2010: 42. Catch-22

“It was love at first sight.

The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”

Catch-22, Joseph Heller

       Oh, Catch-22 and I had an up-and-down love affair.  At first I appreciated it, for it’s depiction of the lunacy of war (very reminiscent of Altman’s MASH, in some ways).  Then, I got tired - I’d read a hundred pages, and thought, well, I get it, war is hell, the army is a lunatic asylum, and only Yossarian can see the forest for the trees.  I wondered, is this all there is? But, by the end it was true love - I started to see that the repetition of the ridiculous terror of war was being repeated in the text itself, and found myself drawn in past the satire to the real characters (easier said than done, with a character called Major Major), and found myself engrossed.  

     The thing is, I’m never going to love war books (at least not this kind - I’m always a sucker for Western Front), or satires, really, either (so shoot, me but I like my characters to have more emotional resonance).  And no matter how bad and stupid the army life was for the characters, part of my brain can’t help but think of the Nazis, and realize that the cause wasn’t quite as futile as Heller makes it out to be.  But as reader who is, in all probability, never going to be a solider, I found that the book made me understand an emotion about solidering that other books don’t talk about - the sheer idiocy of it all.  And I liked the quote below, which I think summed up the whole thing quite perfectly. 


pg. 136 (of the 1969 Corgi Books edition)*

“The enemy,” retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, “is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart.  And don’t you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live.”


* Fancy, right? You should see the cover. 


Date/Place Completed:  May 2010; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Modern Library Top 10

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017