Joseph Heller

 

Catch 22

 

This didnít live up to my hopes re-reading it twenty years on from the first time Ė but thatís not too surprising given how I relished it then. I suppose much of the pleasure was in how much it shocked and stung Ė something itís not going to do twice. Itís hardly a book that needs any more discussion, so this is more just logging my response. Catch 22 was a wonderful foil to the stiff-upper lip jingoism of so much war literature and cinema, and Heller hilariously pilloried the dubious and at times absurd morality of the military. However this isnít just for laughs Ė weíre not talking Hoganís Heroes farce or McHaleís Navy peacetime shenanigans Ė the humour is as black as it comes. Just as youíre wetting yourself laughing at something ridiculous part of you realises this is too close to reality, and the guys falling down dead arenít just cartoons.

 

This book just overflows with manic wit while managing to powerfully confront some big establishment issues. Unfortunately the next book I tracked down of Hellerís, Something Happened, was just an embittered humourless mess. Somehow the same apparent lack of discipline enhances Catch 22.

 

A tricky thing these days, but may you come to this wonderful book without any prior knowledge or expectations.

 

November 2007