books Catch-22 –

The novel is set during World War II, from 1942 to 1944 It mainly follows the life of Captain John Yossarian, a U.S Army Air Forces B 25 bombardier Most of the events in the book occur while the fictional 256th Squadron is based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea, west of Italy The novel looks into the experiences of Yossarian and the other airmen in the camp, who attempt to maintain their sanity while fulfilling their service requirements so that they may return home. I originally read this about 15 years ago When I joined Goodreads and added the books I had previously read I remembered it as a 3 star book I am not sure if it is being 15 years older or the fact that I did the audiobook this time, but it was easily 5 stars now The first thing that came to mind after I was a few chapters into this was the show Seinfeld Always touted as a show about nothing, this book was kind of about nothing It is series of smaller anecdotes, usually somewhat silly, that really don t have a specific function in moving the plot It is a satire about war, red tape, chain of command, etc and the inherent futility involved While war and the tragedy that goes with it are usually not considered amusing, this feels like a therapeutic, tongue in cheek poke that needed to be made to maintain sanity.There are a plethora of characters some of which are caricatures that may get your head spinning at first Luckily, Heller gives them all memorable names which helps keep them organized easily Maybe that was not his intention, but when you need to remember if it was Milo Minderbender or Major Major Major Major yes, that is his name my spell check did not like me repeating a word four times who did something, the reader is definitely given naming tools to keep them connected I mentioned that there is not necessarily an overall story, but there are definitely themes One is doing what is best for you no matter who gets stepped on in the process Another is twisting the facts to make sure the ultimate outcome is what works best for you And, of course, the BIG idea that has become a common colloquialism I know I use it just about every day is the situation of Catch 22 Early in the book, the first example of Catch 22 is that if you say you want to fly bombing missions, you must be crazy so they will take you off the missions only someone crazy would want to fly missions But, if you are not on the missions, your sanity is no longer in question so they will make you fly them If you say you don t want to fly them, you are sane so you will have to fly them Basically, no matter how you feel about flying missions, you will end up flying them anyway Situations like this are repeated throughout the book where there is no good answer to the situation at hand often with hilarious and frustrating results.Now, I mention that the book is humorous satire, but it does have many dark moments as well This kind of goes back to my mention of the discourse within the novel being therapeutic War is crazy and what can happen is brutal Oddly enough, a Jimmy Buffett quote from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes comes to mind If we weren t all crazy we would go insane That pretty much sums up the book in a nutshell So, should you read this book Well, I think that question is a Catch 22 in itself I think about 50% of the people who try this will hate it or dnf it I think the other 50% of the people who read it will love it, quote it, put it on their favorites list Where the Catch 22 is that I think any person has the capability to be in either category depending on where their mindset is right now If I recommend it to you now you may hate me, or you may thank me profusely In 10 years is would be visa versa I do think the audiobook helped me appreciate it and it is now in my favorites Will that happen for you I definitely cannot be the one to decide that I have attempted to read this book on two separate occasions and I couldn t get beyond 100 pages either time I do believe that this has to do with me than the book and I plan on making a third attempt at some point in the future Currently it sits on my bookshelf and sometimes when I have a few too many beers we have a talk.Me Hi.Catch 22 Oh, hi.Me How are you feeling Catch 22 I ve been better.Me Don t be upset It s not you It s me.Catch 22 I know that.Me My friends tell me I m an idiot for ending our relationship.Catch 22 I agree.Me I m sure the reason I don t laugh or enjoy myself when I m with you has to do with my own flaws than with yours.Catch 22 Of course I m flawless.Me I don t know if I would go that far.Catch 22 Well, you ve already admitted that it s your fault so I don t know if you re the best person to be judging whether or not I m flawed.Me Hey, now I didn t laugh once when I was with you.Catch 22 I ve been forced to sit on this bookshelf for years while you plop in front of the TV to laugh at Will Ferrell movies I ll give you Anchorman but Step Brothers Don t talk to me about what is or isn t funny.Me The sleepwalking scene in that movie is pure genius Catch 22 I rest my case.Me Ok, ok You re right I promise you that one day I ll be mature and enlightened enough to appreciate you and when that day comes, you and I will have some fun together.Catch 22 I won t hold my breath. You mean there s a catch Sure there s a catch, Doc Daneeka replied Catch 22 Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn t really crazy There was only one catch and that was Catch 22, which specified that a concern for one s own 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 missions Orr would be crazy to fly 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 Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch 22 and let out a respectful whistle That s some catch, that Catch 22, He observed It s the best there is, Doc Daneeka agreed Originally Catch 22 was Catch 18, but because Leon Uris was publishing a novel called Mila 18 that same year Joseph Heller s agent decided the title needed to be changed so as to not confuse the book buying public Also given that 22 is a double 11 they liked the way it represented the many d j vu moments that occur in the book The East Coast publishing intelligentsia really embraced the book even though there were doubts if it would ever gain traction with the American public It did.I understand the frustration that publishers feel with the American book buying public They have all been scorched by a book they felt should have sold by the wheelbarrow only to have it crash and burn with the majority of the first printing sold off to a remainder company Sometimes a book needs a lightning strike in the form of Oprah or a school banning the book thank you Strongsville, OH , but for Heller all he needed was the 1960s The book is set during WWII, the last good war according to everyone from Tom Brokaw to the school janitor at Phillipsburg High School Fat novels glorifying the war, some extraordinarily good, were hitting bookstores at a fast clip from the late 1940s on By the time Catch 22 came out in 1961 the world had changed So those people who bought this book who thought they were in for another weren t we great novel about World War Two were in for a shock A typical reaction was WTF Some thought it was irreverent, but there were a growing group of people who thought it was among the best American novels they had ever read Both reactions helped juice the novel and sales began to climb Joseph Heller in uniform.At the tender age of 19 in 1942 Joseph Heller joined the U.S Army Air Corp By 1944 he found himself on the Italian Front as a B 25 Bombardier He flew 60 missions most of which he categorized as milk runs these were flight missions that encounter no or very little anti aircraft artillery or enemy fighters Heller admits that his disillusionment with the war in Korea colored the novel It gives me the shakes to think how different the novel would be if he had published the book in 1951 instead of 1961 Little did he know how prophetic his novel would be regarding the Vietnam War Yossarian has reached the end of his rope He has flown the required number of combat missions several times, but each time Colonel Cathcart keeps raising the number of missions required to go home A similar circumstance plagued Hawkeye Pierce and his fellow doctors in the Korean War based TV series M A S H The pressure of thousands of people he doesn t even know and hundreds he does know trying to kill him is just too much for him to bear As he becomes and insane sane he becomes and qualified to fly combat missions as far as the military is concerned He comes up with various ailments to keep him in the hospital He shows up to receive his war medal naked except for a pair of moccasins He finally refuses to fly any missions and begins parading around the camp walking backwards This does start to foment rebellion among his fellow flyers and drives Colonel Cathcart to distraction Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian s fault The country was in peril he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them Heller surrounds Yossarian with a wonderful cast of detailed characters of which I will only be able to mention a few Lieutenant Nately is one of Yossarian s best friends, a trust fund baby with red, white, and blue blood running through his veins He is a good looking kid and could have any woman he wanted, but he falls in love with an Italian prostitute who begrudgingly sleeps with him when he pays for sex with her, but would rather he just disappeared He has this great discussion with her 107 year old pimp Italy is one of the least prosperous nations on earth And the Italian fighting man is probably second to all And that s exactly why my country is doing so well in this war while your country is doing so poorly Nately guffawed with surprise But Italy was occupied by the Germans and is now being occupied by us You don t call that doing very well, do you But of course I do exclaimed the old man cheerfully The Germans are being driven out, and we are still here In a few years you will be gone, too, and we will still be here You see, Italy is really a very poor and weak country, and that s what makes us so strong Italian soldiers are not dying any But American and German soldiers are I call that doing extremely well Nately continues to be the straight man for the old man as they discuss the absurdity of risking one s life for their country There is nothing so absurd about risking your life for your country he Nately declared Isn t there asked the old man What is a country A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war Surely so many countries can t all be worth dying for Anything worth living for, said Nately, is worth dying for And anything worth dying for, answered the sacrilegious old man is certainly worth living for Milo Minderbinder is in charge of the mess at the U.S Army Corps base As he learns and about how goods are moved around the globe he begins a business of supply and demand war profiteering He becomes the ultimate capitalist with no allegiance to any country He trades with the enemy and as part of contract negotiations he also warns the Germans once of an impending attack even to the point of guiding anti artillery against American planes and in another case bombs his own base to fulfill another contract The absurdity of his position is that he is too important to the American high command to get in trouble for any of these acts of treason He tries to explain one of his successful schemes to Yossarian I don t understand why you buy eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sell them for five cents I do it to make a profit But how can you make a profit You lose two cents an egg But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg Of course, I don t make the profit the syndicate makes the profit And everybody has a share Yossarian felt he was beginning to understand And the people you sell the eggs to at four anda quarter cents a piece make a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when they sell them back to you at seven cents apiece Is that right Why don t you sell the eggs directly to you and eliminate the people you buy them from Because I m the people I buy them from Milo explained I make a profit of three and a quarter cents apiece when I sell them to me and a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when I buy them back from me That s a total profit of six cents and egg I lose only two cents an egg when I sell them to the mess halls at five cents apiece, and that s how I can make a profit buying eggs for seven cents apiece and selling them for five cents apiece.Hungry Joe keeps meeting the flight standards time and time again only to have his paperwork take too long to process before the flight standards have been raised again He packs and then he unpacks He is a fat, pervert who convinces women to take their clothes off to be photographed by telling them that he works for Life Magazine and will put them on the cover Unfortunately the photographs never turn out Ironically he did work as a photographer for Life Magazine before the war Women do play a role in this book mostly as objects of lust Heller has these wonderful, creative descriptions of them She would have been perfect for Yossarian, a debauched, coarse, vulgar, amoral, appetizing slattern whom he had longed for and idolized for months She was a real find She paid for her own drinks, and she had an automobile, an apartment and a salmon colored cameo ring that drove Hungry Joe clean out of his senses with its exquisitely carved figures of a naked boy and girl on a rock And then there is a nurse that brings Yossarian nearly to his knees with desire Yossarian was sick with lust and mesmerized with regret General Dreedle s nurse was only a little chubby, and his senses were stuffed to congestion with the yellow radiance of her hair and the unfelt pressure of her soft short fingers, with the rounded untasted wealth of her nubile breast in her Army pink shirt that was opened wide at the the throat and with the rolling, ripened triangular confluences of her belly and thighs in her tight, slick forest green garbardine officer s pants He drank her in insatiably from head to painted toenail He never wanted to lose her Ooooooooooooh, he moaned again, and this time the whole room rippled at his quavering, drown out cry.You will probably need to google the next one He enjoyed Nurse Sue Ann Druckett s long white legs and supple, callipygous ass Paradoxes abound even when Heller describes a character he will have countering characteristics like she was plain, but pretty or he was handsome, but ugly Aren t we all a sum of those characteristics anyway Joseph Heller looking handsome and ugly.This book is hilarious, I laughed out loud at several points but wrapped with increasingly tragic circumstances As Yossarian s friends die or disappear his desperation increases His behavior becomes and erratic The absurd traps him time and time again There are a whole host of reasons why everyone should read this novel I m not saying that everyone will like it as much as I did, but it is IMHO one of the top five most important American novels ever written It impacted our culture, added words to our language, and gave voice to a generation of people dissatisfied with the war aims of this country More importantly don t be the one person in the middle of a Catch 22 discussion who hasn t read the book If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at I suffered through about 60 pages, and finally put it down I very rarely ever leave a book unfinished The author narrates and introduces us to Yossarian, who does not want to fly in the war I get that I get the whole catch 22 scenerio You have to be insane to fly the plane If you can get a dr to say you are insane, you wont have to fly But in order to tell a dr that you are insane, this actually means you are sane So you must continue to fly which makes you insane blah blah blah.What I couldnt get past was the author s constant bouts of Attention Deficet Disorder He went off on tangents, introducing a new character seemingly every paragraph, and seemed to lose his train of thought only to regain it 2 pages later I couldnt take all the jumping around, and was completely lost the whole time at times rereading the prior page thinking I missed some important tie in somewhere.Am I the only one on this planet who is asking myself what heck everyone was smoking when they read this book and actually enjoyed it