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Review: Catch 22

For various reasons (hectic schedule, birthday weekend, fleeting interest in the book, ect) this book has taken me forever to read.  I’m considering finishing it today as one of my biggest achievements this summer.  And in so many ways, it has been quite an achievement.  For me Catch-22 is one of those books that I have been meaning to read FOREVER!  My father lists it as one of his favorite books and even entrusted me with his super old, lightly worn copy (he takes tedious care of all his books so they are like hidden treasures in the back of my garage).  Then I temporarily joined a book club that had this listed as the first book assignment – I failed there too.  But after all my trials with this book, I persevered this time and finished it once and for all.  Because although enjoyable at times, this is not a book I plan to read EVER again.

Catch-22 is a difficult book to describe because for a while absolutely nothing makes sense.  The book just seemed like a collection of outrageous things that could never actually happen in real life.  The main character, Yossarian, is a bombardier, who is attempting to scheme his way out of  serving in the war.  He schemes, lies, and cheats as he witnesses constant atrocities and tries to escape becoming the victim instead of just a witness.  Every time he approaches flying the required number of missions, Colonel Cathcart raises them. Many people ask when this book is mentioned, what is a Catch-22?  Finally I have an answer in the form of a very confusing example” “a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.”  So readers are witness to Yossarian as he is caught in the impossible Catch-22 – unable to leave his insane and at times hilarious position despite all his attempts to seem crazier than he already is!

The book is hilarious at times – it paints very vivid pictures of super outrageous situations.  I found myself frequently literally laughing out loud.  Still, the book can be extremely difficult to follow at times.  There are so many characters that I had to take notes to keep everyone straight in my head.  Also, because I don’t know much about war or the military, I found myself lost at times.  Still, the book is extremely vivd, and many of the characters/scenes will undoubtedly stay with you.  For example: Milo, operator of the mess hall, quickly became one of my favorite characters.  Because of his ability to buy and sell things cheap he becomes famous in Italy.  Also, Milo brings up the question: how far is too far?  He operates on the tagline “What’s good for M&M (his made up company) is good for the country” and uses that line to justify everythign he does – even bombing his own men.

Altogether, the book can be a struggle to finish, but it is still a worthwhile read.  I know that many people have read it and absolutely adored the humor and the characters that Heller creates.  Nonetheless, much of it went completely over my head.  I felt like the characters frequently talked in circles without ever really getting anywhere.  This made the book longer than it really needed to be (at least, in my opinion).  I frequently put the book down in frustration because I just wanted to know WHAT IS GOING ON?!!  Still, I found the end to be satisfying and for some that might be its saving grace.  So beware with this one, I think its a hit or miss for most people.  I hope that if you decide to pick it up, it will be a hit for you!

Overall rating: C+

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