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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
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Catch-22 (original 1961; edition 1994)

by Joseph Heller

Series: Catch-22 (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
27,64535336 (4.14)722
Member:atrautz
Title:Catch-22
Authors:Joseph Heller
Info:Simon & Schuster (1994), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 416 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction/Literature/Plays/Essays, Read
Rating:*****
Tags:WWII, Humor

Work details

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

  1. 446
    Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (kiwiflowa, WisePolyphemos)
  2. 186
    A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (InvisiblerMan)
  3. 70
    Closing Time by Joseph Heller (Anonymous user)
    Anonymous user: Joseph Heller's sequel to "Catch-22" set in the early 1990s.
  4. 114
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (rosylibrarian)
  5. 62
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (wvlibrarydude)
    wvlibrarydude: Satire and humor that will split your gut. Read if you want to laugh at humanity.
  6. 40
    In Pharaoh's Army: Memories of the Lost War by Tobias Wolff (paulkid)
    paulkid: Me, I think that true stories are the most absurd. For me, "In Pharaoh's Army" may not be as funny as "Catch-22", but it's close and definitely has made me consider my own serious outlook on life a little less, well, seriously. See if you agree.
  7. 106
    All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque (kittycatpurr)
  8. 52
    Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger (girlunderglass)
    girlunderglass: Both stories about war, plus Heller owes much to Salinger in terms of authorial voice (wit, vernacular language, goddamits, sense of humor)
  9. 52
    The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hašek (roby72)
  10. 31
    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (gbill)
  11. 31
    Just One Catch: A Biography of Joseph Heller by Tracy Daugherty (Imprinted)
    Imprinted: This biography includes a lengthy section on the writing and publishing of Catch-22, the tragicomic 1961 novel that originated in Heller’s experience as a World War II bombardier
  12. 20
    King Rat by James Clavell (John_Vaughan)
  13. 31
    The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts by Louis de Bernières (Pedrolina)
    Pedrolina: Both books take on the slightly surreal side to war, but with serious consequences nonetheless.
  14. 10
    And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat (ShaneTierney)
  15. 10
    The Bamboo Bed by William Eastlake (rickyrickyricky)
    rickyrickyricky: A genuine equal to Catch-22 written for the Vietnam age. Not just a cheap attempt to imitate Heller's talent-slash-luck, Eastlake may well have surpassed his masterpiece with this long-last classic. Read alongside Dispatches to maximize pleasure; then continue your newfound, inevitable addiction to all things Eastlake, because he really is that good--and he really is that inexplicably, undeservably unknown.… (more)
  16. 11
    Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (fundevogel)
  17. 11
    Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho (chrissybob)
    chrissybob: Similar views on mental health
  18. 11
    Crash Gordon and the Mysteries of Kingsburg by Derek Swannson (jasbro)
  19. 11
    War Story by Derek Robinson (Polaris-)
  20. 13
    The House of God by Samuel Shem (mcenroeucsb)

(see all 22 recommendations)

1960s (14)
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English (337)  Swedish (4)  Norwegian (2)  Danish (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Russian (1)  All languages (353)
Showing 1-5 of 337 (next | show all)
here's the balaban chewing on headset scene from the excellent movie
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrQppEXvRcM ( )
This review has been flagged by multiple users as abuse of the terms of service and is no longer displayed (show).
  lulaa | Jun 8, 2015 |
This is the most difficult fiction book I've ever had to plow through. According to GoodReads it is one of the most frequently started but unfinished books among its users. I read that the initial reviews for the book said that it would either delight you or drive you nuts, and it was definitely the latter for me.

The author illustrates the cruel absurdity of war very well, too well. Catch-22 refers to a fictional clause in Army regulations that a person can be excused from combat if he is shown to be insane; but "anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy," hence he cannot be excused.

"Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions...If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to."



In the closing chapters, which become quite dark, Catch-22 hardens into whatever the Army wants it to mean:

"Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing...'They don't have to show us Catch-22, the old woman answered. The law says they don't have to."
"What law says they don't have to?"
"Catch-22."

...

"Catch-22 did not exist, he was positive of that, but it made no difference. What did matter was that everyone thought it existed, and that was much worse for there was no object or text to ridicule or refute, to accuse, criticize, attack, amend, hate, revile, spit at, rip to shreds, trample upon, or burn up."



Many of the chapters read like an Abbott and Costello skit which becomes increasingly frustrating. The characteristics that supposedly make this book good literature are its (often) non-chronological narrative, its increasingly-revealing flashbacks that tie events together, and its bridges between seemingly unrelated chapters. The author is also quite erudite, a dictionary while reading is helpful (which is why I'm thankful for e-books).


The characters in the story are morally base and the book becomes quite in later chapters as many of them die. War profiteers cynically turn the war into a business (which profits everyone while never being able to make a profit). All of the commanding officers deal with deep insecurities while the main character, Yossarian, deals mainly with his own fear of being killed. If one counted Yossarian's sexual partners in the book he would probably approach triple digits. Tragic loss of life, rape, poverty, and destruction are stark in the closing chapters, making the reader just eager to finish it.

The characters are all contradictions in nature.

"Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains, and everyone knew it except those who soon found out...He was a very serious, very earnest and very conscientious dope."

"'It's not my business to save lives,' Doc Daneeka retorted sullenly."


My favorite chapter (20) introduces a hapless chaplain, who is hated by a jealous atheist underling for not being a great chaplain. The atheist, Corporal Whitcomb, secretly wishes to take the chaplain's position so he can improve the religious services and grow the flock.

"It was people like the chaplain, he concluded, who were responsible for giving religion such a bad name and making pariahs out of them both."


There is much cynical commentary on war and government bureaucracy, which Heller reportedly had the Korean War in mind while writing the book in the 1950s. I read Thomas Ricks' The Generals while I was reading Catch-22 and it actually helped bring home some reality of Heller's work. Working for the government, I often see the inefficiency and absurdity of bureacracy.

"Major Major's father was an outspoken champion of economy in government, provided it did not interfere with the sacred duty of government to pay farmers as much as they could get for all the alfalfa they produced that no one else wanted or for not producing any alfalfa at all."

"I've got a dead man in my tent that nobody can throw out. His name is Mudd."


I was really glad to finish this book. As I hated it so much, I cannot recommend it. Two stars. I appreciate it for what it is, but it greatly diminished my will to read "great literature." ( )
  justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
Catch-22 is simply hilarious. Heller's jokes and humor will constantly keep you laughing. Heller masterfully uses diction and syntax to create a power and humorous novel. ( )
  JReed2 | May 20, 2015 |
so....soo good. i cant believe i dropped this book awhile back. i eventually picked it back up again and my God was i glad! Just brilliant. Both hilarious and devestating at turns this is a memorable read which will both split your sides and pull the deepest of emotions from you as you start to grow attached to numerous characters presented chapter by chapter as they struggle to cope in wartime europe (Pianosa). i'll warn you though, once it's got a hook in you, you wont put it down until its done. There is a reason this book appears often on top lists for books, i would invite you to see why. ( )
  nmg1 | Mar 20, 2015 |
I don't want to fly anymore missions because I'm crazy, you're not crazy because you don't want too fly any more mission. You would be crazy if you wanted too fly more mission, that's catch 22, there's no way out. ( )
  Gatorhater | Jan 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 337 (next | show all)
"A wild, moving, shocking, hilarious, raging, exhilarating, giant roller-coaster of a book"
added by GYKM | editNew York Herald Tribune
 
"doesn't even seem to be written; instead, it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper.... what remains is a debris of sour jokes"
added by GYKM | editThe New Yorker
 
"the best novel to come out in years"
added by GYKM | editThe Nation
 
This kind of magnificent illogic whips like a mistral all through the novel, blowing both sequence and motivation into a rubble of farcical shocks and grisly surprises. Catch-22 is held together only by the inescapable fact that Joseph Heller is a superb describer of people and things... Heller's talent is impressive, but it also is undisciplined, sometimes luring him into bogs of boring repetition... but an overdose of comic non sequitur and an almost experimental formlessness are not enough to extinguish the real fire of Catch-22.
added by jjlong | editTime (Oct 27, 1961)
 
"Catch-22," by Joseph Heller, is not an entirely successful novel. It is not even a good novel by conventional standards. But there can be no doubt that it is the strangest novel yet written about the United States Air Force in World War II. Wildly original, brilliantly comic, brutally gruesome, it is a dazzling performance that will probably outrage nearly as many readers as it delights. In any case, it is one of the most startling first novels of the year and it may make its author famous.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times, Orville Prescott (pay site) (Oct 23, 1961)
 

» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Heller, Josephprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradbury, MalcolmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Buckley, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ceserani, RemoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kliphuis, J.F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lahtela, MarkkuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Packer, NeilIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szilágyi TiborTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
There was only one catch... and that was Catch-22.

This island of Pianosa lies in the Mediterranean Sea eight miles south of Elba. It is very small and obviously could not accommodate all of the actions described. Like the setting of this novel, the characters, too, are fictitious.
Dedication
To Candida Donadio, literary agent, and Robert Gottlieb, editor. Colleagues.
To my mother
and to Shirley
and my children, Erica and Ted
First words
It was love at first sight.
Quotations
They had not brains enough to be introverted and repressed.
There was only one catch, and that was Catch-22.
The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.
"Sure, that's what I mean," Doc Daneeka said. "A little grease is what makes this world go round. One hand washes the other. Know what I mean? You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours."

Yossarian knew what he meant.

"That's not what I meant," Doc Daneeka said, as Yossarian began scratching his back.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language
Book description
This is the story of Yossarian, a man trying to survive during WW2. Unable to go home because he hasnt completed enough missions he tries to get himself deemed ill which he can't do because he hasn't been sick. 

Reading books in uncomfortable situations often affect how you like and remember books. That's what happened with this book. I just got confused a lot. It was also really difficult to read on the computer for 8 straight hours. That wasn't a good plan.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684833395, Paperback)

There was a time when reading Joseph Heller's classic satire on the murderous insanity of war was nothing less than a rite of passage. Echoes of Yossarian, the wise-ass bombardier who was too smart to die but not smart enough to find a way out of his predicament, could be heard throughout the counterculture. As a result, it's impossible not to consider Catch-22 to be something of a period piece. But 40 years on, the novel's undiminished strength is its looking-glass logic. Again and again, Heller's characters demonstrate that what is commonly held to be good, is bad; what is sensible, is nonsense.

Yossarian says, "You're talking about winning the war, and I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive."
"Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which do you think is more important?"
"To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead."
"I can't think of another attitude that could be depended upon to give greater comfort to the enemy."
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on."
Mirabile dictu, the book holds up post-Reagan, post-Gulf War. It's a good thing, too. As long as there's a military, that engine of lethal authority, Catch-22 will shine as a handbook for smart-alecky pacifists. It's an utterly serious and sad, but damn funny book.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:09 -0400)

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The story of a group of fliers in the Mediterranean during World War II, and their struggles with the psychological stresses of combat and military life.

(summary from another edition)

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