89 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on October 12, 2000
I read Joseph Heller's CATCH-22 on a rainy day, with nothing to do but gaze at the novels my father had collected over the years. Plunging in to avert crushing boredom, I discovered what all readers before me have, the absolute brilliance of it. CATCH-22 is one of the finest war novels I have read, surpassing even M*A*S*H* and THE SHORT-TIMERS in its audacious mix of humour, horror, and insanity. I also was overwhelmed by the fact that this was Heller's first novel. When I completed it, I rushed to a second-hand bookstore to buy CLOSING TIME. I had become such an instant fan of Heller's work, that it never crossed my mind that some things are better left alone.
Why, oh why, did Heller pen CLOSING TIME? CATCH-22 did not need a continuation. It was lightning in a bottle, a once-in-a-lifetime event that could never be repeated. But Heller, late in his career, decided, for better or for worse, that Yossarian and Milo Minderbinder had lives worth examining yet again.
The plot begins with Yossarian (whom I desperately wanted to meet after finishing CATCH-22) in a hospital, now older, still bitter, but unfortunately, not funny. As the labyrinth storyline progresses, Yossarian bumps up against a plethora of eccentric characters, both old friends and new enemies. There's the Chaplain (who can produce heavy water from his bowels), a president addicted to videogames, a bizarre wedding coordinator with dreams of the ideal society wedding within a decrepit bus station, and Milo, the schemer extrordinaire, now trying to sell invisible bombers to clueless generals. All this, plus a subplot in an underground playworld that may or may not be Hell.
Why doesn't this work? Part of the problem, I believe, is that CATCH-22 had a genuinely insane setting in which to place its insane characters. The comparison of war with mental imbalance may not be new, but CATCH-22 made it fresh and invigorating. CLOSING TIME finds Heller without such a setting, frantically trying to create insanity where there was none before. It's not enough to simply show nutty people; they need a context in which they can flourish. CLOSING TIME doesn't provide them with one.
Is it fair to keep comparing CLOSING TIME to CATCH-22? Probably not, but Heller invites the comparison. Reading CLOSING TIME is akin to attending your high school reunion. You meet all the people you once knew and loved, but despite your being glad to see them, you leave in a sonewhat depressed state. You've grown up, but they haven't. They were fun in school, but in the real world, you can't wait for them to leave you alone.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 1999
Judging from the reviews on this page, it seems to me like most (but not all) of the negative reviews are from people who were merely expecting more Catch-22. Some comment that Closing Time has nothing to do with Catch-22, some that it is merely a poor rehashing of the material from Heller's earlier work, thus implying that the content is effectively similar, albeit inferior. I suppose I'm lucky not to be a Novel Nerd, because it seemed to me that Closing Time does an excellant job of what Heller set out to do: show us the effects of time, age, and society on young people with strong ideals and direction. The meandering reminicences of Yossarian and the others are not shoddily constructed prose, they are the sounds of old men trying to put their past into the context of what their present has become, and vice-versa.
If I could offer any constructive negative critism of this book, it would be that the surreal juxtaposition of concrete life, the military, and Hell seemed somewhat ill-defined, and as a result Heller's conclusion to the novel lacks some of the conviction that it could have had.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 1998
It could be argued that in embarking on writing a sequel to "Catch 22" was indeed the ultimate Catch 22 itself. Unless "Closing Time" proved to be an absolute classic, a wonderful funny-sad commentry on contemporary life, then it would pale in comparison with it's predesessor. Make it too similar, of course, and the author is open to charges that he is merely retreading old ground. Heller waited 25 years to write this sequel, and sets some of the characters introduced in "Catch 22" in modern life. More than forty years after the War, Yossarian remains as abrasive and dissatisfied as ever in his old age. Milo remains the entrepreneur of his earlier life. Both these characters have made successes of themselves in the business world. "Closing Time" attachs the absurdities of the contemporary business world in the same way as "Catch 22" attachs the absurdities and attrocities of war. Milo's new idea is to sell a stealth bomber type aircraft to the American military, and he employs Yossarian and his son, Michael, to help him sell the plane to the military. Yossarian has the ear of the "little p***k", the American President, who is obsessed with video games. Yossarian also has the plan of holding a massively expensive and gaudy wedding ceremony in a bus shelter. When exploring this possibility he finds a network of tunnels beneath the ground, where officials are safe from nuclear war, and dead people live with their wealth.The characters of Yossarian and Milo remain as good points in this book. Yossarian has the feel of a "dirty old man" in some of his sexual flirtings, and has certainly grown old disgracefully. He does however show a devotion to his son Michael. Yossarian still shows that biting wit at times, especially when dealing with the private detective that has bugged his telephone, and in conversations with his son Michael over what he is going to do with his life. Milo's dodgy dealings remain as fun as ever, attempting to sell a plane he has no intention of building. Mingling with these are passages from other old characters Sammy and Lew, which bring a note of seriousness in comparison with the decadent lifestyle led by the other two. It remains strange to see Yossarian in such circumstances as in this book. "Catch 22" is a difficult if impossible book to follow up, and the only way to really read this is to totally detach that book. If you do not expect another "Catch 22" you will still enjoy the updated exploits of Yossarian and friends.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2007
I am a big Heller fan who has read most of his work and enjoyed almost every minute of it, but Closing Time was just a painful read.
The book is basically nothing more than a sub-par Catch-22. Heller attempts to catch some of the old magic, but Yossarian as a disappointed geriatric made me want to cry. I would much rather have kept Yossarian sitting naked in a tree inside of my imagination rather than ever see him as a feeble old man. I compare seeing him as a vulnerable old man to the feeling I had when, as a kid, I figured out my dad couldn't beat up everyone else's dad. I didn't want to see my dad as a mortal man nor did I want to see my favorite literary character as a mortal either.
Other than the disappointment of seeing my favorite characters as old timers, the book tries to read like its predecessor but falls very short. The humor is the same but the jokes have become as old and tired as the characters. Catch-22 had me rolling on the floor one minute and then crying a few minutes later, but this book had a few smirks and no tear jerkers. The conversation about where the water went (if you read the book you know what I am talking about) was a brief, shining moment among many lusterless ones.
I would advise anybody who is as big a fan of Catch-22 as I am not to even read this book, even if you get a free copy. I wish I hadn't. The image you want in your mind is Orr paddling away to freedom and Yossarian flying off into the sunset on his trail, but if you read this book that image will be gone forever.
Review from a huge fan of Catch-22 telling other fans do not read this book for your own good.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2000
I loved Catch-22, but I should have known better than to hold high expectations for Closing Time when i found it on sale for a few dollars. I plowed my way through most of this just to see how it ended, reading it was a painful experience, however, so I just ended up flipping to the last 2 pages. Heller seems to be trying too hard to mimic the style of Catch-22 and the result was as if he had strewn the work with exclamation marks, bold font, and bawdy pictures. There was nothing refreshing, entertaining, or rewarding in this book. Just utter redundancy and rehashing. For the sake of full disclosure, I love Kurt Vonnegut's stuff as well and it took me 6 or 7 novels but I did notice a bit of the same effect. Please, stay away from this, read or reread Catch-22 and don't let your opinion of Heller suffer the way mine has.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 1999
It is almost funny that this would be described as a sequel toCatch-22, when it is not a sequel at all. It seems to me that Hellermerely took a few of the characters from Catch-22 and dropped them into another story. Does that make it a sequel? No, there is irony in the fact that he stole characters from everything he felt like. Death in Venice, or Dr. Strangelove, and Kurt Vonnegut himself, because I think Heller is making a comment on all of us, not on the characters. Has anyone noticed besides myself that the Chaplain's name is different in the two books? The modern world is obsessed with profiting from others' work. It is a satire, people. A satire takes a situation, and sends it spiraling out of control. Hell under New York? Or is New York Hell? The Little Pr**k? And the fact that characters can exist in their own realm of logic, and force the world to work around them...Not a traditional narrative, a satire. He even put himself in the book. Steal from whatever you want, as long as it makes a profit. Evidence, you ask? Ever listen to a word from Milo's mouth? Cheer up, all of you disapointed Catch-22 fans. Joey Heller is leading you down a path, and the more you recognize it, them more you will enjoy it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2011
Closing Time is as hilarious and imaginative as Catch-22 and Good as Gold, two other stories by Heller that I've read.
I love the allusions to Dante's Inferno--that scene is rich with metaphor, the people on the steps/tunnel on one side of the door, separated from the good and the bad, the door between. And later on, the wires hanging separated, connections broken.
The story is chock-full of allusions to other art, written, performed, and painted. One need not be fluent in allusion to appreciate the story.
Many of the characters from Catch-22 are present and accounted for. There's a scene with ex-pfc Wintergreen and another...the name of which I've forgotten, Milo perhaps...that is truly hilarious. Profanity is employed.
As I was reading it, I had to stifle my laughter, as the wife was nearby and rather than try to explain "honey! what are you laughing at" by interrupting my read by handing her the amazon kindle (this tool is a treasure) so she could read it herself (can you imagine the jokes that are coming? like the remote?)...where was I?
But so...and but it was easier to try not laughing (not easy) than to interrupt my reading of the story...the offset is that I had to take numerous breaks to wipe the small screen. Oops.
This story is way-under-appreciated.
And it is well-worth a reread, given time.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 1996
Please tell me that this book wasn't seriously called
"The Sequel to Catch-22." It was? WHY?
Something should have clued me into the fact that this wasn't
quite up to the standards, elusive as they were, of the
original dark comedy masterpiece. Maybe I should have recognized the
marketing strategies: make the cover look like Catch-22, and people
will think the content is like Catch-22; and put Joe Heller's piture on the
back cover, people might recognize him.
Perhaps it's age, perhaps it's the passage of time,
perhaps it's just the 90's -- but Closing Time just didn't have that magical spark:
Yossarian and several other characters from Catch-22, as well
as several new additions, have survived WWII, the hippie 60's,
the disco 70's, and the punk/yuppie 80's (none of these decades were mentioned in
much detail, if at all) to become the aging, soon-to-be-retirees of the 90's. No, let me rephrase: they didn't
just survive, they prospered. Yossarian is rich for what appears
to be no good reason, and Milo and his son own half the world. Conceivable? Maybe. And maybe that's the problem:
it's *just* believable, and not quite absurd enough to be life.
Now, I know this is supposed to be yet another reflection on
today's society and values, but somehow, it just isn't quite as
compelling as when Yossarian and his buddies were at war with
The fact that it's also poorly written doesn't help any, either:
characters that might have been forgotten since the last time you read Catch-22 are mentioned with a
few helper hints, i.e.: Kid Sampson, the poor guy who was
sliced in half... That's all good and fine, but mention the same thing
using the exact same wording three times over the course of two chapters, and one is reminded of
senile seniors reminding themselves of events and people that
only they themselves have forgotten -- and Yossarian is nowhere
near that old or that senile. And we readers are nowhere near that forgetful.
Perhaps it's just that I'm living in the
same era that Heller is describing in Closing Time -- I have no
comfortable distance from which to judge things. But as a whole,
this book came off as an odd jumble of nostalgic remeniscences about boyhood and teenage days,
bitter gripes and grumblings about the state of the world today (particularly
New York City and the US Presidency -- more pointedly, the Vice Presidency), refractions and reflections of
death (so much that the poignancy is lost), and ineffectual attempts at
humor, usually at the expense of some female character or other.
Catch-22 needed no sequel, and I hope I can go back and read it
again someday without feeling somehow tainted. Perhaps if Orr hadn't disappeared...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2001
Closing Time, the sequel to Catch 22, was a great book. The only other Heller I have ever read is Catch-22. Closing Time is just as funny. Yossarian is in his 60s and is still as vain, virile and crazy about women. Of course, Milo is in it too, just as stupid, enterprising and successful as ever. Heller continues to satirize machoism, bringing characters from his boyhood Coney Island days into the mix. He hilariously sets up a grand, gaudy wedding at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, caricaturing American materialism. Similarly, the owner of Coney Island symbolizes commercialism's ruling the country. People go up and down, round and round, ending up no further than they ever had been, having emptied their pockets at the amusement park.
An older 1990's Heller is surprisingly up with the times. His take on New York City is absolutely hilarious. He lampoons everything from NYC's scarcity of restrooms to 13 year-old male prostitutes in his hilarious, strangely affecting way. Of course a sequel could never match Catch-22, given all its originality, hilarity and relevance. However, in a few ways Closing Time is even better. Heller is not just limited to criticizing the army or war or upper-echelon elitism. Here he has an entire 1990's Clinton America to stomp on. Weaponed with such an excessive society, Closing Time lacks the monotony that Catch-22 was sometimes criticized for. Also, societal issues are less immediately traumatic like those of war. So, Closing Time carries a more relaxed tone than the often biting tone of Catch-22.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2011
This is billed as the sequel to Catch 22, but even though it contains a few of the characters from the 1961 novel this is a stand alone event.
It is really two stories, one concerning the later stages of the life of John Yossarian and the other the adolescent to late middle age story of Sammy Singer and Lew Rabinowitz. The latter two grew up together in Coney Island, went to war together, with Singer a gunner on Yossarian's bomber hence there is this tenuous link to Catch 22 throughout this.
It basically concerns the characters getting ready to die as they are all approaching the end of their lives. It deals with ,as Heller sees it, the decline in the America he knew growing up. His view is very cynical but we still have the trade mark humour which can make you laugh out loud at the absurdities of the politics and the greed and hypocrisy of American life, or anywhere for that matter.
It wanders off into sections of fantasy at times and I feel owes a lot to Slaughterhouse 5, particularly with the fantasy sections,Vonnegut actually makes an appearance in the novel.