How to start this review… Catch-22 by Joseph Heller is a sort of masterpiece. I don’t feel as though I have the right to make a review about this book because it is so dense with knowledge and philosophy. However, I will try, as Catch-22 has become one of my favorite books. At 463 pages, the book isn’t a short read, but it needs to be long for its purpose to be effective.
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.” (Heller 55)
I tried my best to find a single quote that could give an accurate representation of Catch-22. The way this book operates is disorienting the reader in a similar way as the protagonist, Yossarian, who is disoriented in his time as a WWII pilot. Yossarian thinks someone is out to kill him. His fellow soldiers tell him he’s crazy, no one is out to kill him. Then why are they shooting at Yossarian? They aren’t trying to kill him specifically, they are shooting at everyone. Exactly, says Yossarian, they are trying to kill him. This is just one of many odd mindsets Yossarian has. Everything Yossarian does is intended to keep him alive as long as possible, which is a difficult task for a WWII pilot. But, he manages to slide by.
I would recommend this book to anyone who can read. Many will not enjoy it, but I think it is insanely important of a read. The way Heller portrays the pointlessness of war is by far the most effective I’ve encountered. I can understand those who can’t get past the confusing writing style and non-linear timeline, but I think this is one of those books where enjoyment is not necessary.
Word Count: 412