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Catch-22 ()

The Hungry Mind Review's 100 Best 20th Century Books

Captain John Yossarian is a bombardier for the 256th Squadron, stationed on the island of Pianosa in the Mediterranean. He's sick of having people try to kill him. He 's finally realized that anyone willing to fly into the face of enemy fire must be crazy, so he wants to go home, but there's a catch:

    There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own
    safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.
    'That's some catch, that Catch-22, he (Yossarian) observed. 'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka

And so he's stuck flying more missions (and ever more as the number of missions required keeps getting increased.)

Serving alongside him in the 256th are:

Col. Cathcart--who continually volunteers his men for the most dangerous missions.

Doc Daneeka--who's outraged that his draft board would not take his word as a
doctor that he was 4-F.

Chief White Halfoat--who is out to revenge himself on the white man.

Captain Flume--who lives in constant fear that his tentmate, the Chief, will slit his throat.

Major Major Major Major--"Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three"

Hungry Joe--who has a recurring nightmare that one night a cat will sleep on his face & suffocate him.

& Milo Minderbender & Nately & Nately's whore & Nately's whore's little sister & so on.

One of the funniest novels ever written, it earns a high rank on this list because of its more serious message. It is at heart an antibureaucratic polemic. While the specific target is the military, the attack is

It is especially interesting that this is a novel of World War II. One of the more vacuous tribal drums that is beating beneath today's culture is for the cult of the Depression/WWII generation, or as Tom Brokaw's book call them, the Greatest Generation (see Orrin's review). There's this quaint myth that somehow the folks who lived through the Depression and fought in WWII were an especially selfless or patriotic crew. They certainly look good in comparison to the wholly self-centered Baby Boomers, but books like this and the works of James Jones & Kurt Vonnegut offer a welcome antidote to the notion that they marched happily off to a war to save the world without a thought for themselves.


Grade: (A)


Joseph Heller Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Joseph Heller
-ESSAY: Joseph Heller at 100 (John Griswold, MAY 2, 2023, Common Reader)
    -ESSAY: Borough of Writers: Joseph Heller (Brad Lockwood, 03-07-2008, BROOKLYN EAGLE)
    -ESSAY: Seeing Catch-22 Twice (Ron Rosenbaum, 8/2/2011, Slate)
    -REVIEW: of Catch-22 (Orville Prescott, The New York Times, October 23, 1961)


-VIDEO: Larry Karaszewski on CATCH 22 (Trailers from Hell)

Book-related and General Links:
-Joseph Heller Archive
    -A Conversation with Joseph Heller  . . . author of Now and Then (Random House)
    -INTERVIEW: (Book Ends)
    -ESSAY: Looking Back at "Catch-22":  Celebrants of the late Joseph Heller, and of his brilliant comic novel, remain determined to sanitize its message ( Norman Podhoretz , Commentary)
    -Essay: Deadly Unconscious Logics in Catch-22 by Robert M. Young
     -REVIEW: of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller The Logic of Survival in a Lunatic World (ROBERT BRUSTEIN, New Republic)
    -REVIEW : of Now and Then: A Memoir from Coney Island to Here by Joseph Heller (Ian Hamilton, booksonline uk)
    -REVIEW : of Portrait of an Artist, as an Old Man by Joseph Heller (Lewis Jones, booksonline uk)

Other recommended books by Joseph Heller:
    -God Knows
    -Picture This

If you liked Catch-22, try:

Cozzens, James Gould
    -Guard of Honor

Jones, James
    -From Here to Eternity   (Read Orrin's review, Grade: A+)

Kesey, Ken
    -One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest   (Read Orrin's review, Grade: A+)

Kosinski, Jerzy
    -Being There

McKenna, Richard
    -The Sand Pebbles

O'Brien, Tim
    -Going After Cacciato

Orwell, George
    -1984(Read Orrin's review, Grade: A+)

Pearce, Don
    -Cool Hand Luke

Vonnegut, Kurt

Waugh, Evelyn

Wouk, Herman
    -The Caine Mutiny