Wednesday, December 18, 2013

16 of 1001 Books: Joseph Heller's Catch-22

Joseph Heller really has wrote a book like no other I've read with Catch-22. The beginning of the book is really tough to get through, but once you get rolling a hundred or pages so in then you get a better grasp on the satirical humor that Heller has created, and you even begin to get oddly attached to some of the characters like Yossarian and Nately. The humor may not be something you laugh out loud at though unless you've read or seen a lot of war stories. For those who aren't into anti-war books it may make you a bit uneasy to read how idiotic some of the military personnel is portrayed.

Summary: Bombardier, Yossarian, wants out of the war. He has complete the number of missions that he must fly in, and he doesn't the point of continuing to have his life threatened by people he has never met. Every time he nears the number of complete missions he was to be on Colonel Cathcart begins to raise the number again. This prevents anyone new from being brought in, and the keeps the current guys flying out. Yossarian is hoping he can prove himself insane though without having to say it because as Catch-22 paraphrased says, if a man is flying out on these missions he is crazy, but if he request to leave because he is then he has proven he is sane.

Characters: Yossarian is the character that brings us into the novel with his appearance in the hospital trying to escape going on anymore fly missions by any means, even if that means faking a liver problem. At first his character just starts out as a coward, but as the novel progresses he becomes the character you want to read about. The humor surrounding him also seems to be some of the best. There are a ton of characters in this novel. There were several other stand outs like the Chaplain, and Nately. Nately seemed to be the guy who had the most masculine persona, because he was willing to do what he had to do, and I did like how the author conveys his feeling for this sort of erratic woman. As far as women go in the novel they are portrayed pretty poorly, but not weak. Most of them all like to seduce men, and seem to be made very sexual, but makes sense as this was written by a man. There are also characters that really never resonate me like Orr. There was one character that I thought contrasted the darkness against the humor Heller weaves in and that was Snowden. Near the end the complete scene between him and Yossarian was haunting.

Writing: The writing does blend ideas about the war that Heller has with odd humor. The humor is very strange. For many you may never laugh out loud at the humor, but I have to say it did grow on me as I read the novel to the point where it did at least get me to smile, but I think for many the realization of what Heller is conveying through his characters becomes so real, and the scene near the end with Snowden is so dark that you really see none of this is a joke. That scene will always stick out with me. Heller is also a very good writer, and you have to be to make something like this work. The plot is here and there, and the paragraphs can be gigantic, but the dialogue is a huge strong point of the novel.

Plot: The biggest struggle for me to get past is that at times I felt like there was no plot. There is one, but it's really touch and go. You feel like you'll be building up to one point in one chapter, and then get a different perspective in the next. From what I've heard many people seem to drop out within the first hundred pages of this book. I highly recommend if you pick this up to try to ride it out till at least over hundred pages in. The first pages are rough, and it seems the point of where the book is going takes a bit of time to catch off. I'll admit it was really slow reading for me at first, and I struggled through those page. This book is also a man story. That is fine, but the humor and the relationships should be more enjoyable for guys to read.

Catch-22 is a unique tale. I thought this book was something to suffer through at first, but Yossarian salvages the novel with his story, and how his character grows to have courage in his own way. If you're not much of a satire fan then this book may not have humor that resonates with you, but the characters do grow with you enough to care about them.

Rating 6.5 of 10.

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