Friday Favorites: Catch-22

Friday, May 14, 2010

Before I read Catch-22 I thought it would be a serious book about war. I imagined scenes like those from For Whom the Bell Tolls, tragic heroes sacrificing their lives for the cause and such. Then I actually read it and it was beyond hilarious.

The World War II book is a satire and unlike any other "war" book I've read. The sense of humor is dry and sarcastic, think Monty Python. There are a few Abbott and Costello style bits that left me in stitches. The main character, Yossarian, is desperately trying to find a way to leave the service and go home. This is much more difficult than it sounds and he runs into more than one ridiculous obstacle.

Constant contradictions run through the whole book, intentionally infusing it with a sense of insanity, but the reader is in on the joke. Characters like Major Major Major Major (both his rank and his first, middle and last name) fuel the confusion.

Though the book is full of side-splitting laughs, it also makes an important point about the absurdity of war. Somehow it manages to do this with humor instead of heartbreak. Don't get me wrong, there is a tragic element when you think about how desperate some of the soldiers are to get home. It's also horrible to think about what they see when they are at war and how that affects them.

In my opinion, this is a must read for anyone, especially if you love a good laugh.

I've heard Heller wrote a sequel, Closing Time, to this classic, but I'm nervous I won't like it as much. Has anyone else read it?


Shelley said...

I need to give this one another try. I love dry humor and sarcasm, but the last time I tried to read it the first few pages didn't make sense to me. I usually give books more of chance, but I think I was busy at the time and wanted something easier!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

It can be a bit confusing, but once I got used to the style I love it.

Lilly said...

I'm just glad you are bring back the phrase "left me in stitches"! :)

Jenners said...

My dad had me read this when I was about 13 or so ... I thought it was hilarious but I suspect I didn't "get" everything. I'm going to reread it sometime soon to honor his memory and revisit it as an adult. I still remember the "Major Major Major Major" naming scene ... classic!

And as my father told me then: Everyone should be a little to a lot like Yossarian.