spells, and the fighter captain blew his nose. Yossarian told the doctors that the pain in his liver had gone away. It was as easy as that. Even the warrant officer fled. In less than ten days, the Texan drove everybody in the ward back to duty -- everybody but the C.I.D. man, who had caught cold from the fighter captain and come down with pneumonia.
Copyright © 1955, 1961 by Joseph Heller
Meet the Author
Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. In 1961, he published Catch-22, which became a bestseller and, in 1970, a film. He went on to write such novels as Good as Gold, God Knows, Picture This, Closing Time, and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. Heller died in 1999.
Christopher Buckley is a novelist, essayist, humorist, critic, magazine editor and memoirist. His books have been translated into sixteen foreign languages. He worked as a merchant seaman and White House speechwriter. He has written for many newspapers and magazines and has lectured in over seventy cities around the world. He was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor and the Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence.
- Date of Birth:
- May 1, 1923
- Date of Death:
- December 12, 1999
- Place of Birth:
- Brooklyn, New York
- Place of Death:
- East Hampton, New York
- New York University, B.A. in English, Phi Beta Kappa, 1948<br> Columbia University, M.A., 1949
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I'm not going to talk about the content of the book. People have covered that. The NookBook of Catch-22 was generated from a scanned manuscript and then insufficiently copyedited. To pick one example, words that begin with "Li" are frequently rendered with a "U" instead; so, say, "Lip" becomes "Up." It happened often enough to be distracting. Considering we're asked to pay MORE than the paperback price for the NookBook, and we can't return the NookBook for being shoddy, this is unacceptable.
When I think of the term "war story," I tend to think of the long grueling battles, the wounded dying in the mud, or the sounds of guns blasting in the distance. However, in Joseph Heller's great novel, Catch-22, the most significant and my favorite scenes are ones not on the battlefield; they are the ones at camp. The ingenious (yet sometimes confusing) plot is centered around the main character in this novel, Yossarian, who has seen the inhumane and thoughtless actions of his superiors during the second half of WWII. He is an air force pilot stationed in the Mediterranean Sea conducting bombing raids that seem to never end. After enduring one mission after another, he stumbles on a way to be discharged from service if he is deemed insane. His never-ending search to get out of the military and his conversations with his friend Nately are humorous and entertaining. However, when Yossarian first claims to be "insane," he proves to the doctors that he truly IS sane because anyone who is really sane would want to be discharged. This confusing paradox, or circular reasoning, is Catch-22. Catch-22 is described in many other ways, mostly in other nearly incomprehensible paradoxes that "catches" its subject in its illogic, and always allows the government complete control over the pilots' lives. The theme of total power to the government can also be found in some other side stories (and flashbacks that happen at unspecified times) throughout the novel, such as when Officer Minderbinder can make himself immense amounts of cash just by trading amongst the companies he himself owns. You find yourself rooting for the soldiers, and wonder why they must die. I thought Yossarian's struggles with the law Catch-22 as amusing as no matter where you went, or which way, the government always ended up on top. And as the war goes on, Yossarian witnesses more tragedies among his men- murder, death, rape, and disease. When he is arrested in the streets of Rome, he is given a choice; Stay in the Air Force, or be honorably discharged. But there's a cache, if he is discharged, his men in his squadron must fly another eighty missions. Will Yossarian be tempted to regain a life of his own, and yet endanger the lives of his own men? Or will he continue to fly under the rule of Catch-22? Although the plot is hard to comprehend at first, is you persevere through the confusing flashbacks and characters whose names you forget, it will all make sense in the end.
Catch 22 is a classic novel that comes around every ten years or so that delivers a story so out of the ordinary and yet so real that everyone who loves to read should pick this title up.
Not only did this book create a phrase that has lasted the ages it makes you think what could have been if...Even though thinking this way will only get you in trouble because of the Catch 22 you find yourself in.
Joseph Heller brings to the table a dainty group of soldiers who believe someone is trying to kill them and that they are going to die, even though they don't want to. The dialog back and forth is outrageous and hilarious, making one wonder how would I react if I was stuck in the same situation.
I found this classic easy to read and understand, rooting for the soldiers to come back home asking myself "Why do they have to die?", even if they don't.
You'll love Heller's creation of a wayside group of individuals vying to survive in a outfit of misfits who can't seem to get along. He delivers solid dialog and great storytelling, running the reader through the muck of unmotivated soldiers all trying their hardest to survive.
This story had an incredible affect on me. It is incredibly funny, yet very sad in parts. Especially when you do finally find out what happened to the gunner, Snowden, in the mission to Avignon or when Yossarian walks through Rome.
The ideas concerning the ridiculuous nature of war are as topical now as they were in the 1960s. Actually, of course, Joseph Heller's presentation of the insanity around him predated the Vietnam War, and I wasn't around at that time to truly judge the feeling then.
The dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny at times, as is the juxtapostion of events, as for example when Clevinger complains of confusing cause-and-effect in staring at the bomb-line on the map south of Bologna, willing the line to move itself and for the squadron to not have to fly the mission. In fact, the whole chapter in which this incident occurs, "Bologna" was the funniest in the book for me, with the rain beating down, and the mission continually cancelled, Chief Whitehalfoat stealing a jeep to drive home, and Yossarian telling his pilot to turn around. And then, of course, Bologna was a milk-run; no glue gun there.
Anyone who has not read this book and is mystified by what is going on at the moment and since 2003 should read this book. It's not going to change the world, As K S Michaels has for me, but it is food for thought.
I'm putting this on my bookshelf right next to "Atlas Shrugged." This book falls under the category of a book everyone should read, everyone should understand, and certainly not a book you want anyone to know you read or understood. This book is painfully applicable to today. It is a classic example of how government and companies are run. Sadly.
What do you think of when you hear "war story"? Is it Guns! Giant Battles! War Hero's! Victory!? That wasn't what Joseph Heller was thinking when was writing the classic Catch-22. Instead of the focus of the book being on battles, some of the best (and funniest) parts of the entire book happen when everybody is in camp thinking about going into battle. One of the topics that keeps on being brought up is Catch-22. This is a rule that states a pilot can be grounded if he tells a doctor that he is mentally unstable. But here's the catch: if a pilot asks to get out of combat duty, he is clearly sane. Only a sane person would want to avoid danger, (if a doctor grounds a "sane person" he will be court marshaled). This leads to several humorous circular arguments. One of the best parts of the book is how Heller tells the story. The story isn't only told through the eyes of the main character. Most of the chapters talk about different characters. Even some of the most minor characters are very well developed because of this. Out of all of the characters, my favorite is Major Major Major Major. His first middle and last name is Major, and he just happens to be a major. I also feel like Major Major (how his name is abbreviated in the book) is the most well developed secondary character. He has a long chapter dedicated to his entire life. This is the funniest part of the book. His dad is paid not to grow alfalfa, because there was a surplus of it at the time. Major Major's father calculated how much he got paid not to grow alfalfa, so he bought more land to get more money by not growing anything. My favorite part of the book is that it feels like all the characters are real people in an actual war, and not stereotypical war heroes. Another unique aspect of this book is Heller's writing style. Heller is very astute, It felt like he never had a hard time saying exactly what he wanted to say. Also, it seemed like Heller was telling a true story, like when your grandfather tells you a war story, and you know a lot of it is exaggerated. Catch-22 is also nonlinear. About halfway through the book it goes back to explain how the protagonist (Yossarian) got to be where he was. Yossarian seems like he's his own worst enemy. He works himself up until he seems like a crazy paranoid person, but that might just be because he is in the middle of a war, and every mission might be his last. Another reason why I love this book is that it feels like Yossarian's troubles are never going to end. The commander keeps on increasing the number of missions a pilot has to fly before he can go home. Say a pilot finishes his missions, he doesn't get sent home, he has to wait at camp until the number of missions increases. Whenever a character nicknamed Hungry Joe finishes all of the missions, he screams in his sleep and is very edgy when he is awake. When he still has missions to fly he is fine. So everyone can tell if they have to fly more missions depending on Hungry Joe's mood. In the end, Catch-22 is one of the best books ever written, It even added a new phrase to the English dictionary, and you should read it no matter how old you are.
This is by far my favorite book of all time. I have read it 4 times already and am reading it again. Catch-22 is not a book for the casual reader, but more for a reader that will look beneath the surface to see what the writer is actually trying to say. The brilliance with which Heller writes is beyond words. Through his many different scenarios, Heller conveys to the reader the insanity that is present within war situations. Yossarian is often referred to as the crazy one and in a normal social structure he may be...but in the world of Catch-22 where everything seems to be upside down and backwards, he is the only sane one there. The very definition of Catch-22 is insanity, as the men can only be sent home if they are deemed too crazy to fly, but can't be sent home for being too crazy, because they would HAVE to be crazy to want to fly missions. Once you pick up on the theme(s) of the novel, you will be able to see the humor in the many different situations, even within the characters names themselves. (My favorite being Col. Sheiskopf) I definitely would recommend this book, but take your time reading it...
This is a great book detailing the absurdity of the bureaucracy that large institutions such as the military. This absurdity often leads to many funny moments in the novel, but at the same time, it the book is realistic. It depicts something that we see in everyday life, something that we experience quite often. If you are looking to find a book that is both entertaining and pertinent, you should look into Catch 22.
Managing to retain reason in insanity, Catch-22 made me both grin and sadden. A work of art that has to be enjoyed slowly and savoringly.
This is such a funny book. Great for those who like dark humor and satires.
Catch 22 is widely known as an American classic, and there is good reason for that. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller offers everything that you have ever wanted in a book and does it in a very unique and interesting style. This is a prime example of a historical satire. The book was written non-chronologically, and events are often referenced and though about by many different characters at many different times. As a satirical writer, Heller uses Catch 22 to point of what's wrong with the world. Heller uses situations and characters to make a statement on things such as death, love, sex, war, and bureaucracy. Joseph Heller was part of the U.S. Army Air Corps and he was shipped to Italy where he served as a bombardier. He flew 60 combat missions. After the war he studied English at USC and NYU. He started writing it in 1953, but did not finish it until 1961. Heller uses his experiences in the army to help craft his story. Catch 22 follows John Yossarian who is also a bombardier in the army. Yossarian is absolutely frightened of death, and will do anything to avoid flying the required amount of missions, which keep going up every time he reaches the required amount. The book follows Yossarian's fight against flying his missions, but there's a catch. Catch 22, of course. Catch 22 is a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. It's when the only way you can get out of a situation is by never being in the situation in the first place. Catch 22 is a fantastic book for people who enjoy humor and logic. It is funny but you really have to pay attention or you might miss Heller's genius. I found that lots of the small things in the book end up playing a really big role in the end. I found the book incredibly interesting and I really related and felt for some of the characters. It really made a big impact with me. I was so eager to get to the end because I knew it would be brilliant (and it was) but once I got there, I was wished there was more. I highly recommend Catch 22 to anyone.
Hidden underneath the parades and utterances of manipulative politicians there's always a real war with real people that get killed or have their lives and the lives of those who love them altered by the war. Heller in this novel portrayed war as satire. No flag waving just a good look at how war can sometimes become dysfunctional because wars are fought by bureaucracies. And sometimes,especially in this novel, bureauracies develop objectives that are different from the people who commisioned the war. Catch 22 is a law with perverted logic and is displayed in various parts of the novel: "There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he were 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. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle." During World War II, Heller was a member of the Army-Air Corps and flew 60 combat missions in Italy. I would make a guess that had he not flown those missions, he might have written a different novel where the airmen were more heroic - more ra ra. Heller is not the type of writer who churns out clever novels that look like a book by the numbers but sell well because people like the comfort of the same old thing. He said what he had to say and that was pretty much it. He continued writing throughout his life but he never duplicated or exceeded what he did with Catch 22. I would recommend that every young person read Catch 22. It certainly helped to me rethink my previous support of the Vietnam War.
I have read hundreds of books but this is the only one that had me physically laughing out loud. Pure enjoyment!
When people think of America in World War II, they think of a brave nation defending us from the evils of the Axis powers. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller takes a far different approach. It is a historical fiction book told in third person limited that has a certain flare that will pull the reader right into the story. Yossarian is an American bombardier stationed in Pianosa, Italy during World War II a colorful character whose main goal in life is to stay alive. Yossarian and his friends Milo, Orr, Nately, Dunbar, McWatt and several other colorful beings are involved in many adventures, some comical and edgy, others tragic and horrifying. Throughout the course of the book the horrors of war reveal themselves to Yossarian leading to his refusal to fly any more missions. This rebelian carries to his conflict with Colonel Carthcart who forces Yossarian to make the decision: go home alive and promote the war, or get a court marshal. This novel brought out a wide array of emotions in me. I laughed, cried, and had to think about the meaning and purpose of the story. The point of a historical fiction is to bring the reader into the time, place, and mindset as if he or she was actually there. Although I was not born and have nothing to compare it with, I feel that this novel did its duty as a historical fiction in an exceptional way. There is something for everyone in Catch-22: humor, history, well developed characters, a complex story line, and heartbreaking, thoughtful moments as well. As with most books there are dead spots, moments that you want to skip through to get to the main point. I also felt that the rising action and climax came too late in the novel but when they came they came with a bang. This book will continue to be read in ages to come.
Joseph Heller was a genius in delivering such a masterpiece to his fellow countrymen. The style, and proses are evocative. Heller keeps the plot, and storyline right above the surface of the pages. He has you learning of one character make reference to one you will learn of later in the book, or one you just passed. The satire is fulsome, and majestically original. The book refreshes the reader in a way very few books can. It is disconcerting when one realizes this is one of a kind. Authors should take a stab at further developing Mr. Heller's gift.
Darkly comic, with some of the funniest lines ever put on paper. Chapters of note: 'The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice' and 'Nurse Ducket.' A must read. One of the greatest books ever written.
I love it!
preeeech it anynonmysous! i agree wit hte complaints that the nokebook is fmade awful