Monday, June 15, 2009

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

I fully expected to enjoy this book, especially after reading Christopher's positive review of it a while back. But for the most part, I did not enjoy reading Catch-22. Every time I put it down, I had to force myself to pick it back up. It has been a couple of weeks since I finished this book, and in that time I have been unable to figure out what I disliked about it. "Dislike" may actually be a little strong. I just was rather uninterested in Catch-22. I was told by a number of people that the book got better toward the end. That, and the fact that I don't like not finishing a book once I have started it, kept me reading til the end.

I think my problems may have been with Heller's writing style. I found his style a little clunky and difficult to read easily, but not in a this-guy-is-a-genius way, like Nabokov or Dostoevsky. I don't want to paint too negative of a picture here. Catch-22 definitely had its absurdly comical moments. I laughed out loud at some of the dialogue.

While there are a large number of integral characters in the book, the story really focuses on Captain Yossarian, an American bombardier stationed someone in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II. The very basic plot of the book is that Yossarian wants to go home. Every time he gets close to his quota of missions, Colonel Cathcart raises the number of missions his men must fly. Yossarian tries to get himself grounded in increasingly crazier ways. Through Yossarian and the litany of supporting characters, Heller satirizes the military and war, highlighting the general absurdity of both.

As I was told, the last 50 or so pages did manage to improve on what came before them. The ending recast earlier parts and brought some of the more disparate pieces of the story together in sharper focus.


Amanda said...

I'm sorry you didn't like it. This is one of my favorite books, and I've reread it several times.

Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

Ha Amanda I re read it several times because it took me about 5 times to actually finish. i know what you mean by his writing style. If only the whole book could be like the first 20 pages.

hamilcar barca said...

it's 20 pages of hilarious (without obnoxious) satire. then 300 pages of repeating that wit. then 100 pages of things finally happening. then an awkward, clunky ending.

but for its time, it was ground-breaking.

Amanda said...

I didn't find that way at all. I thought it got funnier and funnier, until the comedy collapsed on itself into tragedy and made me feel almost sick...I just thought it was perfect.

Carlton Farmer said...

I agree that the comedy collapsed into tragedy (good way of putting it). I liked the beginning and the end, just got kind of bogged down in the middle.

Jon Avery said...

Wow, I just finished this book last week and I thought it was one of the funniest books I had read in a great while.