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This is the story of Captain Yossarian, who is serving in World War II as a navigator on a bomber based in Italy. Yossarian is caught in a “Catch-22” where he wants to be grounded, but he can only get out of flying more missions if he’s crazy, but if he was crazy, he wouldn’t mind flying missions.
The book really skips around, so that you’re never quite sure whether you’re reading something that happened in the past, or if the story has now moved forward from the beginning point. But it’s not really confusing, it all does make some sort of sense in the end. Don’t let the whole “World War II bomber” thing mislead you. The book is generally one big farce, that, to me, has an underlying theme about the absurdity of war.
I read this when I was a senior in high school. I remember enjoying it then, and I enjoyed it this time. It was a little bit of a different experience this time around. The first time I had no idea what to expect, so the humor was generally more humorous and the suddenly serious parts were definitely more of a slap in the face. This time, I have a few more years on me, so I can appreciate the frustration of bureaucracies and “superiors” who don’t have any idea what they’re doing. And, knowing what it was that broke Yossarian gave everything a little bit of a different feel.
There was one part that just went on too long. It moved past funny and got into tiresome.
Other than that, I just loved it.
Reviewed December 6, 2007 and slightly revised September 24, 2010
According to the American Library Association website, Catch-22 was “banned in Strongsville, OH (1972), but the school board’s action was overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District. Challenged at the Dallas, TX Independent School District high school libraries (1974); in Snoqualmie, WA (1979) because of its several references to women as ‘whores.'”
Okay, that was a while ago, but I can’t imagine that people have changed that much. Do I object to the word whore? Yes. Do people say it? Yes. I’m guessing that soldiers in WWII probably threw it around pretty easily.
You can’t sugarcoat people and still try to make the point that Heller was making with this book. He needed to put us in the war with his characters, and to do that he needed to reflect their experiences. He was a WWII vet himself, so he knew what he was writing about.
Life isn’t always pretty and politically correct, and our books have to reflect that sometimes.