Catch-22 by Joseph Heller


The title, Catch-22, is so well understood that it alone could serve as a simple review for this book. Even those that have never read the book understand the title, which can be found as a dictionary entry for what the book implies.

"Joseph Heller’s Catch-22," and "Voltaire’s Candied" (see review) are both focused on satirizing the idea of optimism. Events in both allow the author to interchange tragedy and comedy. Both books are literary icons , but Catch-22 speaks loudly to today’s readers, even though it was first published in 1961. 

Heller’s writing style is perfect for a story in the military, as is the military the perfect medium to convey the absurdities, suffering and irreverence that make this novel so interesting and humorous.  Even with the tragedies, which are serious, comedy comes through. 

Yossarian is the key character and he is the one that champions our frustration and we love him for both his strengths and flaws. The book has dozens of characters who all are important and interesting. The essential plot for Yossarian is that he does not want to fly any more missions, but that is the core issue of what Catch-22 is. Pilots can stop flying if they are insane but if they declare to those in charge that they are insane and request to stop flying it proves that they have cognitive abilities and are considered sane. It will just lead to them flying more missions. Yossarian is trapped in “Catch-22”: “Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t

Other forms of Catch-22 are throughout the novel to justify various bureaucratic actions. Even those accused cite the provision and one character explains that "Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing."

The book presented situations that were insane but then they weren’t. The book is worth reading more than once.  

Quotes from Catch-22

If he flew the very risky military missions, he was obviously crazy and then didn't have to; but if he didn't want to and said he didn't want to go, 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. "That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed. "It's the best there is. 

“He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.” 

“Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you.” 

“Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them.”