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Paperback Catch-22 : 'Never Has a Book Been Laughed and Wept Over So Many Times' Book

ISBN: 0684833395

ISBN13: 9780684833392

Catch-22 : 'Never Has a Book Been Laughed and Wept Over So Many Times'

(Book #1 in the Catch-22 Series)

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Book Overview

Catch-22 is like no other novel. It is one of the funniest books ever written, a keystone work in American literature, and even added a new term to the dictionary. At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war. His efforts are perfectly understandable because as he furiously scrambles, thousands of people he hasn't even...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

One of the 100 best American novels

We read "Catch-22" in our "alternative" high school back in the 60's. It was just as the Viet Nam War was rising to its shocking crest, people were rioting in the streets, the young were questioning everything and rebelling, the draft was taking older brothers and friends, and it was a very crazy time. We asked the teacher who selected the novel and who had served in World War II "Is this an accurate representation of the madness of war?" He replied that, in his experience, it was.After recently re-reading Heller's novel, I realized that this book wasn't, as we had studied it, just about the madness of war. Sure, that was foremost on our minds at the time the book was published. But Heller really caught the moral dilemma of an individual caught up in the mob hysteria of war, where the rules of civilization and laws are temporarily and deliberately suspended by the authorities.The key paragraph, for me, is: "Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all." In other words, Man is no more than meat and bone EXCEPT for a brief period when he is alive...and if he does something to preserve his soul. This is deep and perceptive.At the end of "Catch-22", Yossarian is faced with a tempting choice. He has, however, learned something from the horrors and insanity. His decision takes into account not only his personal safety, but goes beyond to the greater good. He has risen. For that reason, "Catch-22" is more than just an amusing novel, a bestseller and the novel that gave birth to M*A*SH*. Yossarian's moral dilemma is one each of us must ponder, whenever we choose to go to war. I think this is one of the best 100 American novels.

Brilliant, compulsive satirical literature

Joseph Heller's excellent anti-war satire is on of the most poignant, intriguing and comical books ever written. The conversations of his roundabout characters are some of the wittiest pieces of dialogue one could ever find in a novel, and the underlying satire and social commentary behind every character and every page really does pack a punch. Catch-22 is both hilarious, cynical and scathingly satirical: a masterpiece; a tremendous achievement.It revolves around a group of characters during WWII, notably the eccentric Yossarian. Yossarian is confined to a small military on the island of Pianosa, in amongst a large group of weird and wonderful characters. Each of these characters exhibit strange idiosyncrasies inflicted by the madness of war: they are vehicles for Heller to convey the futility and stupidity of the institution.Yossarian, no matter what he tries, cannot escape bombardier duty and cannot get transferred. To be transferred, one must be classified as insane. Hence the Catch-22: by exhibiting a concern for one's personal safety and asking for a transfer, one is sane. But, by flying combat missions and risking one's life, one is IN-sane, but by asking to leave, one is SANE! Yossarian is flummoxed.Catch-22 is one of the best books ever written and I highly recommend it.

The ultimate life affirming book

No book written in my lifetime has had a greater impact on my thinking or provided such a rich reading experience as Catch-22. More than just an antiwar screed, this sprawling novel with its intricate plots and huge cast of characters is a complex story of survival in an absurdly tragi/comic war. It manages to be both hysterically funny and saddly moving while forcing the reader to look differently at such concepts as 'honor', 'heroism', 'patriotism' and 'cowardice'. As several reveiwers have pointed out, the book is slow to start. Part of that has to do with the author's need to seduce the reader to his peculiar veiwpoint, to introduce the numerous characters and to set the stage that will make the absurd seem normal and the normal seem absurd. Once perceived, the structure of the book is a joy to experience. The recurring interrupted flashbacks, the seemingly unrelated subplots and digressions, the cast of characters, each stranger than the one before, all reveal more and more as the book progresses so that by the end one feels enmeshed in a real story of real people - though it is totally crazy. As if Lewis Carroll had written The Inferno instead of Dante.Some of the scenes and characters are as inventive as anything ever writtn and remain vivid in the mind long after the book is finished. Yossarian is a complete person, but much that he experiences is fragmented and bizarre. The 'soldier in white' (all readers will remember this one) is a perfect example of Heller's genius. This scene is both horrifying and hysterically funny, and goes to the heart of the book's message.Joesph Heller died yesterday. I will miss him because there will be no more Heller books. But in truth, though he continued to write and produced a series of interesting novels (including a sequel to Catch-22), nothing else that he produced came close to having the magic and the impact of that first one.

The "Logic" of War

When I was in high school, my English teacher introduced me to the absurdity of war. We were assigned to read "Dulce Et Decorum Est" by the great war poet Wilfred Owen. This poem refuted the "old lie", Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - How sweet and fitting it is to die for one's country. After reading this poem, I suddenly realized how wasteful and utterly senseless war is, especially for the unfortunate people who must put their life on the line. One day, I was in a second-hand bookstore, and by chance spotted a copy of "Catch-22." I had no idea what the book was about, but once I started reading, I couldn't stop. This book, like Owen's poem, describes how frightening and pointless war is to the soldier. However, while Owen uses gory details to bring forth his ideas, Heller uses satire. This book captures the personal fears and opinions of the troubled bombadier, Yossarian. He does not know why he has to be there, and he certainly does not want to die. Yossarian stated that he didn't care if this opinion made the enemy happy. He said that the enemy is anybody who wants to kill you, and it was his superior who kept sending him out to get killed...This makes me wonder about the millions of soldiers throughout time, for this thought must have passed through some of their minds at some desperate point. The old men who instigate and plan wars are not the ones who will die. Rather, they send people out to die for *their* cause. As you can see, this book really made me think. Yes, I thought, I laughed till I cried, then I cried for the senselessness of it all. Heller is a genius!

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