Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Catch 22

When just recently I completed this thing about books I had read I said I had read Catch 22 and that was true, but I had struggled to read it. In fact I had struggled more than once. I know several people who tell me this is the best book ever written and it made me feel a bit stupid having to admit that I had never quite got its greatness. Anyway, doing that list prompted me to read it again and hooray! This time I really did appreciate it and understood nearly all of it…though I will never ever understand the maths which meant that Milo could buy eggs in Malta for 7 cents apiece and sell them for five cents and yet still make a profit on them. I must have read that passage in the book a dozen times and still don’t get it. (Capitalism is never a concept I can get my head around. Short selling of shares for example.… WTF? )

Back to Catch 22 and I loved the piece where Colonel Cathcart is looking to the chaplain to provide a prayer to offer up before the flying missions. “I don’t want anything heavy or sad. I’d like you to keep it light and snappy, something that will send the boys out feeling pretty good. I don’t want any of this Kingdom of God or Valley of Death stuff. That’s all too negative. ……. I’d like to keep away from the subject of religion altogether if we can.” The exchange concludes with the chaplain saying “I’m sorry, sir, but just about all the prayers I know are rather sombre in tone and make at least some passing reference to God. “

But the last word here has to be given to Yossarian. The psychiatrist tells him “You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you’re at war and might get your head blown off any second.” Yossarian replies “I more than resent it, sir. I’m absolutely incensed.”

P.S. I have been trying to think what that last line reminded me of and I have finally realised. It seems that some writer for Not the Nine O'Clock News may at one time have read Catch 22.


Polgara said...

I was the same with Lord of the Rings, finally forced myself to attempt it for the second time and didnt really see what all the fuss was about.
I've read quite a lot of that genre and absolutley loved the hobbit but still dont rate Lord of the Rings even though it is a classic.....
Pol x

Karen said...

I'm a bit put off by reading it as people often go on about how fantastic it is. I'm also daunted as it's long and I think it will be heavy going. I still want to give it a try though.

Fire Byrd said...

Ah, right I have the answer.... I'll give you all the names of the books on that list I haven't read. You then read them and write a synopsis and I'll pretend I'm well read.... YAY!

Jay said...

I've struggled with Catch 22 as well... there are one or two good parts, and good quotes from the movie - which I have seen and also didn't rate. I do occasionally yell 'Help the bombadier!!' though.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

In my humble view "Catch 22" is over-rated. The central idea embodied in the title was cleverly trapped in the amber of Heller's imagination. It's a while since I read it and I don't feel like revisiting it but I know what you mean - it's meant to be one of those books that speaks loudly to us, cool, perceptive, slightly life-changing.

Reidski said...

Funniest book I've ever read - it's a classic!

J.J said...

I haven't read any of Tolkein, Polgara. Now I have seen the films I guess I will use that time to read other stuff instead.

Karen - with me I found the first few chapters hard going as every other sentence seems to end up contradicting the way it began - but then the penny kind of dropped and I suppose I got the hang of it. Would honestly say it is well worth a go...hilarious in places but very sad as well.

Pixie - OK! With the one proviso that you have already read Ulysses as I don't think I could ever manage that one!

Jay - I haven't seen the film either. I can't relaly see how a film would work but will look out for it now.

YP - I don't know about life changing. Maybe if I had read it with clearer understanding when I was younger it would have been but I now already have the cynicism it may otherwise have provoked.

Reidski - laugh out loud funny in parts.

Karen said...

"Reidski - laugh out loud funny in parts" - is that a comment on the man or the book?!

Darren said...

Great book. Read it as a young teen, didn't really understand a lot of it but reread it a few years later and got why so many people hold it in such high esteem.

I remember reading one passage where it was so funny that I was in a fit of hysterical laughter for about five minutes. And people who know me, know that that is really unlike me.

I will, however, admit that I never really enjoyed the film of the book, despite the sterling cast.

J.J said...

Now you mention it Karen, Reidski makes me laugh such a lot.

Darren, I am really pleased that I decided to give it another go. I keep going back and re-reading passages from it this past few weeks...wonderful stuff.