Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

As Trish said in her review, this book isn't easy to write about. Heck, I'm tempted to just say, hey, if you want to know about this book, go read Trish's review, but I'm going to try and stick it out and write about it anyway.

The only reason I read this is frankly because I confused it with Fahrenheit 451, which I wanted to read. Oh, and it was also on sale on Audible and I'm a sucker for a sale. Anyway, I was a little surprised to suddenly find I was reading about WWII and not about book burning, but knowing that this is one of those "must read" books, I stuck with it. The first two or three hours of the book I found quite intriguing. The writing style is simplistic, but the composition is quite clever, so easy to understand on the surface, but confusing and complicated below.

The first difficulty is overcoming the non-linear plot. The story bounces around from place to place and time to time and it can be quite difficult to keep up with it. The shifts are also not always very pronounced, and that adds to the confusion. Once I got to grips with all of the shifting, I realized how clever the book really is. Not only are the circular arguments - all logical enough in bits and pieces, but maddeningly insane as a whole - thought provoking, but the constant time shifts are really well knit together. Heller must have either had a very good plan or was a fantastic strategist, because otherwise the book would have fallen apart. Just when you thought something was over and you’d heard the last of it, the scene pops up again from another perspective, giving you more insight into the situation as a whole. This would be a good book to read two or three times and then discuss in a group. There are so many different facets that it’s difficult to get to grips with them after just one reading.

Now, did I like the book? I’m afraid not. After the first few hours, the repetitiveness of the arguments and constant return to situations already described annoyed me greatly. It seemed to me that Heller beat his themes to death when I was ready to move on to something new. It made me feel like I was going about as insane as some of the characters were and couldn’t wait for the book to finish. The style also reminded me of Catcher in the Rye, which I didn’t care for either. That said, I think that had I read Catch-22 when I was younger, I would have liked it better. The contemplation of such conundrums and analysis of inner turmoil appealed more to me then than it does not. I might just be too old and too lazy for both of these books.


Trish said...

It is a difficult book to write about, huh? I'm sorry you didn't like this one better, but I do understand your disdain for it. And not sure being any younger would help--my friend had the same problems and finally put it down after making it halfway.

Lula O said...

I'm currently reading this and am liking it so far, but it does - like you say - take some getting used to. The writing style reminds me of Condederacy of Dunces for some reason and I'm thinking constantly of my grandfather who fought in the first world war. His sardonic wit fits in well with these men. Maybe it was the time period.