It is set in the closing months of World War II, in an American bomber squadron on a small island off Italy. Its hero is a bombardier named Yossarian, who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn't even met keep trying to kill him. (He has decided to live forever, even if he has to die in the attempt.)
Catch-22 is a microcosm of the 20th-century world as it might look to someone dangerously sane. It is a novel that lives and moves and grows with astonishing power and vitality. It is, we believe, one of the strongest creations of the mid-century.
©1955, 1961 Joseph Heller; (P)2007 HarperCollins Publishers
"An apocalyptic masterpiece." (Chicago Sun-Times)
"One of the most bitterly funny works in the language...explosive, bitter, subversive, brilliant." (The New Republic)
"A monumental artifact of contemporary American literature, almost as assured of longevity as the statues on Easter Island....Catch-22 is a novel that reminds us once again of all that we have taken for granted in our world and should not, the madness we try not to bother and notice, the deceptions and falsehoods we lack the will to try to distinguish from truth." (New York Times Book Review)
The insights into human nature are profound and spot on, and a lot of the dialog had my laughing out loud. The narration on this version is excellent.
I had no idea what this book was about, but knew it was supposed to be a classic. There is too much sarcasm and cynicismin in life, and the last thing I wanted was a drawn out book written this way. I couldn't finish it. I guess it was written well, but I'm just not in the mood for this style these days. There was no intrigue, no interesting characters, no interesting story line. Just sarcasm.
I know this is a classic and stunning for its introduction to many literary methods, but it was a little hard to finish. It seems that everything had to be forced into following the title to the point I just wanted to scream "ok, I get it!" The constant ironies drowned out any sense of a plot and became tedious.
I was LOST at first listening to this book until I looked it up on Wiki and got 2 tips: one was that the timeline is not linear, there are backflashes and foreflashes - BIG HELP - and the other was a list of characters. Just scanning through the list once helped cement in my mind who was who - helpful in an audiobook where it's not so easy to flip back a few pages to refresh yourself re: who is who. Anyhow, the nonlinear timeshifts turned out to be exciting in the audio version. The characters - Jay Sanders did BEYOND outstanding not only differentiating them but also characterizing them - what a GREAT job narrating! I can't speak highly enough of Sanders! Catch-22 has been part of our culture for the last 40 or 50 years, so I don't need to rave on about the book itself. Actually, from my perspective, it's the various components of the book - the characters, the non-linearity, the proverbial "catch-22", the hospital, the repetitive bombing runs, etc - that make up the story almost more that the story itself (perhaps because the story gets kind of lost in the components, especially the time shifts). Anyhow, it was a wonderful, dark, scary, confusing, funny listen, sort of a grown-up "Alice in Wonderland" - Highly Recommended!
If you're into slapstick fiction then this could be an interesting read, unfortunately this book just hasn't aged well. It was probably amazing when it was released, but like anything amazing and original in any medium, others "borrow" from it; and since it was written so long ago they've been "borrowing" for a long time. The comedic elements which were probably fresh fifty years ago, just seem stale today.
Be ready to follow events that are completely out of time sequence and characters who are beyond eccentric and well into absurd. The narration is great and captures all the different personalities and emotion of the bombardiers who would love to grounded, but who are trapped by an insane Colonel into flying seemingly endless numbers of dangerous missions. The male characters are much more sympathetic and I did find the book to be more than a little sexist with depictions of women that were one-dimensional and completely reliant on their physicality, of which there are only two types--sexy and non-sexy. There were long sections of this book that I found it tough to get through, in which you were hearing from a character that was just nuts in a way that was not very compelling for me. Other sections were very gripping and I am glad that I know this classic of American lit.
The superb performance by the narrator, Jay O. Sanders, brings Catch-22 to life, making the complex unstuck-in-time story flow naturally. After hearing this version, I appreciate this masterpiece of Heller's writing, and understand the characters far better than after reading the novel- they seem so convincing. I wish there was a sequel- I keep replaying sections and chuckling over the zany, ironic, and tragic moments.
The reader is excellent, the book is wonderful. I had to rewind time after time because the writing is so witty and so satirical you need to listen to certain monologues or conversations several times to get the underlying humor behind the insanity. To put a tangible comparison, this novel is like M*A*S*H but about 100 times crazier.
The only issue I had is that it is a very long reading, so you need to dedicate some time to this one. And the complicated dialogue can take it's toll on your mind after hours and hours of listening.
The book is not so much hilarious as brilliant, so if you're looking for a George Carlin style comedy, that's not it's point. The point is to capture the absurdity of war, and authority, and of being in a situation where you are at the mercy of people with conflicting and often petty goals and expectations. It is hilarious in the way it captures such absurdities, but it's not riddled with clever punchlines or slapstick or set comedy pieces. In fact, parts of it are horrifying and tragically sad, but those are elements of the absurd reality the book tries to portray. MASH was clearly modeled after this work, but the same time chose a more comedic route, so this doesn't have the yuck-yuck-yuck factor of MASH.
What it is is a very clever, surrealistic tale of a sane man trying to escape alive from a war whose only allowed escapes are through death or insanity. The setting is war, but of course the larger analogy is life itself. Yossarian wants out of the war, but the rules and the characters in charge of the war won't let him out, often for reasons with no purpose other than to advance their petty goals. By making all these goals, and all the situations in the novel, absurd, the writer makes the story about the absurdity and not about any historical or fictional purpose. The story jumps around, going back in time to explain something alluded to earlier in the narrative, so that the plot is more about explaining the reasons behind the absurd situations than about simply setting up situations and resolving them. So you have to pay attention.
It's fun and funny and revealing. It drags at parts, and the message isn't completely convincing, and at times some of it seems trite, at least within the story. Parts of it don't really add to the whole, and the ending could be a little more obvious. But it's still worth the listen.
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