When a piece of literature gets stuck into a culture, you know there’s really something to it. Having read CATCH-22 when in high school, I decided to revisit it in this crazy George Bush-world we now live in. The parallels are frighteningly surreal. But let’s not get political.
This is the story of one man’s fight to exit WW II in one piece. His name is Captain Yossarian and he finds the war-torn world to be a place of contradictions and ignorant men of power. Flying missions over Europe, Yossarian’s commanders continually up the number of missions that must be flown before the men can be circulated back to the States. Yossarian realizes he’ll never stop flying these terribly dangerous missions because whenever he gets close to his final one, his CO’s up them (a Catch-22 in itself). The ridiculous qualities of war are thrown at Yossarian as we witness his conflicting tragedies through comedic/ironic eyes.
In his do-anything-to-stay-alive fashion, Yossarian enters the hospital as often as possible with stomach ailments, or by trying to be deemed mentally unstable. Neither works, of course.
Pinning medals on naked men, rowing to Sweden with a tiny spoon, and living with a dead guy who never made it past his first mission, Yossarian’s gambits know no bounds.
Heller’s writing style is something of a marvel, too. His own prose is done in Catch-22 fashion, making the reader laugh and cringe (Example: “Don’t interrupt.” “Yes, sir.” “And say ‘sir’ when you do.” “Yes, sir.” “Weren’t you just ordered not to interrupt?”)
It’s amazing that even today the term Catch-22 can be heard muttered by people who don’t know the reference from which it originated. Try asking someone what a Catch-22 is and they’ll likely be able to tell you, but many probably won’t know where the term came from. I think we owe it to Joseph Heller to keep this pun alive, especially with what’s going on in the Whitehouse right now.
Oh, darn! There I go again. Sorry...