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 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.
"Not Lost It's Impact After ALL These Years"
Yes, a complicated story set at a time we are forgetting about.
When the Priest gets into trouble for stealing a 'tomato'
The irony is well interpreted by the reader
I'm not into emotion but the horror of war is so well demonstrated by the airmen free time in Rome.
This is a long book which takes a little getting into - stick with it.
This novel was, is and always will be one of the greatest and most complete novels if all times. Whether it's a first read/listen or a hundred and first read/listen, it is utterly engaging with countless new depths to discover on each encounter. It is always on my audible as it is the only novel I can dependably turn to and listen to from any point within the story, always being instantly engaged.
It's a rather good piece of literature.
I thoroughly recommend it.
The narrator did a superb job of telling this story, bringing all the various characters to life. And what a great story to tell!
"Great book, brilliant narration"
A brilliant book expertly brought to life by the narration. White really captured the characters and their mannerisms. Whether you know the book or not this is a great version, and well worth the time.
"Compelling narration makes this winner a winner"
Highlighting the madnesses of war and war's effect on logic, reason and overall sanity this novel must stand forever as compulsory reading for senior high school students. Recognized in it will be familiar characters and the zany thinking and actions of people they will rub shoulders with, in peace as well as in conflict. From these recognizable behaviors the maturing reader will understand and maybe even be able to appreciate the reasons why it's difficult to relate to another, on this complex planet, even in peace. Many of the emerging complexities in people-dealing, in people communicating wear a mantle that's similar to war here. The metaphor fits. Given a toxic context, a sick environment, people will not, can not act healthily, or 'well'. That's what Heller is alluding to here.
"Wonderful. Loved it. A classic which is brought to life."
Loved it. Beautifully read. It comes to life through the narrators. Sad to finish it!
"Catch22 still works today..."
Great story, very well read. And C22 is alive and thriving in the world in 2015; is this good or bad or sad??
Used to listen to this while out walking and often burst out laughing.
Hated the ending because it was the end.
"An instant classic"
Upon finishing the audio version, voiced brilliantly by Trevor White, I found my self ordering the paperback and going through the whole experience again. Catch 22 shows the often absurd ways of war. Bringing up major ethical questions and showing the darker side to war. At its heart it's a core it's a deep, tragic, funny and compelling book that once finished will have you thinking and questioning for months. A must read.
I won't worry about reviewing Catch 22 as a novel - plenty of others have done a far better job.
Trevor White's performance, however, was engaging and lighthearted despite...
- spoiler alert -
...the horrors in the last third of the book, just as I imagined the original text.
Well worth my time and money.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.