This is the tale of the dangerously sane Captain Yossarian, who spends his time in Italy plotting to survive. Yossarian is a bombardier in the 256th Squadron of the US Army Air Forces during World War II, stationed on Pianosa, a fictionalised island in the Mediterranean between mainland Italy and Corsica. The squadron's assignment is to bomb enemy positions in Italy and eastern France. Yossarian's mission is simply to stay alive.
©1961 Joseph Heller; (P)2008 Hachette Audio
"The greatest satirical work in the English language since Erewhon. (Observer)
"Wildly original, and brutally gruesome, a dazzling performance that will outrage as many readers as it delights. Vulgarly, bitterly, savagely funny, it will not be forgotten by those who can take it." (The New York Times)
"An apocalyptic masterpiece." (Chicago Times)
Catch 22 is a treat! It is hilarious and at the same time covering such important issues. I can not believe I have not read it before now! There were many times I could not stop laughing. To be able to portray war, danger, fear and hopelessness in this way is truly a masterpiece. The characters in the stories represents so many types of people, and are right on the spot.
I can not think about any other book I have read that is comparable with Catch 22. It is unique.
I have not listened to Trevor White before, but in this book his performance is exceptional. I would definitely look for more books that he has read.
I usually do not like to reread books, but Catch 22 I will listen to again and maybe yet again many times! I will also read/listen to more of Joseph Heller
Catch 22 is listed as an American classic, and the sheer amount of critical acclaim and 5 star reviews suggests to me that there must be something to this book. However, I simply cannot see what that "something" is, as to me this is one of the most tedious books I've ever read/listened to. For reference, I tried to read this once before, and gave up. There are only two books which I have given up on, this being one, Gravity's Rainbow being the other. The audiobook I feel is the only reason I was able to finish, and the reasons for this i will make clear later. I won't go into what the book is about, as the description here pretty much sums it up, but I do need to mention some things to any prospective reader.
So a lot of people will mention that there is no plot in this book. That is not strictly true; there is a plot, but it takes incredibly long to actually get to it. The book could in fact have its entire middle removed, without much really being lost in terms of plot. The non chronological nature makes it difficult to follow, and events jump randomly between various scenes. The entire thing feels a little bit like a sitcom, albeit one that is movie length, and in which very little happens. To be fair, the ending is not too bad, and those last 5 or so chapters are actually somewhat emotional, and readable. Overall though, it feels that the entire plot is just a ruse in order to cram as many "witty" conversations as possible into the (not unsubstantial) pages on this book. Indeed, probably the most important bit to cover is...
In order for you to properly understand my issue with this novel, it is mandatory to demonstrate the general format of conversation used. The overwhelming amount of these involve the protagonist Yossarian, and a representative of one of the other (numerous and unilaterally absurd) characters on the semi-fictional island of Pianosa. This is how it usually goes down:
Random: I'm doing X. (X = something ridiculous)
Random: Yes X?
Yossarian: Why X?
Random: Because Y.(Y = something related, but also invariably ridiculous)
Random: That's right, Y.
Yossarian: You're crazy!
Random: I'm crazy? Maybe you're crazy!?
Yossarian: If you're not crazy, why are you doing X?
Random: Because Y.
(Repeat in endless loop for 3 pages)
The point here is, is that these pages of dialog occur constantly, and are actually physically exhausting to read (I hear this book is one of the most frequent books that are not finished). This is what's great about the audiobook version, as it is possible to sit and just grind through it. It's worth noting that the reader is quite good, and if one cranks this up to 2x speed, its very much possible to understand it with a bit of practice. Because conversations are so repetitive, very little needs to be processed most of the time. Let me be clear, that some of the little scenes (remember how I said this was like a sitcom) are actually quite funny. There are indeed quite a few, though they are vastly outnumbered by the unfunny repetition nonsense described above. It would almost be worth publishing another book, with these "highlights" pulled out. Most of the conversations try and illustrate some sort of point, which brings me to the final section.
Bear in mind that I am no literary critic, so this is just my basic analysis. All of the little vignettes will generally fall into one of three themes.
1. War is Hell: Usually illustrated by people dying senselessly, and Yossarian's constant need to "survive".
2. The Military is Bureaucratic: Evidenced by the complete lack of logic in any of Yossarian's superiors. While initially funny, this gets tiresome fast, as no one in this fictional version of the military does ANYTHING that makes ANY sense.
3. Capitalism/Greed: This is generally one of the better parts of the book, and Milo's various exploits with the Syndicate are quite inspired. Definitely worth reading these parts.
All well and good. What's not good is having these concepts smashed into your skull at every possible turn. It's funny the first 2/3 times, after that you can see it coming miles off.
Ultimately the book is just too damn long! If cut down to a short novel or story, it could be quite readable. But as it stands, the only reason to finish it for me was to not allow it to beat me (again). Overall there are definitely good bits, but to get to them is just such a chore. Few times have I had to force myself to sit there and listen to a book. Perhaps the book has dated quite badly, or I just "don't get it". I don't know, but I would suggest to any potential reader to think long and hard, if 450 pages of the aforementioned conversations and plot points is something you can handle. So that's it, if you need to have this classic ticked off your list, load it up, grab some red bull, crank that bad boy to 2x speed, and have at it.
An Aussie audiblian, I joined recently whe I got sick of music and talk back radio. Utterly hooked and trying to re educate myself.
I'm on a bit a mission to read many of the books I studied in High School English classes, and Catch 22 was one. All too often, the mere fact that a student MUST read a book for study, means that often he/she becomes unable to just relax and appreciate the story for what it really is. This is the third such book I have read, and I have to say that it should have been no surprise to me that books are chosen for study because of their literary merit. I really enjoyed Catch22, it's irony, black humour, satire and pathos. There are quite a few belly laugh moments, but it is pretty hard core shockingly explicit at times, and not for the faint hearted. The main Character, Yossarian, finds himself trapped in bizarre environment, fighting for his country in a crazy war doing crazy things, where he appears to be the only sane person. This scenario is timeless and in fact, could be placed in any war at any time.
The narrator took a bit of getting used to, but overall I found him to be very good. The long soundless gap between chapters was a bit irritating.
This is a modern classic well worth listening to.
All my attempts to read Catch 22 in a book form have failed miserably so far (including this). Nothing against the narrator but just the maze of characters and their complex & intertwined relationship overwhelmed me right from the very beginning. I gave up barely 2 hours into the audio and havent come back.
I still have not made up my mind about whether this is the masterpiece that everyone claims it is; but it is memorable and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Some of the characters and their sayings have become regular parts of my vocabulary. Trevor White is ideal for this book and brings the characters to life; his reading is vibrant and alive, which suits the story.
Great book that was even better as an audio book, dare you not to! Trevor White is great and the book should be on everyone's to read/listen list!
"A Worthy Classic"
I bought this book on a whim because I had heard so many good things about it, although the subject did not overly interest me. Having now listened to it I realise why it is regarded as such a pivotal piece of fiction. This book is hilarious, clever, poignant and sad and it was a thorough pleasure to listen to. The theme throughout conveys a sense of madness and illogical bureaucracy that permeates war, and the central characters sanity at rightfully worrying that people are trying to kill him is seen as a form of madness by everyone else. Some superb dialogue and ridiculously entertaining farce. Well read and crystal clear.
"No Catch it was great"
I own quite a few audiobooks on cassette and am slowly replacing those that can no longer be played with downloads from audible. I was so pleased when Catch 22 became available. I have always loved this book. It has been narrated well by Trevor White the canadian actor. He brings out the cynical humour in Heller's book so well.
I'm sure you don't need another person to tell you how brilliant this story is - it's a classic. Just thought that I'd add how brillint the narration is, I read the book before listening to it, and the acting actually improved upon the already astounding read!
"Truly one of the best"
I can hardly believe that this book was first published in 1955, well before I was born, and it seems as up-to-date and relevant now as it was then. It's been one of the best books I've listened to - nothing is lost in the move from print to audio. The characters came alive all over again, the madness, stupidity, incompetence, frustration and fear of war are conveyed graphically, dramatically - it could be happening today. Although of course, it couldn't, could it? Surely Joseph Heller has taken the reality and exaggerated it just enough to remain plausible? The narration is impeccable, and I sat in the car once I'd reached my destination, just to listen to the last 10 minutes.
One of a kind, everyone should read this book. A good narration too.
Easy to recommend, narration was great and the book is a funny and inciteful look at human structures and relations.
A brilliantly satirical and still very current story!
This is a true classic book that is brought to life by brilliant narration. It was a real joy to listen to.
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