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Catch 22 | [Joseph Heller]

Catch 22

At the heart of Joseph Heller's bestselling novel, first published in 1961, is a satirical indictment of military madness and stupidity, and the desire of the ordinary man to survive it.
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Publisher's Summary

At the heart of Joseph Heller's best-selling novel, first published in 1961, is a satirical indictment of military madness and stupidity, and the desire of the ordinary man to survive it.

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

What the Critics Say

"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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (164 )
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4.4 (91 )
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  •  
    Amazon Customer 04-20-09 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A great book well read."

    An excellent story expertly read. Catch 22 is a classic stream-of-thought black comedy detailing the absurdity of war. It is my favourite book that I come back to reread every few years but this audiobook will change all that - now I can have the book read to me every few months.

    This reading is excellent. It is clear, easy to understand and the character voices are mostly the same as I hear in my head.

    Catch 22 is a classic. If you know the book and love it, you will love the Audiobook.

    If you don't know the book, it details the story of Yoissarian's attempt to stay alive in a world that doesn't make sense, where people are trying to kill him and the rules are against him. The narrative jumps about through time. Scenes jump in the middle of conversations. No-one acts rationally except Yossarian (and he's crazy). It contains all the absurdity and horror of war. And it's the most hillarious book you'll ever have read to you.

    This is a great book well read. I recommend this Audiobook very highly.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Melbourne, VIC, Australia 10-19-08
    Peter Melbourne, VIC, Australia 10-19-08
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    "Fantastic listen"

    The best audiobook I have heard. It refeshed my memory of my reading of the book 20 years ago. The narration is excellent and illuminates the text.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    PDA 06-19-12
    PDA 06-19-12
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    "Don't think the reader got it"

    Catch-22 is a sparklingly funny book, but it needs a deadpan delivery to pull it off. Trevor White seems to think that he is reading a bloody, amoral and unpleasant war tome. He is, of course, but the genius of the book is that its wit makes its dark subject matter accessible and so much more heart-wrenching for catching you unaware. White reads like he's spitting out the words and glad to be rid of them. A disappointment.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Don Curtin, Australia 03-15-13
    Don Curtin, Australia 03-15-13 Member Since 2012
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    "MASH on Acid!"

    Decided to check this out given its iconic nature and it is a crazy ride. Really good account of the absurdity of war and the mind bending circumstances for its combatants. I struggled at times with this just the crazy logic (or lack of it) but it always brought me back. you can see this as the forerunner for some of the great war stories such as MASH and even Full Metal Jacket.

    A classic and deservedly so.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 03-25-12
    Ian C Robertson South Australia, Australia 03-25-12 Member Since 2010

    Eclectic mixer of books of my youth and ones I always meant to read, but didn't.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Satire Still Sings and Zings"

    I returned to this modern classic not really expecting it to live up to my memory of its bite, cleverness and the inventive use of the absurd. I was pleasantly disappointed (a contradiction that might have pleased Heller). The bite is as sharp as it was in the early 80's, when I first read the book. The years, the wars and the cynicism of the last 20 years have not dulled the edge of the humour or the social criticism of the war, victors and who really gets the spoils. In fact, it is probably more pogninant today when more and more young people side with Yossarian to opt out of military service. As he reminds us, we would be crazy not to do the same!

    I listened and re-listend to numerous passages (just as I would re-read a book with a clever passage) to dwell in the comic wit and cleverness. I had forgotten Milo Mindbender's explanation for the Syndicate buying at 7c and selling at 5c for a profit. It is Abbott and Costello genius of a "Who's on First" level. I have "marked" passages for the future, too.

    As for the narrator, I have to say I oscillated from huge fan to disappointed. His Col. Cathcart and General Dreedle are outstanding, as is his pidgeon Italian. But Yossarian just didn't hit it for me until the 2nd part (by which time I had become accustomed to it). Unfortunately, (or fortunately), I still hear Alan Arkin. Maybe the general narration was too close to Yossarian - I'm not sure. Another reader might not suffer from this limitation, so perhaps my view is a bit unkind. Still, I liked the performance enough to keep going (like Nately's whore). I suspect you will too.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jefferson 02-02-12
    Jefferson 02-02-12 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "???Are You Crazy???? A Most Hilarious & Horrible Book"

    Set on a US air base on an Italian island during WW II, Catch 22 comically exposes the insanity of war, from commanding officers who prove their bravery and patriotism by volunteering their men to fly dangerous and unnecessary missions, to the ???heroes??? who don???t mind having to kill or avoid being killed by strangers and the ???cowards??? who are traumatized by having to do that. The enterprise is so full of bullies, schemers, and rationalizers that finally both sides are trying to kill you, yours and the enemy???s.

    General P. P. Peckem waging war against General Dreedle, Captain Black reveling in his loyalty oath campaign, Major Major Major Major trying to play basketball in disguise, mess officer Milo Minderbinder bombing his own base to make a profit for his syndicate, Col. Cathcart trying to get in the Saturday Evening Post via condolence form letters, the chaplain being interrogated as Washington Irving, the soldier in white (body cast) returning to the hospital??? The novel is a series of funny and appalling scenes that cohere with an insane logic like that of Lewis Carroll, as when Alice asks, ???How do you know I???m mad???? and the Cheshire Cat replies, ???You must be ??? or you wouldn???t have come here.???

    Trevor White reads the narration with irony, compassion, and clarity and the dialogue of the weak strong kind sadistic neurotic calm clever moronic characters with verve and apt voices.

    Heller???s novel is a biting satire of American culture: capitalism, patriotism, medicine, Indian land taking, and more. And it explores the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life and death. After all, aren???t we all passengers on a flimsy airplane flown through layers of flak by a reckless pilot guided by an incompetent navigator? With danger all around, what can we hold to? Integrity: Yossarian???s refusal to conform is inspiring. And Love: Yossarian caressing Nurse Duckett???s flesh with desperate sensuality and falling in love with Italian prostitutes (who say, ???Tu sei pazzo!???) are oases of sanity.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 11-19-14 Member Since 2014
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    "This is a gem"
    What made the experience of listening to Catch 22 the most enjoyable?

    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.


    What other book might you compare Catch 22 to and why?

    I can not think about any other book I have read that is comparable with Catch 22. It is unique.


    Have you listened to any of Trevor White’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    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

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kris Guildford, United Kingdom 09-07-13
    Kris Guildford, United Kingdom 09-07-13 Member Since 2012
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    "What the 2x reading speed button was designed for."

    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.

    Firstly,

    The Plot:
    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...

    The Dialog:
    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)
    Yossarian: X?
    Random: Yes X?
    Yossarian: Why X?
    Random: Because Y.(Y = something related, but also invariably ridiculous)
    Yossarian: Y?
    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.

    The Themes:
    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue Healesville, Australia 09-05-13
    Sue Healesville, Australia 09-05-13

    An Aussie audiblian, I joined recently whe I got sick of music and talk back radio. Utterly hooked and trying to re educate myself.

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    "High school literature study revisited"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anand Bangalore, India 08-06-10
    Anand Bangalore, India 08-06-10
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    "Couldnt make out a thing"

    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.

    1 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 10 results
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  • Keith
    5/25/09
    Overall
    "Wonderful"

    It's easy to see why this book has cult status. The chapters explore each charater in great depth, but the key elements of the plot appear in a random order, with much repetition. The writing is also very exuberent, almost surreal. But chapter by chapter, much like the ritual chanting of ancient folklore, everything starts to fit together. And just at that point the whole story moves beyond humour, it trips you up with moments of great sadness. This may be about the absurdity of war, but from within this spinning multi-coloured lens there's a lot more to see. Brilliant narration completes a formidable package.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Rosemary
    St brelade, jersey, United Kingdom
    9/18/10
    Overall
    "Poignant"

    This reading is one of the best audiobooks I have in my library
    The pernicious effects of unnecessary bureaucracy brought to compelling life.
    You cannot listen without laughter and yet at the same time realise how awful the subject matter is.

    Highly recommended

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Suzanne
    St Alburns, Herts , United Kingdom
    7/3/10
    Overall
    "Catch 22"

    Having always thought I should do Catch 22 as it is a classic, I'm very glad I did. I had no idea what the book was about - set in the American airforce, its fantastically funny in a very intelligent, witty way. I listened to it on my way to work and was laughing out loud in the street. Well read, it was a delight to listen to and will be listening to it again in the future. Would recommend with great pleasure.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Sara
    Llanwrtyd wells, United Kingdom
    6/8/09
    Overall
    "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.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Lola Blogger
    11/29/09
    Overall
    "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.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • A G R
    GB
    2/3/13
    Overall
    "Very well read"

    This novel lends itself well to being read aloud - there is a lot of dialogue - and White does a fantastic job, His voice is wonderful to listen to, evocative and full of character. I thoroughly recommend this version.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Henry
    Surrey, United Kingdom
    7/8/11
    Overall
    "Brilliant."

    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!

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jonathan
    braunton, devon, United Kingdom
    2/7/11
    Overall
    "Brilliantly Narrated"

    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!

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • C. Wright
    Glasgow
    4/16/08
    Overall
    "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.

    8 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Duncan
    Kirkcaldy, Fife, United Kingdom
    4/10/08
    Overall
    "Brilliant"

    One of a kind, everyone should read this book. A good narration too.

    6 of 8 people found this review helpful
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