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Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition Paperback – April 5, 2011
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"Catch-22 is the only war novel I've ever read that makes any sense." —Harper Lee
“One of the most bitterly funny works in the language . . . Explosive, bitter, subversive, brilliant.” —The New Republic
“To my mind, there have been two great American novels in the past fifty years. Catch-22 is one.” —Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly
“This novel is not merely the best American novel to come out of World War II, it is the best American novel that has come out of anywhere in years.” —Nelson Algren, The Nation
“It’s the rock and roll of novels . . . There’s no book like it. . . . Surprisingly powerful.” —Norman Mailer, Esquire
“One of the greatest anti-war books ever written.” —Vanity Fair
About the Author
Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. In 1961, he published Catch-22, which became a bestseller and, in 1970, a film. He went on to write such novels as Good as Gold, God Knows, Picture This, Closing Time, and Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man. Heller died in 1999.
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It rose above the realistic novels written immediately after the Second World War. It rose above Mailer and Jones and Shaw. When asked why he’d never written another book like Catch 22, Heller’s answer was “Who has?” Of course he was right. A couple of the great wave of novels that followed the Second World War stand shoulder to shoulder with the catch; Slaughter House Five and Gunter Grass’s Dog Years come to my mind. Lots of very good novels came out of the war, first novels from writers like Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer, Irwin Shaw and James Jones, Thomas Heggens, who won a Tony for the stage version of his novel, Mr. Roberts, James Gould Cozzens, who won a Pulitzer for Guard of Honor. None of those good books compare. Catch 22 entered the language. For a few years the blue paperback with the dancing soldier puppet was everywhere.
Yossarian, the novel’s hero, spends the novel trying not to die in the war. A difficult job, since his colonel raises the number of missions he must fly from twenty-five to seventy, in an attempt to impress the Saturday Evening Post. Since I last read this I served in the army, where sooner or later everybody winds up working for Colonel Cathcart. I’m thinking that besides its anarchic appeal for youth, there were at that time millions of Veterans many of whom shared it’s cynicism about the organizations they worked for.
If you’ve never read it, you’ve missed a great read. If you read it a long time ago It might be time to enjoy it again. I suspect you’ll still laugh whenever Heller tells you to. And like love at first sight it will probably still break your heart.
But this novel is definitely not for the younger audience out there. It contains a significant amount of prostitution and some rape, with lots and LOTS of graphic detail in both ways (but most detail during bloody scenes, not much sexual details).
Anyways, this novel is a classic and will forever stay in my heart as one of the most influential stories I have ever read.
The absurdity and corruption of the military expressed in Catch is not a myth. It is written to put a humorous twist on it, and should appreciated for what it is. If you are a veteran, of which I am (1969-1979), you will read a passage and say "I knew a guy like that", or "How true, I remember such and such happened like that". At the time most of it didn't seem so funny, but with the passage of years... I was brought back to Catch by a conversation I was having by one of my team mates not long ago. He bought a copy for his son, who was just discharged. He could hear his son laughing as he was reading it. His son told him he should read it again. After that he asked me how long had it been since I read it. It had been some time. Discovering that I no longer had a readable copy, I ordered it. It was worth the journey. This is one book you should read.