The book that coined the term, Catch 22 parses the paradoxes of war and bureaucracy with laugh-out-loud satire and gallows humor on an American air base in Italy during WWII. Recommended By Moses M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
is like no other novel. It is one of the funniest books ever written, a keystone work in American literature, and even added a new term to the dictionary.
At the heart of Catch-22 resides the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war. His efforts are perfectly understandable because as he furiously scrambles, thousands of people he hasn't even met are trying to kill him. His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempts to excuse himself from the perilous missions that he is committed to flying, he is trapped by the Great Loyalty Oath Crusade, the hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule from which the book takes its title: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes the necessary formal request to be relieved of such missions, the very act of making the request proves that he is sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.
Catch-22 is a microcosm of the twentieth-century world as it might look to some one dangerously sane a masterpiece of our time.
"An apocalyptic masterpiece." Chicago Sun-Times
"A monumental artifact of contemporary American literature, almost as assured of longevity as the statues on Easter Island....Catch-22 is a novel that reminds us once again of all that we have taken for granted in our world and should not, the madness we try not to bother and notice, the deceptions and falsehoods we lack the will to try to distinguish from truth." John W. Aldridge, The New York Times Book Review
"Below its hilarity, so wild that it hurts, Catch-22 is the strongest repudiation of our civilization, in fiction, to come out of World War II....To compare Catch-22 favorably with The Good Soldier Schweik would be an injustice, because this novel is not merely the best American novel to come out of World War II; it is the best American novel that has come out of anywhere in years." Nelson Algren, The Nation
"Like all superlative works of comedy and I am ready to argue that this is one of the most bitterly funny works in the language Catch-22 is based on an unconventional but utterly convincing internal logic. In the very opening pages, when we come upon a number of Air Force officers malingering in a hospital one censoring all the modifiers out of enlisted men's letters and signing the censor's name 'Washington Irving,' another pursuing tedious conversations with boring Texans in order to increase his life span by making time pass slowly, still another storing horse chestnuts in his cheeks to give himself a look of innocence it seems obvious that an inordinate number of Joseph Heller's characters are, by all conventional standards, mad. It is a triumph of Mr. Heller's skill that he is so quickly able to persuade us 1) that the most lunatic are the most logical, and 2) that it is our conventional standards which lack any logical consistency. The sanest looney of them all is the apparently harebrained central character, an American bombardier of..." Robert Brustein, The New Republic, 1961 (read )
Joseph Heller's manic, bleak, blackly humorous, and brilliant novel has become a classic of American literature, and Catch-22 has entered the language as a term describing a no-win situation. Set during the last months of World War II, Heller's novel tells the story of a bombardier, the hapless Yossarian, who is convinced quite rightly, of course that people are trying to kill him.
About the Author
Joseph Heller was born in Brooklyn in 1923. In 1961 he published Catch-22, which became a bestseller as well as a film in 1970. He went on to write such novels as Something Happened, God Knows, Picture This, and Closing Time (the sequel to Catch-22). Heller died in December 1999.