Catch-22 - Joseph HellerUsually with these top selling books, I find them really easy to read. I may not agree with the portrayal of women, or blacks, or whatever, but I do get caught up in the story and read them all the way through without much issue. Even Catcher in the Rye, which I found a bit tedious, I did finish up pretty quickly.
And Then Came Catch-22.
I swear it took me a MONTH to get through this book because I kept putting it down, annoyed. I would pick it up again to try to force myself to get through it, and I'd put it down again. The story drove me completely insane. I tried to put together just what it was about it that annoyed me so much. I really enjoy oddball stories, I really enjoy war stories. I love watching war movies too. I loved M*A*S*H. So the whole notion of people during a war doing odd things appeals to me. I would have thought this book would be perfect for me. Why did I have such a problem with it? Let's see.
Yossarian, the main character, is sick of being in the war. He wants to quit, because the number of missions his group has to run before they can go home keeps increasing. However, you can only be let go if you're crazy. If you say you want to leave, then they feel you're sane, so you stay. That is a "Catch-22" - a circular situation from which there is no escape. This exact same mindset is in EVERY corner of this story. There are all sorts of absurd black market rings going on. There are leaders who hide in their offices and never want to be talked to. There are people forging letters and people editing other peoples letters. There are people who want to die who live, and people who want to live who die. There are people who randomly want to kill other people for the wrong reasons. Some want to kill other people for the right reasons.
The aim of the story is of course that "war is insane" and "people are insane" and the characters are all exaggerated to make this point. However, things in the story are exaggerated so much that they simply go beyond the realm of meaningful. Yes, I got the point on the Catch-22 the first time. And the second time. But by the 20th time, I'm like "Enough Already". Yes, I got the kooky characters ideas. They were cute the first 10 times. But they got to be redundant and boring. I really lost complete interest in what happened next to the characters, because they were all one dimensional cardboard cut-outs.
Maybe it's because I *had* read so many war novels and seen so many war movies that made these points with great eloquence and meaning. To have a novel that droned on and on and on about it without having any characters that I cared about seemed to be more a labor than an enjoyment. Maybe I was in my own Catch-22. I really wanted to finish this book so that I could write up its meaning and move on to the next one. But there was no meaning to write up and reading the book sucked. So I put it down. But then I had to pick it up again because I wanted to finish it before I moved on to the next book. But it sucked. That isn't as much a Catch-22 as it is self torment, I suppose. I always had the choice to just send the book to my library donation pile and write a review saying "couldn't finish it". But in the end, I did finish it, and I didn't feel enlightened by my efforts. I felt like I wasted a ton of time that could have been better spent. But now, at least, if someone asks me if I've read Catch-22, I can say "yes". I don't know if that was really worth the time :)
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