Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Yossarian, a bombardier for the air force, is furiously scrambling to save himself from the horrible chances of war. His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service.

Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, he is trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

“History did not demand Yossarian’s premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance.” (pg. 68)

The book itself is a rather confusing exploration with characters introduced and removed without care. The “catch-22” of the tale was evident from the beginning for me unlike many of others that I know who have read them. (But that may also be a function of the numerous presentation on this book that I heard in high school.) I’ve read other books where the criticism of bureaucratic nightmares and war have come across in a much stronger, more interesting manner than this one.

Multiple people in my life informed me that Heller’s book is one where you will have no idea what’s going on as you read it but all the pieces will fall into place after you turn the last page. Somehow that was not the case for me. I finished this book last week and mulled over it ever since yet my thoughts are still not coherent. This is one of those books where I wish I didn’t have a book blog because trying to explain my negative feelings on such a beloved book is always a difficult challenge.

I recognize that Heller’s style is quite unique and quite revolutionary for his time (and even for today). I’ll even recognize that this book might have been too much of a challenge at this point in my life, but I was quite tired of seeing this book every time I pursued my shelves. I persevered and, unfortunately, did not fall in love.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004. Originally published 1955. Print. 453 pgs. ISBN: 0684833395. Source: PaperBackSwap.
Book Cover © Simon & Schuster. Retrieved: October 9, 2012.
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4 thoughts on “Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

  1. “I was quite tired of seeing this book every time I pursued my shelves..”

    I find that so funny because that’s exactly how I feel about some of the books on my shelves, too.

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  2. You know, I’ve read lots of reviews and summaries for this book, but I think it’s the first time I’m clear about it is about (and where the Catch 22 in the book comes from). It made me bump it up the TBR priority list.

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  3. I was very mixed about this book. I loved the sense of humour and the deep sense of irony, and there were things about it that were quite clever, and some of the bits of the story were quite interesting or exciting. But the amount of concentration you have to put in merely to follow Yossarian’s train of thought or to figure out what’s going on, can make it so very frustrating. I rather think that post-modernism should be kept forever out of architecture, and out of literature!

    I sometimes think that books like this, that are clever, are too clever for their own good. Verging on smug and self-satisfied, which is probably going to be a matter of perspective (i.e. what the reader brings), since I didn’t find this one to be too smug. But still, I’m wary of “clever” books. 😉

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