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Catch-22 - Joseph Heller

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Author: Joseph Heller / Format: Hardback / Date of publication: 21 September 1995 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Everyman / Title: Catch-22 / ISBN 13: 9781857152203 / ISBN 10: 1857152203

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      27.10.2012 18:43
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      A strong novel with a lot to give out. You can learn a lot if you stick with it to the end.

      I've never read a novel like this, it's a strange one. Those of you who have already read it will know, and those of you who are yet to read it will soon agree, it's odd, 'odious'. The book is about a B-25 bombardier squadron in The Second World War (1943). They are tasked with running bombing raids on critical strategic positions across Europe, many of which are heavily defended by German flak, and hence pose significant danger to the pilots and crew homing in on them. These raids are organised and engineered by the Colonels and Generals of the army. The fictional 256th squadron is based on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea west of Italy, and this is where Captain John Yossarian, a B-25 crewman (and the main character of the novel) resides.

      The missions come and go, and as was the case at the time, all bombardiers are required to fly a certain amount of missions before they can return home. The thing is, every time Yossarian and his pals reach the required number of combat tours, the Colonels in command raise the total - 45 to 50, 55 to 60, 70 to 75, etc., etc. This frustrates Yossarian and everyone else tremendously, but there doesn't seem any way out of the situation. In fact, the only way out is blocked by a catch, Catch 22.

      Catch 22 was written by Joseph Heller, and the term Catch 22 was coined by him after publication of the novel. The term describes scenarios whereby there is no possible conclusion; it is 'no-win', a sort of self-contradictory circular logic. The most widely discussed, though perhaps not the most notable example of this, is one explained near the beginning of the book (with reference to the fellow bombardier and friend of Yossarian's, Orr):

      "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 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."

      This paradoxical statement typifies the whole book. This simple 'clause', this unavoidable catch, is repeated in various forms through various situations throughout Catch 22 by the technically brilliant Heller. From the tiny, flashy examples of it, through to the long-standing, frequently re-remembered ones (examples which have usually deeply affected Yossarian), catches are eminent at every turn. Yossarian's helplessness in the slow death of Snowden in the plain over Bologna is repeated four or five times from different angles, from different moments in time, in different sections of the book. It represents one of the fundamental catches of life: the imminence of a mortal death. Philosophically this cuts deep, but these were indeed some of the areas Heller felt impelled to cover in the book. It took up so much of his time (8-years!) that by the end he was bound to have put many (if not most) of his own concepts and ideas about life, religion, 'the world' into (what was ultimately) his master work.

      Yossarian is the central character - the flagship from which Heller could display his concepts freely. He's the deep thinking, 'crazy' Officer whose opinions of people and their actions (and who's own actions) are sickeningly hilarious. His logic is flawed, for, one minute he seems to be thinking coherent, ordinary thoughts that any stable-minded person would think, and the next he's performing out of the ordinary things - like complaining of the dead man in his tent that isn't there, or refusing to wear a uniform and walking around naked (even whilst collecting a medal from Colonel Cathcart and General Dreedle). His continual oddities, however strange they appear, always have logic though, and that's what's so unique about Yossarian. He's not realistic, but he makes sense, such as here, when confiding in Clevinger his inflicted paranoia when flying raids:

      "They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him calmly.
      "No one's trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
      "Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked.
      "They're shooting at everyone," Clevinger answered. "They're trying to kill everyone."
      "And what difference does that make?"

      The Chaplain is Yossarian's friend and the camp Christian representative, and he features heavily in the novel. He's a quiet, nervous individual with a tendency to over-evaluate situations and people's perceptions of him - he's paranoid, to a degree. He'll think so deeply into something that he'll begin thinking that it never happened, or that it happened only in his mind at the time. The Chaplain's lack of confidence and his consequent tendency to be bullied by others makes for a fun area of experimental writing, with the Catch 22 theme in mind.

      Doc Daneeka and Hungry Joe, Nately and McWatt, Orr and Clevinger, all these characters (and more) play into Yossarian's path. They create a balanced spectrum of timid through to brave, intelligent through to dumb, and crazy through to crazy - they are all crazy, let's not forget (as Yossarian reminds us), everyone is crazy, because everyone flies. If they don't fly, they are sane and can't go home, in order to prove they're crazy and go home, they must fly, and then they can't go home... That's some catch!

      Milo Minderbinder is a fabulous and intriguing character - for me he stood out from the rest. A mess officer tasked with providing food and drink to the food rooms, Milo takes his job to the next level, creating an international network of trade, an enterprise of cross-border logistics in which everyone has a share - the syndicate. He is revered for what he does, and rightly so, but the moral boundaries he crosses (not to mention the physical ones he destroys), and all in the name of profit, mimics (to an extreme) the commercial, share-holder society we operate today.

      Despite what I have said, the characters still seem jumbled and unimportant throughout Catch 22. They appear and 'disappear' in a confusing, seeping succession of paragraphs and chapters. Heller will bounce from a specific memory of the past to something happening in the present (also very specific) sometimes mid-paragraph. There seems to be no logic to the disorganised link of personal accounts. Yet at the end something clicks in your head, and at that moment you realise, you re-remember, and you give in to the books and its uniqueness.

      Reading Catch 22 and relaying my thoughts and feelings of certain sections to friends along the way, I recall describing the first three-quarters (with difficulty - because this is a hard book to explain) as irritating, shallow, un-enthralling, but often funny and often thought-provoking. By the beginning of the end my opinion had transformed, and almost in tune with the novels flip from relatively tame composition to a wholly more brutal and disturbing one. I'm not saying I'm a fiend for violence or the excitement it brings (though I do enjoy hard-hitting stuff), I just think the novel began to make more sense when heavier elements of the story were revealed to shock and (shockingly) inspire the reader.

      "Let's cut him open and get to the inside of things once and for all. He keeps complaining about his liver. His liver looks pretty small on this X-ray."
      "That's his pancreas, you dope. This is his liver."
      "No it isn't. That's his heart..."

      Comical and horrific all at once, many parts of the second half of Catch 22 reveal themselves in this light. At the start things are more subtle, more about demonstrating the 'catch':

      "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."

      This epitomizes Heller's model, and it comes in the first paragraph of the first page! Heller never forgets though, and everything is brought back and finished off at one point or another. Yossarian complains of a painful liver on page 1 (the last thing I quoted), and 494 pages later, two doctors contemplate cutting him open because 'he keeps complaining about his liver' (the quote before). Disgusting and genius all at once!

      Catch 22 has an agenda layed out chronologically in clear sight, blindingly obvious throughout. But you'll never realise it unless you 'persevere' to the end. You'll never see Yossarian's world truly. You'll never see the heart-breaking, undeniably sad existence within which he revolves. It hides from you behind a shield of ridiculousness, a barrage of insane ideas, thoughts and reactions to mild through despicable occurrences, and a humour-some sight on reality. The thing is, that chronological agenda with which the book is layed out is brutally, yet scrupulously muddled from the off-set. It's muddled into a kind of chaotic perfection that must surely have been near impossible to write. And yet, the man behind this wonderful way of story-telling still manages to nurture a flowing grace befitting of it.

      "...And I'll stay here and persevere. Yes. I'll persevere. I'll nag and badger Colonel Cathcart and Colonel Korn every time I see them. I'm not afraid..." (The Chaplain)

      Thanks for reading.

      RATING: 4.1/5
      PRICE: £5.59 (below website)
      AVAILABILITY: www.waterstones.com

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        11.01.2012 00:25

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        Loved it

        Catch 22: Admit you're insane and simultaneously prove that you are not as it would be impossible for you to understand that of yourself. This is the premise for Joseph Heller's Catch 22 where Yossarian, arguably the main character although the novel is full of a variety of strange, wacky and wonderful personalities that dictate each of the chapters, seeks to guarentee his ticket home by proving to the other's in his American bombing crew stationed in Italy in WWI that he is insane and thusly uncapable of military duty. The novel is both funny, dark, satirical and infinitely interesting, a book in which I honestly could not put down, even verging on 500 pages within a few short hours. Despite it being a very good book, many people might originally put it down as they settle into a period I like to call utter and complete confusion, as the constant change in plot direction, and character focus makes it hard to keep up, but I urge you to buy this book and to keep on reading. Not only is it a classic, a book in which it is likely before even ever having picked up you know at least SOMETHING about it, it is also worthy of this title. Catch 22 deserves to be read, and you deserve to enjoy reading it, so buy it.

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        12.11.2011 11:16

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        Fantastic wartime Satire

        Catch 22, written by joseph heller is set in the 1940's in italy. It is based around an american airforce base. It is a satirical war novel based on the premise that you would have to be crazy to want to fight in a war. It sees the main character Yossarian spend the majority of his time attempting to avoid flying bombing missions with varying success, and from the desciption of them, i cant blame him.

        The book begins quite light and witty, as we meet several others of the characters who make up the crazy squadren of airforce bombers and commanders. the story jumps about a little and seems like a collection of funny and outrageous anecdotes, all the while examining the utter stupidity involved in war. From Dunbar, who decides that he wants to live as long as possible, and decides that as time goes more slowly when you are bored aims to live as dull a life as possible to Milo, who contracts with the Germans to bomb their own base (which makes a net profit of course).

        This is a fantastic book, its one of the few i have reread several times. It is actually better the second time through. Its a fun and interesting book, with a bit of deep moments thrown in. Its also one of the few that I think everyone should read.

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        12.10.2011 16:35
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        A great novel

        Catch 22 is a novel written by American author Joseph Heller it was published in the 1950's and is a satirical look at the actions of a American bombing crew in Italy during the Second World War. The novel has been described as one of the most influential books written during the 20th century, it's style of parodying and satirising the actions during war have made the term Catch 22 a modern idiom for any circular argument or set of events. Catch 22 is a book which looks at the actions of a bombardier called Yossarian who is a lead bombardier for the American army; the book begins with Yossarian in hospital recovering from some kind of mystery illness.

        The tone of the book is set in the first chapter by using seemingly contradictory statements and situations, so in the first chapter we meet a Texan who is good natured, kind and likeable and in three days no one could stand him. We have a man wrapped in bandages who only discovered dead when his daily temperature is taken, Yossarian has the belongings of a dead man in his tent who had died on his first mission and no one could remember what he looked like and we have a CID officer looking for someone called Irvine Washington or Washington Irvine who keeps signing forms but there is no one with that name on the ground.

        All happens in the first chapter and the chapter ends with Yossarian being sent back to his tent and allowed to fly again, for the nest 10-15 chapters we get a different character portrayed who all have connections with Yossarian so we have the colonel running the flights, the major running the camp, the chaplain, Yossarians ground crew, his fellow bombers, his navigator, a crazed half-Indian called Hungry Joe. Subsequent chapters start filling in some of the details into why Yossarian is in hospital, who was the man in his tent, why Yossarian has become anti-war and what is Catch 22. The book satirises not war but the bureaucracy of war, the movement of paper and orders and the desires of the commanders against the angst of the foot soldiers.

        The first half of the book is fairly light and fun, Yossarian is grounded and the war itself is kept at arm's length. Indeed it's not until we get a third of the way through the novel that the first mention of Germans is used before that the war is vague and slightly comical so when Yossarian is described as a lucky bomber because he flies at odd angles gets to the target and doesn't care where the bombs fall against a fellow bomber who flies straight into the anti-airplane flak and tries to drop his bombs on the target with the result of being shot down fairly often. The fairly light comical stance of the first half contrasts with the increasingly serious nature of the second, here the true nature of warfare is shown with devastating results.

        There are still though moments of comic genius, one of the main characters is Milo Minderbinder who runs a black market provisions outfit. This extends to using the planes for various antics, so when he is paid by the Germans to bomb a bridge and by the Americans to protect the same bridge he simply signs both forms and does nothing. Even here though there is a serious message, Milo is paid by the Germans to bomb his own command centre which he does because the corporation structure prevents reneging on any signed deal, a definite attempt at satirising 'friendly fire' and the uselessness of a chain of command.

        Catch 22 is a great book with great ideas and is structured in such a way to make it clear that war is stupid and the commanders running the war are also stupid but as a novel it is remarkably readable. Satire is one of the hardest forms of writing and ones man's satire is lost on a different reader but the author manages to flesh out the characters so that the reader wants a fair outcome for Yossarian and his crew but suspect all will end badly.
        Catch 22 was on my bedside cabinet for well over a year before I decided to read it, it's title has entered common parlance for any circular situation but in the original novel is used for quite a few situations all of which show the black and white nature of war over the complexity of human nature. I enjoyed reading the novel and was satisfied by the ending, it reminded me of the Lord of the Flies in some ways because the reader always has the feel that he is only getting a tiny part of the whole story and that there are far more powerful forces at work then any mentioned in the novel. So justifiable a great novel and one everyone should read if only to understand what is a Catch 22 situation.

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          26.08.2011 13:17

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          Perseverance brings mighty rewards. One of the great works of satire.

          I took this book on holiday with mixed emotions; on the one hand, the widespread critical acclaim led me to believe it should be thoroughly enjoyable. Yet I was aware that my Dad had read it in the past and really hadn't liked it, calling it "impossible to read". So with this in mind, I cautiously read the novel over a few days. Having now read the novel, I appreciate how both views came to fruition.

          The novel is darkly satirical, and funny in ways which it really has no reason to be. The clever use of double negatives and non sequiturs form the tale into a confusing and illogical take on war: the effect which the author quite clearly intends to achieve.

          Having said this, it often does make the narrative harder to follow than necessary: it can shift between scenes and characters without any indication that it is ocurring. For those like myself not blessed with great reading skills, it can often lead to whole passages having to be re-read for a proper understanding. I can understand how some, like my Dad, will become frustrated by having to do this. But if you can persevere and put behind these issues, you'll find a novel that does more to sum up the destruction of the 20th century than any other.

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          25.04.2010 09:57
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          A true classic

          Catch 22 is a darkly funny book about war and the absurdity of some of the things the militarity do. A catch 22 situation is where you are caught up in an impossible situation which you cannot get out of as all the alternative solutions are not good or lead you back to the same outcome, like being on that surreal staircase that looks like it goes up and down and takes you in a circle.

          The fact that the book is funny when war is anything but always makes me think of the superb comedy show Mash. It is set in WWII and the main character is Yossarian who is a bomber pilot in the US Air Force who is based on an airbase in Italy so you know that it is towards the end of the war. Yossarian primary aim is to stay alive and all he wants to do is fly enough missions so that he can go home however everytime he gets close to the mission cieling the top brass increase the number. It is the lack of logic in what are in fact a series of different events each one having an illogical component that sort of binds the book together.

          This is a funny book which is packed with some wonderfully colourful characters, the chapters are all quite short and they do jump about a bit in time with the story back filled at times in a later chapter which explains more fully an earlier event, this keeps you on your toes and thinking as a reader, it is also a book that you would struggle to read if you started it and then had big gaps before you pick it up again, this happened to me the first time I started to read it and I never got through it however on a holiday I devoted a bit of reading time to it and I enjoyed it a whole lot more as I really got into the book.

          It is a classic and rightly so and one that is certainly worth reading.

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          11.04.2010 20:56
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          Absurdity and anxiety never go out of fashion

          '[He] 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; if he didn't want to he was sane and had to.'

          ...what a concept. Sublime.

          Catch 22 is set in the latter stages of World War II (around 1943), and chiefly follows Yossarian, a U.S. Air Force B-25 bombardier, and the mixed bag of nuts that are his comrades. The story is set mainly on the island of Pianosa, in the Mediterranean Sea, west of Italy.

          Yossarian is terrified of dying - as any sane person would be - and he has already flown many successful missions. He's hoping to fly enough raids to be allowed to return home, but his commanders keep increasing the number of raids he must fly, and as the number rises so does his anxiety.

          The book charts Yossarian's plight along with those of his comrades. The chapters are all quite short, suggesting episodes rather like short stories (Heller had previously written short fiction; this was his first novel). And the action jumps around in terms of chronology and characters, often explaining further on in the book how a certain state of affairs mentioned earlier came to be.

          The Catch 22 concept is really what binds the episodic, and for the most part, arbitrary plot together. Nearly every chapter has a situation which turns out to resemble the same paradoxical logic as the famous Catch. This logic always frustrates the wishes of the character upon whom the chapter is focused; and absurdity layers on absurdity.

          The book ambles along for about two thirds of its five-hundred-or-so pages in the same way, which sounds a little dull, but its pace and structure are brilliantly successful in mirroring the ongoing futility of the characters' efforts. Heller's surgical prose, reminiscent of the clarity in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four and Animal Farm (books against which Catch 22 stands comparison), carries you along laughing and wincing at the behaviour of this set of buffoons drafted to Pianosa.

          But Heller seems to stop enjoying himself and starts to tighten up, as if he thinks he hasn't been serious enough about the horrors of the war (he fought in WWII, in a similar situation). There is a chapter toward the end of the book, which models itself on a section of Dosteyovsky's 'Crime and Punishment', with Yossarian wandering through Rome in a manner alluding to Raskolnikov, and observing terrible scenes of theft, of rape and murder which are completely out of place, and which end up undermining the preceding tone of the work, rather than being a counterpoint, as perhaps Heller intended. This is really a jarring of styles: the book has the dark absurd humour later present in the TV show MASH, but the lapse into Russian realism seriously bruises Heller's work.

          But don't let this put you off reading Catch 22. It's not the only great novel that goes on too long and contradicts its own style in parts. I could say the same about Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four. And in fact the book shares problems I find in novels with themes of absurdity, paradox, bureaucracy and hopelessness: they are difficult to draw to a close. Perhaps this is why writers like Kafka and Borges instinctively kept to short stories, and Kafka's longer fiction remains unfinished. After all, when there's no Hope a story can just fizzle out as a damp squib, rather than rage like the explosion we all want.

          But I can think of nothing else in literature that does so much with a single potent idea, and Heller's novel justly joins the ranks of The Trial, Nineteen Eighty Four, Slaughter House Five and the Myth of Sisyphus as a summation of our collective 20th Century / 21st Century unconscious.

          Yossarian fears death for all of us. His fear of more missions has for us become the shadow of the atomic bomb. He and his comrades experience the absurdity that we all face in consumer culture, where life itself is akin to a mere commodity.

          But at it's heart, Catch 22 is a funny book about an unfunny subject, and for the most part, it is the sublime joy everyone is telling you that it is, so just go and read it!

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            17.03.2010 21:50
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            Just try to put it down...it is harder than you think. Wonderful book.

            One of the other reviews on this site said this book is life changing. I completely concur: it remains the greatest work of fiction I have ever read. All the hallmarks of a great piece of literature are present here. The exposition of each character is simply mindblowing with an attention to detail I have seldom encountered since. Each character plays a unique, comical, conflicted and at times thoroughly detestable role within the story.

            What is clear is that Heller makes superb use of the setting and of the context of the war: it becomes clear that the Catch-22 is not merely a title but Heller's razor sharp commentary on the human participant and their experience of war and of each other. The narrative is primarily based around Yossarian, a member of the USAF though it is hard not to get drawn into the people around him such as the tragic Doc Daneeka, the exceptionally written Major ____ de Coverley and Washington Irving.

            The book is also especially renowned for its combination of a fierce yet subtle wit and humour, present thoroughout the volume, and the truely horrific nature of war. Indeed the typical responce is both to laugh incessantly and simultaneously sit with your mouth wide open in shock. If the old adage is true, and you have to experience war in order to truly understand it, then Heller's Catch-22 is possibly the closest some of us can get in a fictional work.

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              10.01.2010 01:49
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              Madness as normality

              The better part of 40 years ago an aunt was visiting from Canada. One evening I found her laughing out loud, & that the cause of her mirth was Catch-22. She left it for me to read when she went home, bless her!

              It said on the cover - "Read this, and you'll never be the same again". Its true.

              Structurally, the book is a metaphor for the illogicalities of mankind, and the story is about expending any amount of money & ingenuity on killing each other, whilst the people forced to participate mostly wouldn't have if they'd been offered the opportunity not to.

              As an ex- RAF man, I can easily identify with the presence of loads of rules & regulations, some of which are contradictory, with the fact that some guys on a unit are barking mad, whilst others go through their daily lives with an air of resignation, & yet others are happy types to whom everything is a lark.

              Make no mistake - there are Milo Minderbinders out there!

              The chapters are all named for a character(my favourite is Chief White Halfoat, a native American Indian, whose family used to get kicked off every bit of land they tried to settle on because wherever they went oil was struck.)
              Each chapter is a little individual story, so you have to read them as such until the connections start to appear. It isn't until you've read the book that it all falls into place, as the chapters link up in your mind.

              One reviewer here said that it was all too horribly masculine for her taste, but a book about a (fictional) USAAF medium-bomber base is bound to be excessively masculine as there wouldn't have been many women at such a place.

              Yes, Joseph Heller was writing about the utter absurdity & futility of war, & in an ideal world we wouldn't need armies & weapons, but we humans have a way to go before we can do without.
              To appreciate how difficult it must have been to write this, its necessary to try & imagine yourself as Heller, with a blank sheet in your typewriter & an idea in your mind: Begin! I don't think he ever quite scaled these heights afterwards.

              I don't think it helps one's understanding of Catch-22 if you see the film first. It was a fair stab, but was just someone else's heavily truncated take on a complex story. The best way is to start with an open mind, read the book right through, & allow your mind to boggle.

              Not for nothing has the phrase 'Catch-22' entered the language.

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                31.07.2009 03:36
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                Will wind you round and scramble you up.

                A winding war story this novel is sheer chaos, which the key underlining concept being about a soldier who ultimately does not want to serve and takes the concept of conscientious objector to the extreme,

                An example of the books insanity is that in order to be grounded from a flight mission if you were crazy you would have to ask to be. The problem was if you asked to be grounded for this reason that would be evidence of your sanity and as such it would be grounds for you to henceforth fly again as you would be deemed to be sane enough to do so.

                The novel is full of such catch 22 situations such as an sargeant who was only available to deal with any officer enquiries when he was not busy, but whever he was in his office he was always busy. The only time he was never busy was when he was out his office but of course then he was never available.

                This style pervades this novel and Heller himself the novelist associated himself with thebeat poets such as Kerouac who were all part of a generation who believed in new form of free open discourse and verbal expression.

                What is rare is sardonic nature of this novel and the movie adaption of this novel in which the main character of Yossarian was played by Alan Arkin who appeared in Little miss Sunshine recently, which is funnily enough quite a farcical film. Movies today try to be satirical but I find it strange that the closest to this level of satire is Team America or Borat in terms of poplular culture today. I speak in terms of movies comparitively with novels as it is movies which are more of a common medium for popular culture than the written word. Moving forward the Heller inspired satirists are now freely all over you tube. Satire is no longer as precious but I fell it may be being watered down a catch 22.

                The more you critque the less there is to criticise.The less there is to criticise the less you critique eventually leaving more to criticise again!!!!!!

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                19.03.2009 21:50
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                A literary classic

                If asked what the most influential book in modern literature is, I would have to answer Catch-22. It has had a huge impact on both the popular culture and literary circles. It introduced the post war world to the concept of 'Black Humour' and taught generations about the sheer absurdity of war.
                This book also gives us the first true 'anti-hero.' Yossarian is stuck in a world he cannot control, not wanting to die but unable to escape the war he is constantly looking out for himself and his own survival. He doesn't care about the consequences and is a self-certified coward, even prepared to go to the extraordinary length of sabotaging missions.

                Yet, we cheer him on and hope for the best. Why is that?
                It's because there is a little bit of Yossarian in each of us, an everyman who doesn't want to die. We have all been trapped in our own inescapable "Catch-22," completely beyond our own control.

                The story is about Yossarian's time as a bombardier in the American airforce stationed on the Italian Island of Pianosa during world war two. He is constantly searching for a way to get out of combat duty and everyone thinks he's crazy. The irony is, when you examine the story it turns out that Yossarian may be the only sane one there (except for his buddy Orr who escapes the war by crashing his plane into the sea and rowing a life raft to Sweden).
                Heller does an excellent job of creating a dismal, war torn environment. One of the features of expressionist writing is its concentration on the emotional. And Heller brings out the very emotional side of war. He has certain scenes (such as the one with the Snowdon, a new recruit who dies in Yossarian's arms in the back of a plane) that continuously repeat throughout the novel. Each time it repeats, a little more detail is added. Each time a little more detail is added, the reader reacts differently. It is beautifully done. By playing with the reader's emotions and making the reader constantly reconsider their previous reactions, Heller paints a confusing tapestry for his setting and plot.

                And the ending is beautifully written, leaving the reader with a huge smile. This would open a whole new style of writing that had been unexplored by modern writers until that point. Heller also embraces a sense of comedy and farce that will seem familiar to all Monty Python fans, who cannot help but crack a smile at the misfortunes and reactions of the characters.

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                23.11.2008 22:00
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                Brilliant

                I love to read, and this is quite simply my favourite book.

                It is not however an easy read. The story can be difficult to follow, it's not linear, it's not even quadratic. This can be frustrating. I gave up on it three times before I got to the end the fourth time, then I turned around and started reading it from the beginning again, just to try and make sense of it.

                Set among a unit of US pilots, based on an island in the Mediterranean in World War, Yossarian, the main protagonist finds himself in a series of double binds and confronting maddening logic at every opportunity.

                From Dunbar's attempt to prolong his life by cultivating boredom, to the central Catch 22 itself, Heller's scene setting, sense of timing and turn of phrase is unparalleled. Entire paragraphs are worth memorising for their genius.

                In short, persistence is thoroughly rewarded with this book.
                Five stars every time.

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                  23.03.2008 14:20
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                  Not recommended

                  This is a difficult book to read. At least for me.

                  It is meant to be humourous, but I struggled to finish it.

                  It is a book I had heard a lot, and surely it has the privilege of being one of the very few novels I know whose title is now an expression we use in our daily life (at least myself, I find many catch 22 situations)

                  Surely the book manages to ocnvey the absurdity of bureaucracy and also the struggle of the individual against it. I like to compare this book to Big Brother. It is surely a more optimistic book than Big Brother.

                  In all honestly,I think the book is a bit over rated. I knwo other people who started it and threw the towel, the beginning is not as smooth as it oculd to invite the reader to go trhough.

                  You can buy it at Amazon for less than 6 Pounds, but I do not recommend it.

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                    23.08.2002 18:32
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                    i know that many people have written opinions on this book before me and yes this is probably going to be pretty much the same as the rest of the opinions you have read, but i feel so strongly about this book that i felt i just had to tell you all about it. I wont tell you the story in any detail, it basically set in italy during the second world war and its about a group of friends and how war has affecetd them. other reviews on the book i have read have described yossarian as an anti-hero, what this means exactly i dont know but if you ask me yossarian is the hero of the book, the story is a good one, the most important thing about the book is its thought provokingness. i was 16 when i first read the book (23 now) and it changed the way i looked at war, gone was the glamour that one thinks of when one is a child, gone too are the heros and villains, instead we see a war story involving an average everyday male, considered mad, buts whats mad about wanting "to live forever or at least die trying" He takes war personally, but perhaps if more people did take it personally there would be less of it (probably not just a thought). it is hard to describe how a book makes you feel and think, the only way that you could get any idea would be to read the book yourself and see how it affects your outlook on life (and death) and how it makes you feel. it may not be the easiest book in the world to read the first time, but i bet you that this book will have you laughing out loud and crying (possibly not outwardly but certainly inwardly), because it did me. joseph heller also shows that an american can have a sense of irony. (My appologies to the american readers, no offence intended- i guess that has become a bit of a cliche now)

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                      20.06.2002 16:07
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                      "There was only one catch…and that was Catch-22" How can a novel that portrays the reality of war in such horrific detail be so hilarious? Joseph Heller shows the incongruity of war through the experiences of a fictitious American Air Base in the Mediterranean. Yossarian, the anti-hero, is desperate to survive the war, and the only way to do this is to avoid flying any more missions. As far as he is concerned the real enemy are his own commanders, because they are the ones who are putting him into positions in which he might get killed. The novel centres on Yossarian’s attempts to avoid flying, but it also introduces a host of other grotesquely comic characters. Heller’s portrayal of the war, which is based on his own experiences, is sickening. But what is more sickening is that he forces us to laugh at his descriptions, until we gradually begin to realize that it’s just not funny any more. This novel is satire at its best: incisive, perceptive and universally relevant. As the story draws to its conclusion, questions remain. What is Snowden’s secret? Will Yossarian survive the war? And will anyone ever solve Catch-22?

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