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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

October 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I had never read this book before and it’s the first full novel I’ve read on Kindle.

And it’s…good. I have some criticisms of it. I think it’s a bit too long, and I think there’s a lot of repetition in it. It’s lost a lot of its outrageous edginess since it was first published, I think.

I have a problem with stuff that’s “groundbreaking”. Breaking ground is a very now┬áthing. Once the ground is broken, it’s really not that impressive to point to a pile of rubble and say, “I remember when that t’were all unbroken ground”. Occasionally the avant garde spirit of something will live on, like in a lot of silent cinema where you still get a sense of the joy and exuberance of unfettered creation. I read Catch-22 being familiar with some of the novels that followed it (especially Slaughterhouse 5) and couldn’t love it simply for being different from everything before it.

But I did love bits of it. The central idea of a sane man trapped in an insane war is still fresh, some of the characters are really vibrant and Heller can do things to a sentence that I never dreamed possible. Individual paragraphs fizz off the page like fireworks. One of the chapters towards the end (where an AWOL Yossarian is wandering the streets of Rome) is one of the single best passages of writing I’ve ever read. Ever.

A definite classic, but not one I overwhelmingly connected with. Yeah, basically, I’d say that my main problem is that it’s not Slaughterhouse 5.

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Categories: Book reviews