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Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer.

Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

This fiftieth-anniversary edition commemorates Joseph Heller’s masterpiece with a new introduction by Christopher Buckley; a wealth of critical essays and reviews by Norman Mailer, Alfred Kazin, Anthony Burgess, and others; rare papers and photos from Joseph Heller’s personal archive; and much more. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature.

453 pages, Paperback

First published November 10, 1961

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About the author

Joseph Heller

59 books2,572 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name.

Joseph Heller was the son of poor Jewish parents from Russia. Even as a child, he loved to write; at the age of eleven, he wrote a story about the Russian invasion of Finland. He sent it to New York Daily News, which rejected it. After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1941, Heller spent the next year working as a blacksmith's apprentice, a messenger boy, and a filing clerk. In 1942, at age 19, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. Two years later he was sent to Italy, where he flew 60 combat missions as a B-25 bombardier. Heller later remembered the war as "fun in the beginning... You got the feeling that there was something glorious about it." On his return home he "felt like a hero... People think it quite remarkable that I was in combat in an airplane and I flew sixty missions even though I tell them that the missions were largely milk runs."

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_H...

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Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
September 2, 2020
”You mean there’s a catch?”

“Sure there’s a catch, “ Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

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.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” He observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

 photo Catch-22Man_zps794056e9.jpg

Originally Catch-22 was Catch-18, but because Leon Uris was publishing a novel called Mila-18 that same year Joseph Heller’s agent decided the title needed to be changed so as to not confuse the book buying public. Also given that 22 is a double 11 they liked the way it represented the many déjà vu moments that occur in the book. The East Coast publishing intelligentsia really embraced the book even though there were doubts if it would ever gain traction with the American public.

It did.

I understand the frustration that publishers feel with the American book buying public. They have all been scorched by a book they felt should have sold by the wheelbarrow only to have it crash and burn with the majority of the first printing sold off to a remainder company. Sometimes a book needs a lightning strike in the form of Oprah or a school banning the book (thank-you Strongsville, OH), but for Heller all he needed was the 1960s.

The book is set during WWII, the last good war according to everyone from Tom Brokaw to the school janitor at Phillipsburg High School. Fat novels glorifying the war, some extraordinarily good, were hitting bookstores at a fast clip from the late 1940s on. By the time Catch-22 came out in 1961 the world had changed. So those people who bought this book who thought they were in for another “weren’t we great” novel about World War Two were in for a shock. A typical reaction was:


Some thought it was irreverent, but there were a growing group of people who thought it was among the best American novels they had ever read. Both reactions helped juice the novel and sales began to climb.

 photo JosephHellerWW2_zps0fdc0dad.jpg
Joseph Heller in uniform.

At the tender age of 19 in 1942 Joseph Heller joined the U.S. Army Air Corp. By 1944 he found himself on the Italian Front as a B-25 Bombardier. He flew 60 missions most of which he categorized as milk runs; these were flight missions that encounter no or very little anti-aircraft artillery or enemy fighters. Heller admits that his disillusionment with the war in Korea colored the novel. It gives me the shakes to think how different the novel would be if he had published the book in 1951 instead of 1961. Little did he know how prophetic his novel would be regarding the Vietnam War.

Yossarian has reached the end of his rope. He has flown the required number of combat missions several times, but each time Colonel Cathcart keeps raising the number of missions required to go home. A similar circumstance plagued Hawkeye Pierce and his fellow doctors in the Korean War based TV series M*A*S*H. The pressure of thousands of people he doesn’t even know and hundreds he does know trying to kill him is just too much for him to bear. As he becomes more and more insane(sane) he becomes more and more qualified to fly combat missions as far as the military is concerned. He comes up with various ailments to keep him in the hospital. He shows up to receive his war medal naked except for a pair of moccasins. He finally refuses to fly any more missions and begins parading around the camp walking backwards. This does start to foment rebellion among his fellow flyers and drives Colonel Cathcart to distraction.

”Morale was deteriorating and it was all Yossarian’s fault. The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.”

Heller surrounds Yossarian with a wonderful cast of detailed characters of which I will only be able to mention a few.

Lieutenant Nately is one of Yossarian’s best friends, a trust fund baby with red, white, and blue blood running through his veins. He is a good looking kid and could have any woman he wanted, but he falls in love with an Italian prostitute who begrudgingly sleeps with him when he pays for sex with her, but would rather he just disappeared. He has this great discussion with her “107” year old pimp.

”Italy is one of the least prosperous nations on earth. And the Italian fighting man is probably second to all. And that’s exactly why my country is doing so well in this war while your country is doing so poorly.”

Nately guffawed with surprise...”But Italy was occupied by the Germans and is now being occupied by us. You don’t call that doing very well, do you?”

“But of course I do.” exclaimed the old man cheerfully. “The Germans are being driven out, and we are still here. In a few years you will be gone, too, and we will still be here. You see, Italy is really a very poor and weak country, and that’s what makes us so strong. Italian soldiers are not dying any more. But American and German soldiers are. I call that doing extremely well.”

Nately continues to be the straight man for the old man as they discuss the absurdity of risking one’s life for their country.

”There is nothing so absurd about risking your life for your country.” he (Nately) declared.
“Isn’t there?”asked the old man. “What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England, Americans are dying for America, Germans are dying for Germany, Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Surely so many countries can’t all be worth dying for.”

“Anything worth living for,” said Nately, “is worth dying for.”

“And anything worth dying for,” answered the sacrilegious old man. “is certainly worth living for.”

Milo Minderbinder is in charge of the mess at the U.S. Army Corps base. As he learns more and more about how goods are moved around the globe he begins a business of supply and demand (war profiteering). He becomes the ultimate capitalist with no allegiance to any country. He trades with the enemy and as part of contract negotiations he also warns the Germans once of an impending attack even to the point of guiding anti-artillery against American planes and in another case bombs his own base to fulfill another contract. The absurdity of his position is that he is too important to the American high command to get in trouble for any of these acts of treason. He tries to explain one of his more successful schemes to Yossarian.

”I don’t understand why you buy eggs for seven cents apiece in Malta and sell them for five cents.”

“I do it to make a profit.”

“But how can you make a profit? You lose two cents an egg.”

“But I make a profit of three and a quarter cents an egg by selling them for four and a quarter cents an egg to the people in Malta I buy them from for seven cents an egg. Of course, I don’t make the profit. the syndicate makes the profit. And everybody has a share.”

Yossarian felt he was beginning to understand. “And the people you sell the eggs to at four anda quarter cents a piece make a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when they sell them back to you at seven cents apiece. Is that right? Why don’t you sell the eggs directly to you and eliminate the people you buy them from?”

“Because I’m the people I buy them from.” Milo explained. “I make a profit of three and a quarter cents apiece when I sell them to me and a profit of two and three quarter cents apiece when I buy them back from me. That’s a total profit of six cents and egg. I lose only two cents an egg when I sell them to the mess halls at five cents apiece, and that’s how I can make a profit buying eggs for seven cents apiece and selling them for five cents apiece.

Hungry Joe keeps meeting the flight standards time and time again only to have his paperwork take too long to process before the flight standards have been raised again. He packs and then he unpacks. He is a fat, pervert who convinces women to take their clothes off to be photographed by telling them that he works for Life Magazine and will put them on the cover. Unfortunately the photographs never turn out. Ironically he did work as a photographer for Life Magazine before the war.

Women do play a role in this book mostly as objects of lust. Heller has these wonderful, creative descriptions of them.

”She would have been perfect for Yossarian, a debauched, coarse, vulgar, amoral, appetizing slattern whom he had longed for and idolized for months. She was a real find. She paid for her own drinks, and she had an automobile, an apartment and a salmon-colored cameo ring that drove Hungry Joe clean out of his senses with its exquisitely carved figures of a naked boy and girl on a rock.”

And then there is a nurse that brings Yossarian nearly to his knees with desire.

”Yossarian was sick with lust and mesmerized with regret. General Dreedle’s nurse was only a little chubby, and his senses were stuffed to congestion with the yellow radiance of her hair and the unfelt pressure of her soft short fingers, with the rounded untasted wealth of her nubile breast in her Army-pink shirt that was opened wide at the the throat and with the rolling, ripened triangular confluences of her belly and thighs in her tight, slick forest-green garbardine officer’s pants. He drank her in insatiably from head to painted toenail. He never wanted to lose her. ‘Ooooooooooooh,’ he moaned again, and this time the whole room rippled at his quavering, drown-out cry.”.

You will probably need to google the next one.

”He enjoyed Nurse Sue Ann Druckett’s long white legs and supple, callipygous ass.”

Paradoxes abound even when Heller describes a character he will have countering characteristics like she was plain, but pretty or he was handsome, but ugly. Aren’t we all a sum of those characteristics anyway?

 photo JosephHeller_zpsf95652da.jpg
Joseph Heller looking handsome and ugly.

This book is hilarious, (I laughed out loud at several points.)but wrapped with increasingly more tragic circumstances. As Yossarian’s friends die or disappear his desperation increases. His behavior becomes more and more erratic. The absurd traps him time and time again. There are a whole host of reasons why everyone should read this novel. I’m not saying that everyone will like it as much as I did, but it is IMHO one of the top five most important American novels ever written. It impacted our culture, added words to our language, and gave voice to a generation of people dissatisfied with the war aims of this country. More importantly don’t be the one person in the middle of a Catch-22 discussion who hasn’t read the book.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
67 reviews407 followers
Shelved as 'unfinished'
July 23, 2016
I have attempted to read this book on two separate occasions and I couldn't get beyond 100 pages either time. I do believe that this has more to do with me than the book and I plan on making a third attempt at some point in the future.

Currently it sits on my bookshelf and sometimes (when I have a few too many beers) we have a talk.

Me: Hi.
Catch-22: Oh, hi.
Me: How are you feeling?
Catch-22: I've been better.
Me: Don't be upset. It's not you. It's me.
Catch-22: I know that.
Me: My friends tell me I'm an idiot for ending our relationship.
Catch-22: I agree.
Me: I'm sure the reason I don't laugh or enjoy myself when I'm with you has more to do with my own flaws than with yours.
Catch-22: Of course. I'm flawless.
Me: I don't know if I would go that far.
Catch-22: Well, you've already admitted that it's your fault so I don't know if you're the best person to be judging whether or not I'm flawed.
Me: Hey, now! I didn't laugh once when I was with you.
Catch-22: I've been forced to sit on this bookshelf for years while you plop in front of the TV to laugh at Will Ferrell movies. I'll give you Anchorman but Step Brothers? Don't talk to me about what is or isn't funny.
Me: The sleepwalking scene in that movie is pure genius!
Catch-22: I rest my case.
Me: Ok, ok. You're right. I promise you that one day I'll be mature and enlightened enough to appreciate you and when that day comes, you and I will have some fun together.
Catch-22: I won't hold my breath.
Profile Image for Lori.
1,490 reviews55.8k followers
March 14, 2012
I suffered through about 60 pages, and finally put it down. I very rarely ever leave a book unfinished.

The author narrates and introduces us to Yossarian, who does not want to fly in the war. I get that. I get the whole catch 22 scenerio... You have to be insane to fly the plane. If you can get a dr to say you are insane, you wont have to fly. But in order to tell a dr that you are insane, this actually means you are sane. So you must continue to fly... which makes you insane. blah blah blah.

What I couldnt get past was the author's constant bouts of Attention Deficet Disorder.... He went off on tangents, introducing a new character seemingly every paragraph, and seemed to lose his train of thought only to regain it 2 pages later.

I couldnt take all the jumping around, and was completely lost the whole time... at times rereading the prior page thinking I missed some important tie-in somewhere....

Am I the only one on this planet who is asking myself what heck everyone was smoking when they read this book and actually enjoyed it?
Profile Image for Stephen.
1,516 reviews11.2k followers
December 4, 2013
Catch-22-cover-1 v2

A shiny new batch of awesome for my "all time favorite" shelf. It has been awhile since I’ve so throughly enjoyed reading a novel that has, at the same time, left me as intellectually awestruck as Joseph Heller’s classic sermon on the insanity of war.

What a sublime, literary feast. To prepare:

1. Start with a surrealistic, Kafkaesque worldview basted in chaos;

2. Knead in a plot reminiscent of Pynchon, taking particular care that the bizarre, placidly disjointed surface fully camouflages the powerfully nuanced, and deceptively focused central message;

3. Marinate the whole thing in a dark, hilarious satire that would have made Vonnegut beam like a proud papa.

4. Bake at 350, season with zesty prose, and serve.

Voila...a singular, absurdilarious serving of inspired genius that I can not recommend more highly.

This novel was so much more than I was expecting.

Despite its pervasive, laugh out loud humor, Heller’s story is the most horrifyingly effective depiction of the insanity of war that I’ve ever read**. I’m not referring to the evil and vile atrocities perpetrated in war that have been so extensively catalogued throughout the annals of literature. Rather, Heller's insight is geared to showing us the illogic of war, the out-of-control nihilism, and the chaotic, existential absurdity of it.

**Note: this observation is coming from someone who’s never been closer to war than the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan, so season the above with grains of salt as necessary.

It's brilliant.


I think any attempt at a plot summary is doomed to inadequacy, so let me just briefly frame the story. The novel follows the exploits of the fictional 256th fighter squadron, stationed on the fictional island of Pianosa, during the height of WWII. With a large cast of characters and a non-chronological narrative that switches viewpoints constantly, Heller creates a delicious cauldron of madness and bureaucratic ineptitude that is just heaven to follow.

Our chief tour guide through the nuthouse is Captain John Yossarian, bomber pilot, whose main ambition in life is to “live forever or die in the attempt”. Yossarian’s life wish is so strong that he doesn’t even distinguish between the “enemy” and his superiors. As far as he's concerned, the enemy “is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on.” To avoid the final finality of death, Yossarian concocts a series of ingenious (and hysterical) methods for staying alive, including poisoning his own squadron and redrawing a the combat map during the “Great Big Siege of Bologna” so as to alter the bombing target.

Despite his often less than moral shenanigans, Yossarian acts as the conscience of the story and helps to keep the rampant lunacy and chaos in context. His is the voice of indignity and righteous anger against the war and the cold, faceless bureaucracy that perpetrates it. Even against the God that allows it such horrors to exist in the first place.
‘Don't tell me God works in mysterious ways,’ Yossarian continued, hurtling on over her objection. ‘There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about - a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?’
‘Pain?’ Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife pounced upon the word victoriously. ‘Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.’
‘And who created the dangers?’ Yossarian demanded ... ‘Why couldn't He have used a doorbell instead to notify us?’

Loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it…and loved it.

The writing is brilliant, the characters are unique, engaging and memorable, and the story will scar you with wonder and awe. I can’t believe I hesitated so long to read this, and I intend to sit down with this many times in the years to come.

For those that have experienced this before, and for those who just want a stroll down memory lane, here are a few pearls that showcase this novel’s rather large package of absurd, satircal win.

**“Fortunately, just when things were blackest, the war broke out.”

**"I'll tell you what justice is. Justice is a knee in the gut from the floor on the chin at night sneaky with a knife brought up down on the magazine of a battleship sandbagged underhanded in the dark without a word of warning."

**“Colonel Cargill could be relied on to run the most prosperous enterprise into the ground. He was a self-made man who owed his lack of success to nobody.”

**“Colonel Cathcart was indefatigable that way, an industrious, intense, dedicated military tactician who calculated day and night in the service of himself.

And a personal favorite (all leading up to the very last line):
The chaplain had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his discovery. It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.
Finally, I wanted to share one last piece of awesome with you. The following is the contents of the letter sent by the base commander to the wife of one of the main characters.
Dear Mrs., Mr., Miss, or Mr. And Mrs. [no spoiler]: Words cannot express the deep personal grief I experienced when your husband, son, father, or brother was killed, wounded, or reported missing in action.
Priceless…and what’s even funnier is that the set up of the joke occurs about 200 pages before.


Profile Image for Jennifer.
17 reviews105 followers
July 22, 2008
The following is an example of how many conversations in this book took place.

Jen: I didn't like this book.
Nigel: Why didn't you like the book?
Jen: I did like the book.
Nigel: You just said you didn't like the book.
Jen: No I didn't.
Nigel: You're lying.
Jen: I don't believe in lying.
Nigel: So you never lie?
Jen: Oh yes, I lie all the time.
Nigel: You just said you don't believe in it.
Jen: I don't believe in it, Jen said as she ate a chocolate covered cotton ball.
Nigel: Well I liked the book.
Jen: Fabulous! I liked it too!
Nigel: What did you like about it?
Jen: Oh, I hated it.

I think Heller was showing how war is chaotic by not writing in a chronological order. You really have no idea in what order events are taking place. I think he was showing how war is ridiculous by writing conversations like the one above. I'm not sure if any of his goals were to annoy the living hell out of his readers, but he annoyed me. 460 pages of absurdness is too much for me. Most of the characters were very one-dimensional. I could only distinguish between people by their names. Most of the good guys all had the same personalities and the bad guys all had the same personalities except one character ate peanut brittle and another put crab apples in his cheeks. Other than that - same personalities. Maybe his goal was only to distinguish between the good, everyday guys and the evil, power-hungry men in charge. If so, he succeeded. I just wasn't thrilled after page 150 or so. There is some funny stuff in there. The chocolate-covered cotton balls will crack me up for life. There's some really sad stuff too. It's weird because every time someone died, I cared, even though I knew nothing about them, except what they ate or who their favorite whore was. I'm not sure how Heller pulled that off. Anyway, I would recommend it. It's just that the ridiculousness of it gets to the point where it's just, well, ridiculous, and beyond my personal tolerance level. I still appreciated it though.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,630 followers
April 4, 2022
Hmm, where to start with a book like this one. A book that is a third Kafka, a third Vonnegut, a third Pynchon and completely insane? For the first 200 or 250 pages, it is like a broken record or a movie loop with Sisyphus rolling that boulder up a hill in American WWII battle fatigues (and a flight suit and a Mae West life preserver sans the inflation module thanks the M&M Enterprises). Then, when the flak starts flying and the blood is splattered everywhere it is intense right up until the end.

It features Chaucerian cast of characters that would not be out of place in the German chaos of Gravity's Rainbow or The Tin Drum. A few examples:

Major Major Major Major: "He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle, and extort for as much as he could get from whoever he could. He was a devout man whose pulpit was everywhere." But if you want a meeting with him, you'll have to wait until he has climbed out the window of his office and run down the gully.

Colonel Cathart: "a slick, successful, slipshod, unhappy man of thirty-six who lumbered while we walked and wanted to be a general...[he was] impervious to absolutes. He could measure his own progress only in relationship to others, and his idea of excellence was to do something at least as well as all the men his same age who were doing the same thing even better." Even if (or especially if) that meant raising the number of combat missions from 50 to 80 to impress General Peckham or General Dreedle or (gasp) General Scheisskopf (!!) whose wife was well, just a little promiscuous.

Then there is the Anabaptist chaplain who started to wonder about whether God exists and is tortured by his assistant, the sadistic Colonel Whitcomb and spends a lot of time wondering whether everything he sees is déjà vu, presque vu or jamais vu.

Also, the ill-fated young Nately and the equally ill-fated old man debating whether America was winning the war or whether Italy was since Italy has already survived more than two millennia more than the US even existed: "This sordid, vulturous, diabolical old man reminded [him] of his father because the two were nothing at all alike."

And then there is Yossarian, the protagonist. Perhaps the insane Captain (decorated for making a second bombing pass that killed Kraft) being the sanest person on the island of Pianosa despite being haunted by Snowden, the soldier in white, the dead man in his tent, persecuted and nearly killed by Nately's whore and all the death and absurdity around him. Yossarian is an everyman who is justifiably paranoid, but just a cog in the system and the only person that retains a sense of outrage at the senseless violence all around him.

This is the most anti-war book I believe I have ever read. It makes M*A*S*H look like a US Army recruiting poster in comparison. I was horrified by one-man syndicate M&M Enterprises of Milo Minderbender the cynic who deals with total impunity openly with both sides - even manning the anti-aircraft flak machines on the Italian coast shooting down US bombers and bombing his own squadron with loads of casualties. (This of course scarily parallels the Trump links with Putin and Russia and the massive amounts of money that Trump stands to make as POTUS.) Kid Simpson's slaughter was perhaps the most gruesome of them all, but the the scenes of terror and anarchy that Yossarian sees in Rome before being arrested for being there without a pass (leaving the murderous Aarfy smiling and careless as always) were chilling.

Do not come here seeking logic or sanity because in war, neither has any place - not in Catch-22 and I suppose in real life either. It reminded me of a cab driver I had once in New Orleans (true story) who was bragging to me about burying Iraquis in their trenches by rolling over them with tanks and bulldozers during the first Gulf War. When I mentioned that it was against the Geneva Convention to bury men alive, he shrugged in the rearview mirror and said "They told us that those rules didn't apply to us since this was just a conflict and not a war and besides, we were the US Army and not bound by some stupid European rules."

If, as I did, you struggle through the first 200 pages, the pace picks up - as does the violence - and you will find yourself cheering for Yossarian and racing to the end (if not, as Yossarian, to Sweden.)

I would give it 5 stars, but the first 200 pages are really torture to get through, so for lack of being able to give a 4.5, I rounded down to 4 stars. Regardless, I can clearly see, however, why this classic is held in such high esteem. May we never go through another war like this again. I can also see some of the inspiration for Alan Alda for creating M*A*S*H in the 70s and, reading Fire In the Lake about Vietnam, we learned absolutely nothing from the errors that Heller describes.

Reading the second Rick Atkinson book of The Liberation Trilogy about the Allied campaign in Italy. Every bit as brutal and chaotic as Heller portrayed it - particularly the brutal inch-by-inch campaign up from Salerno to Rome! Anzio was particularly horrendous. Curious fact: Roger Waters' father (the one he eulogizes in The Wall) died at Anzio.

Highly recommended as a piece of essential anti-war black humor.

Did anyone watch Clooney's adaptation on Hulu? Is it worthwhile? ??
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
431 reviews4,215 followers
May 22, 2023
Here is my more in-depth review:

Sorry, I don't get it. So many circular conversations that at the outset we know aren't going anywhere. Too many characters to care about any of them. Failed as a moving war novel and failed as a comedic novel. It just wasn't funny!

Almost 20 hours on the audiobook, and I wish I could get those units of my life back.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews41 followers
August 16, 2021
Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Catch-22 is a satirical novel by American author Joseph Heller.

He began writing it in 1953; the novel was first published in 1961.

Often cited as one of the most significant novels of the twentieth century, it uses a distinctive non-chronological third-person omniscient narration, describing events from the points of view of different characters.

The separate story lines are out of sequence so the timeline develops along with the plot.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «کلک مرغابی»؛ «تبصره 22»؛ نویسنده: جوزف هلر؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز سیزدهم ماه آگوست سال2001میلادی

عنوان: کلک مرغابی؛ نویسنده: جوزف هلر؛ مترجم: کامبیز پاک فر؛ تهران، مرجان، 1378؛ دو جلد در یک مجلد؛ در 806ص؛ شابک9649049304؛ موضوع: جنگ جهانی دوم از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

عنوان: تبصره 22؛ نویسنده: جوزف هلر؛ مترجم: حسن افشار؛ تهران، ماهی، 1393؛ در 552ص؛ شابک 9789642092000؛

عنوان: تبصره 22؛ نویسنده: جوزف هلر؛ مترجم: احسان نوروزی؛ تهران، چشمه، 1394؛ در 518ص؛ شابک: 9786002295613؛

اونا می‌خوان منو بکشن.؛
هیچ‌کس نمی‌خواد تو رو بکشه.؛
پس چرا به طرفم تیراندازی می‌کنن؟
اونا می‌خوان همه رو بکشن.؛
خب چه فرقی می‌کنه؟
پیدا کردن تکه ای که بتواند گوشه‌ ای از منطق رمان «تبصره 22» باشد، کار ناممکن یا دشواری است، شاید گفتگوی بالا نزدیک‌ترین بخش داستان به این انتظار باشد؛ «یوسارین»، افسر نیروی هوایی «آمریکا»، تصمیم گرفته، دیگر جانش را به خطر نیندازد، و پرواز نکند، چون احساس می‌کند ضدهوایی‌های دشمن قصد دارند او را بکشند؛ اما همکارش اینگونه نمی‌اندیشد، چون باور دارد سربازان دشمن قصد دارند همه را بکشند؛ این درست همان‌جایی است، که کشمکش اصلی داستان «تبصره 22» شکل می‌گیرد؛ «یوسارین» دیگر به جنگ، به چشم یک رخداد اجتماعی نگاه نمی‌کند، بلکه جنگ برای او مسئله‌ ای کاملا فردی است؛ طبعا اگر همه آدم‌های متخاصم در دو طرف یک جنگ، می‌توانستند مثل «یوسارین» جنگ را فردی ببینند، هیچ جنگی آن‌قدرها پا نمی‌گرفت؛ و به کشتار نمیانجامید؛

ذات جنگ، اساسا بر ایده ی گذشتن از فرد، و قرار گرفتن در خدمت یک اجتماع، یا یک ایده و باور، استوار است؛ ترفند اصلی «جوزف هلر»، نگارنده، برای زیر پرسش بردن برهان جنگ، همان بازگشت به فردیت کسانی است، که قرار است سربازان جنگ باشند؛ مسئله باورهای فردی، در برابر اجتماع جنگ‌جو، نقطه مرکزی رمان «هلر» است، که در همه جای رمان جاری شده، و به فرم آن نیز نشت کرده است؛ فرمی که منتقدان بسیاری، این نگارش را نپسندیده اند؛ اما این نیز هست که رمان «تبصره‌‌ ی 22» اثر «جوزف هلر» را، به همراه «برهنه‌ ها و مرده‌ ها» اثر «نورمن میلر»، و «سلاخ‌ خانه‌ ی شماره پنج» اثر «کورت ونه‌ گات»؛ یکی از سه اثر ادبیات ضد جنگ «آمریکا» بنوشته اند

نویسندگان هر سه رمان، به نوعی در رخدادهای جنگ جهانگیر دوم، شرکت داشته‌، و جنگ را از نزدیک تجربه کرده‌ اند؛ «جوزف هِلـِر» که فرزند خانواده‌ ای مهاجر، از «یهودیان روس‌ تبار» بودند، در سال 1942میلادی در سن نوزده سالگی، به ارتش «آمریکا» پیوستند، و در سال‌های پایانی جنگ، به عنوان بمب‌ انداز هواپیماهای «بی‌.52»؛ در شصت ماموریت جنگی شرکت کردند (در هواپیماهای آن دوره خلبانی، ناوبری و مسیریابی، و هدف‌یابی برای انداختن بمب؛ هر یک مسئول جداگانه‌ داشت)؛

تاریخ بهنگام رس��نی 16/06/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 24/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,983 followers
December 3, 2018
I originally read this about 15 years ago. When I joined Goodreads and added the books I had previously read I remembered it as a 3 star book. I am not sure if it is being 15 years older or the fact that I did the audiobook this time, but it was easily 5 stars now!

The first thing that came to mind after I was a few chapters into this was the show “Seinfeld”. Always touted as a show about nothing, this book was kind of about nothing. It is series of smaller anecdotes, usually somewhat silly, that really don’t have a specific function in moving the plot. It is a satire about war, red tape, chain of command, etc. and the inherent futility involved. While war and the tragedy that goes with it are usually not considered amusing, this feels like a therapeutic, tongue-in-cheek poke that needed to be made to maintain sanity.

There are a plethora of characters – some of which are more caricatures – that may get your head spinning at first. Luckily, Heller gives them all memorable names which helps keep them organized easily. Maybe that was not his intention, but when you need to remember if it was Milo Minderbender or Major Major Major Major (yes, that is his name – my spell check did not like me repeating a word four times!) who did something, the reader is definitely given naming tools to keep them connected!

I mentioned that there is not necessarily an overall story, but there are definitely themes. One is doing what is best for you no matter who gets stepped on in the process. Another is twisting the facts to make sure the ultimate outcome is what works best for you. And, of course, the BIG idea that has become a common colloquialism (I know I use it just about every day) is the situation of Catch-22. Early in the book, the first example of Catch-22 is that if you say you want to fly bombing missions, you must be crazy so they will take you off the missions – only someone crazy would want to fly missions. But, if you are not on the missions, your sanity is no longer in question so they will make you fly them. If you say you don’t want to fly them, you are sane so you will have to fly them. Basically, no matter how you feel about flying missions, you will end up flying them anyway! Situations like this are repeated throughout the book where there is no good answer to the situation at hand – often with hilarious and frustrating results.

Now, I mention that the book is humorous satire, but it does have many dark moments as well. This kind of goes back to my mention of the discourse within the novel being therapeutic. War is crazy and what can happen is brutal. Oddly enough, a Jimmy Buffett quote from Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes comes to mind: “If we weren't all crazy we would go insane.” That pretty much sums up the book in a nutshell!

So, should you read this book? Well, I think that question is a Catch-22 in itself. I think about 50% of the people who try this will hate it or dnf it. I think the other 50% of the people who read it will love it, quote it, put it on their favorites list. Where the Catch-22 is that I think any person has the capability to be in either category depending on where their mindset is right now. If I recommend it to you now you may hate me, or you may thank me profusely. In 10 years is would be visa versa! I do think the audiobook helped me appreciate it more and it is now in my favorites. Will that happen for you? I definitely cannot be the one to decide that!
Profile Image for Barry Pierce.
575 reviews7,742 followers
July 21, 2015
I have had Catch-22 on my bookshelf for years. It was one of those novels that I've said, "oh I'll get around to that in 2012". It didn't happen. "Maybe 2013". Nope. And so on until just a couple of days ago. I've got to stop putting books off.

Rarely has a piece of literature ticked so many of my boxes. Satire, farce, gallows humour, irreverence, it's as if this book were written entirely for me. I loved every word on every page of this book. I cannot find a single miniscule fault anywhere within the narrative or the prose or the characterisation or the flow or the humour. I can say without any hesitation that Catch-22 is a perfect novel. It was love at first sight.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,028 reviews17.7k followers
September 13, 2023
Early In my adulthood I learned that to be considered crazy and be given asylum from my superiors in an establishment catering to lunatics, I had first to be proven crazy enough to be excused from my Alpha Male immediate superior's stiff medicine.


In my twenties, I had an enormous problem with Yossarian… because he was me. I LIVED Catch-22 in my brain and in my private life.

For years, every time I’d pick this battered paperback from off my shelf, I would laugh at first. But then, my chuckles choked me up!

WHY did it make me angry?

There must be a perfectly plausible and logical explanation in my grossly medicated memory!

And there was… but in itself that explanation is so Implausibly Logical that it itself could be none other than -

A Catch-22.

A desperately CHOKING Catch-22.

A Catch-22 that can bury you alive, and I don’t just mean in endless forms completed in block letters and in triplicate.

No, a Catch-22 that can SUFFOCATE you. Happened to me fifty-one years ago…

When I admitted myself to hospital, I must have signed the doctors’ OWN Catch-22, to whit: ‘I’m crazy to let myself enter this Hell-hole; but if I should become sane later on - and try to get myself released - I Can't,' because I can’t be sane if I run from predators' stiff medicine into a Nut House.

“Haha. So there -

“Catch-22… You’re stuck with us, Fergus.”

And yes, of course, they took turns gently giving me my stiff treatments while there.

I think it was the ferociously cool dude von Clausewitz who once infamously told us that the modern world is run on a militaristic model: as an Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove. The Ministry of Peace.

Well, that velvet glove dupes us to the fact that we’re being used, and our choking chuckles PROVE we’re insane. As I was therefore proved insane: Catch-22.

So How could I be sane?

Especially with my doctors’ immediate use of heavy neuroleptics that made me, temporarily, the opposite. Sounds crazy? Then I WAS legally crazy -

BBB. BS Baffles Brains. Bingo!

Happy Catch-22, Fergus.

Never mind that I was hounded into that place by sexual predators: I was sane, so therefore I must be crazy. Catch-22, Fergus. You were CRAZY to come here. Haha.

If you wake up, that’s, well… forbidden. But we have Some Supplements to ensure you never do. If you perchance DO wake up, no one really cares.

You’re cornered.


How do you think the incredible author, Joseph Heller, saw all this so plainly?

Because he couldn’t be a War Hero and a Peace Protestor at one and the same time. Catch-22, my friends. Pleased to meet you, Herr von Clausewitz, old bud.

But then… Heller wrote it all down, so that the Blind might have Eyes to See.


Tag and You’re IT.


And you’ll SEE, for a change.

As I did after all my hard knocks.

And the only option then is the Grace that makes everything OK.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,191 reviews1,816 followers
December 28, 2022

La miniserie TV in 6 episodi, prodotta e in parte diretta da George Clooney.

Romanzo manifesto dell’antimilitarismo, col tempo è diventato l’emblema dell’assurdità e della demenza militare, e il suo titolo, che oltre al comma intende una trappola, un tranello, è diventato uno slogan.
Eccolo qui il famoso comma 22: solo chi è pazzo può chiedere di essere esentato dalle missioni di volo, ma chi chiede di essere esentato dalle missioni di volo non è pazzo.
Che magnifico paradosso! L’affermazione di un principio e l’immediata negazione dello stesso.
Figlio diretto del paradosso per eccellenza: la frase seguente è falsa - la frase precedente è vera.
L’effetto comico è assicurato.
Ma, forse, molti lettori l’hanno trovato ripetitivo, monotono, il ritmo sostenuto non è certo il suo pregio più appariscente. Rimane opera di teatro dell’assurdo, del grottesco, una satira feroce, nella quale è bello perdersi, ghignare, e farsi percorrere da brividi: perché quello che Yossarian sente e pensa e dice è angosciante e terrorizzante, suscita paura anche se fa ridere.


La storia si svolge in Italia verso la fine della seconda guerra mondiale.
Yossarian, ufficiale dell’aeronautica militare USA, pilota bombardiere di B25, è sull’isola di Pianosa per compiere incursioni sulle linee nemiche e proteggere l’avanzata degli alleati.
L’ambientazione italiana si suppone si debba al fatto che lo stesso Heller fu puntatore a bordo di un bombardiere B-25 Mitchell dell'aviazione americana operante dalla Corsica durante il secondo conflitto mondiale.

Il protagonista è l’antieroe per eccellenza, ossessionato dal fatto che migliaia di persone sconosciute, alle quali lui personalmente non ha fatto nulla, tentino continuamente di farlo fuori.
Il romanzo è popolato di personaggi stravaganti e maniacali che applicano la disciplina militare con zelo meticoloso, inconsapevoli di mettere in ridicolo la folle logica del Comma 22.


C’è chi lo considera uno dei primi romanzi post-moderni dato che il racconto non procede per ordine cronologico, uno stesso evento è narrato più volte dal punto di vista di diversi personaggi, alcuni concetti vengono ripetuti da un interlocutore all’altro e a furia di rimbalzare creano una circolarità che diventa un dialogo dell’assurdo.


Insieme a Mattatoio n° 5, E Johnny prese il fucile, All’ovest niente di nuovo, entra di diritto nei più celebri romanzi contro la guerra. Anche se più che questi suoi degnissimi fratelli di lotta, a me fa venire in mente Kafka (Il processo), Orwell (1984), o Hašek (Il buon soldato Sc'vèik).

Pubblicato per la prima volta nel 1961, e inizialmente stroncato dalla critica, anche quella importante (New Yorker, New York Times), fu con l’edizione tascabile e l’uscita in UK che divenne un best-seller da 10 milioni di copie.

Ai tempi del Vietnam molti dei pacifisti che manifestavano davanti alla Casa Bianca portavano sul petto una spilla con lo slogan "Yossarian vive".
In Italia invece approdò sulle pagine di Sturmtruppen i cui soldati lo enunciano tale e quale al romanzo: Chiunque sia pazzo può chiedere di essere esentato dalle azioni militari, ma chi chiede di essere esentato dalle azioni militari non è pazzo.


Il regista Mike Nichols poteva permettersi quello che voleva dopo il successo de Il laureato, anche la quinta flotta aerea del mondo, trenta veri bombardieri B-25 “Mitchell” a disposizione, anche un cast da brivido (Alan Arkin, Anthony Perkins, Charles Grodin, Martin Balsam, Art Garfunkel, Buck Henry, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Bob Balaban, e last but not least, un indimenticabile Orson Welles), tempi interminabili di ripresa, location sperdute del Messico dove il grande direttore della fotografia David Watkin (più tardi premiato con l’Oscar per La mia Africa) aspettava le 14:45, l’unico momento del giorno con l’illuminazione perfetta. Nichols si diverte in regia, sperimenta, piani sequenza, campi lunghissimi, coreografie degli enormi B-25…
Ma il film fu un flop, non resse la competizione con M.A.S.H., uscito cinque mesi prima, che ebbe invece grande successo.

Candice Bergen e Peter Bogdanovich in visita sul set di Catch 22: mentre la Bergen scatta foto, Bogdanovich e Orson Welles lavorano al celebre libro intervista
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,462 reviews3,611 followers
October 27, 2020
I believe that the novel Catch-22 is the best antiwar satire ever created and it boasts the unique disdainful atmosphere that is practically inimitable.
Army turns an individual into a puppet on strings and the book is a marionette theatre of such puppets where the protagonist seems to be the only person capable to possess true human feelings.
He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.

The value of a human life is above all so life and war are incompatible.
Profile Image for Lisa.
991 reviews3,321 followers
January 10, 2018
"Insanity is contagious."

Like so many other works of originally absurd or dystopian character, this classic catches up with reality faster than I can process. When I first shared Yossarian's frustration over the perfect catch, I did so in a quite abstract way, enjoying the intellectual game the novel kept me engaged in.

Now I find myself frequently thinking of his pain as something I experience myself, every day, reading news and listening to the authorities that are in charge to rule the world. If you want to succeed against the insanity of populist ruthlessness and to restore liberal values and democratic processes, you have to adopt the insane leaders' weapons, and turn yourself into a demagogue playing to the stupidity and insanity of the indoctrinated, thoughtless masses. But then, of course, you do not represent liberal values and democratic processes anymore, you turn into the monster you fight.

When Yossarian realised that he could only escape the threat to his life (the active participation in the war) if he was declared insane, and that expressing the wish to escape the threat to his life showed he was in fact sane, he knew he was in the clutches of insane authorities (which ironically therefore were safe from dying in the war for which they were responsible!). They were keeping their numbing power over him as long as he was sane enough to resist, and human enough to have a character:

"It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character."

As a novel showing the absurdity of war and of nationalism on an individual level, while keeping a (bittersweet) sense of humour, this labyrinth of a tale has no peer:

"The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them."

So here is my catch, let's call it the catch 42 - the catch that kicks in whenever we try to find the Answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. If all insane leaders of the world read this book, they would understand the meaninglessness of their destructive power play, and they would change their ways and the world would finally be a safe place. The catch is that they have to be sane to read it.

So, read it if you are sane enough to understand it. It will drive you crazy though.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book934 followers
January 31, 2021
In Kafka’s The Trial, towards the end of his bureaucratic ordeal, Joseph K. is accosted by a priest who tells him a strange parable. A man came to the gate of the Law, but a watchman was guarding the way. The man asked if he could enter — the gatekeeper said yes, “but not yet”. The man sat by the door and waited to be admitted. He waited for a long time. He tried to bribe the watchman — the watchman accepted the man’s presents, but still didn’t invite him in. The man gave up all his belongings, all in vain. Time went by. The man kept waiting. He grew old and frail, too weak to move. On his dying breath, the gatekeeper finally addressed him: this door was meant for him, but since he never made up his mind to walk in, he would then shut the gate, forever.

You won’t find Joseph K. in Catch-22, but you will meet Yossarian, Joseph H.’s alter ego, an officer in the U.S. Air Force, stationed on a small island off the coast of Italy in 1944. He too is waiting, waiting to be discharged and sent back home. His commanding officer says yes, “but not yet”. The more combat missions Yossarian completes, the more missions his C.O. demands from his men before they can go home. Time goes by; men die; Yossarian is getting hopeless and weak. The Law is absurd, paradoxical, arbitrary, impenetrable, deadly. But, at least, that writ has a name: it is called Catch-22.

Joseph Heller published only a couple of novels in his whole career. But Catch-22 quickly rose to the pantheon of twentieth-century American literature as one of the greatest war novels. Possibly because it was the right novel at the right time: when the USA, at the very height of the Cold War, was getting bogged down in Vietnam. Consequently, the 1960s’ anti-war counter-culture generation embraced Catch-22 and turned it into one of their cult novels.

Heller writes in a unique, unconventional way: his prose is taut, jumping frantically from one situation to the next, from one character to another, with a constant sense of agitation. In particular, his dialogues often feel like a succession of sentences repeated ad nauseam, where all arguments are falling on deaf ears. This technique creates, at the same time, a sense of absurdity, a rhythmical pattern, and ultimately an aftertaste of confusion, exasperation and insanity; quite similar to the works of Céline, Beckett and Ionesco.

The events depicted in the book reflect the hysterical quality and rambling, circular, recursive, repetitive (borderline infuriating) structure of Heller’s writing. These events occur during the Italian campaign of World War II. Danger is ever-present, each mission is life-threatening, men behave erratically, the military is, at its core, a dysfunctional bedlam, victims and casualties pile up. Despite all that, the various characters in Heller’s book are trying to retain a sense of meaning and make the best of an awful job. Most of the time, in vain. Still, Heller’s grotesquely satirical, anti-dramatic, anti-heroic, anti-romantic tone throughout the novel tends to lessen the situation’s acuteness. That is, until the very last couple of chapters, where the horror grabs you by the throat.

Heller’s story is not just about wartime and the military. Heller himself declared that Catch-22 was “an encyclopaedia of the current mental atmosphere”. Indeed, his book still does mean something to us in peacetime, because it reveals a social system designed for efficiency that has nonetheless become inadequate and toxic. We are not facing an external enemy anymore (or are we?), the negative, alienating, schizophrenic forces are now corrupting the system from the inside. Try replacing the privates and officers in the U.S. regiment by employees and managers in a post-modern, late-capitalist corporate bureaucracy, and you’ll understand how visionary and apocalyptic this book is.

Heller’s Catch-22 has often been compared to Vonnegut��s Slaughterhouse-Five. Indeed, both authors share a similar experience on the battlefield and a knack for snappy prose, irony, surreal situations and “gallows humour”. It seems quite obvious, as well, that Catch-22 has been a major source of inspiration for Cold War dark military comedies such as Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

In the end, Yossarian manages to denounce the law of Catch-22 and miraculously paddles away to Sweden — to freedom? Who knows... For those of you who remember Crime and Punishment, Svidrigailov also managed to escape to America — with a loaded revolver inside his coat.

Signed: Washington Irving

PS: A massive thank you to my friend Michelle here, who has been kind enough to “buddy-read” this book with me. Please check out her review.
Profile Image for Shayantani.
312 reviews852 followers
May 17, 2020
Have patience with this book, trust me you will be rewarded.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,616 reviews984 followers
September 10, 2022
I'm really surprised that I gave this book 6 out of 12, as I have always vocally bemoaned how much I didn't enjoy it. The satire / humour I found a tad too infantile for me, so I guess what must have earned my rating, would be how the non-linear story line builds up a whole picture as you read the book? Whether I like it or not it is a modern classic, and I can see why; It's just not my cup of tea. 6 out of 12.

2007 read
Profile Image for Jon Nakapalau.
5,096 reviews723 followers
November 23, 2022
When the title of a book enters the English language that puts it on my reading list right away. What constitutes 'sanity' for men in war is problematic on two levels: 1). - who put them in this situation (war) and 2). - what would a 'sane' person do to get out of the situation. Another book I think should be on a 'congressional reading list'.
Profile Image for Tom Quinn.
552 reviews165 followers
May 18, 2019
This is the best book I've ever read.

It keeps me out of trouble.

I first read it in high school, senior year AP Lit. We read it alongside Kafka's The Metamorphosis and had engaging discussions about what the hell was going on (in the books and in life itself), culminating in a detailed "compare and contrast" essay.

I read it again on my own the next year, my freshman year at college, just for fun.

I read it a third time my junior year, and actually recited a section as a dramatic reading in my Oral Comm class.

I read it again shortly before graduating, then again shortly after landing my first job as an English teacher, then I bought a copy for my classroom library in case some precocious student wanted to pick it up on their own.

I read it twice more after moving to a new state, once cover to cover and once again in semi-random excerpts, starting with whatever page I happened to thumb to.

I read it as my 52nd book of 2016, the last one to complete my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge. What can I say? More than 60 years after publication and it hasn't lost any of its charm, or its poignancy, or its power. More than any other book, this one has shaped my worldview. I love the wordplay, how perfectly beauracracy is skewered and mocked, how relentlessly logical thinking leads to illogical ends. I love how it makes you stop and think and appreciate, how it reminds us of the fleeting nature of life and of the value of living. I love how it encourages us to question everything: authority, beauracracy, faith, government, society. Just who the hell is in charge, and what the hell are they doing, and where the hell do I fit in? I love the ending, the final masterful decision Yossarian makes to stop being a pawn and make himself a king -- more than that, to leave the game and its arbitrary rules altogether.

I love this book.

So, I will read it again, and this review will get a little longer, and I will always affirm:

This is the best book I have ever read.

It keeps me out of trouble.
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews900 followers
February 10, 2017
I’m not sure if it’s a talent or an affliction, but I’ve been blessed or cursed with a penchant for taking someone else’s creative work and extrapolating it to skewed extremes. That explains my yet-to-be-published collection of fan fiction, unauthorized sequels, and twists in perspective. I first discovered this talent/affliction as a boy when I imagined a fourth little pig who leveraged himself to the hilt, built a luxury skyscraper, and, with YUGE block letters at its base, labelled it Pig Tower. The Big Bad Wolf, as a professional courtesy (and quite possibly with the promise of kickbacks), agreed to a huff and puff waiver.

As a teen I wrote a follow-up to Kurt Vonnegut’s classic that I called Slaughterhouse-Six. It was set in a mirror image world where war was devastating the planet Tralfamadore. Fortunately, the protagonist, Libby Mirglip, survived the bombs and lived a varied if not full life after the conflict. She was aided by alien visitors from planet Earth who showed her, through their own less enlightened example, what not to do.

I’d prefer not to go into the details of one my more recent works, Fifty-two Shades of Grey. If it’s ever published, it’ll be under an assumed name, or maybe names – I’m toying with the idea of S. and M. John. BTW, I saw that some other joker stole my basic idea and technically beat me to the preferred number fifty-one.

This brings us to my latest, Catch-23. Since I’ve already done an absurdist post-war account of tragedy/comedy with Slaughterhouse-Six, I wanted to steer clear of such a heavy/humorous theme this time. Instead, Catch-23 is the story of a local seafood restaurant on 23 S. Washington St. in Naperton, Illinois. They became famous for their Shrimp Yossarian. Then a new executive chef upped the number of times customers would fly through the doors by offering Skate Wing Schnitzel a la Scheisskopf, Major Major Mahi Mahi, and Stuffed Oysters Orr-style. Naperton’s whore gave the story some much needed spice. (As with any fan fiction, references will only be appreciated by those who know the original.)

Oh, and hey, there is a catch here. Against your better judgment, you continued reading each ridiculous example in this exercise of “one more." Making it this far means you’ve read “one more” paragraph all the way to the end. The catch is that you must be crazy enough to perceive this as a payoff.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
468 reviews3,254 followers
January 22, 2020
Life would be beautiful if it wasn't for the war; Captain John Yossarian is not happy, flying in an U.S. Army B-25 plane as a bombardier during WW2 ... continuous take- offs and landings on the small Italian island of Pianosa near the west coast of Italy is no real fun ( the isle in reality was too small for runways). Flak may seem pretty in the sky, from below, however above...but to Yo Yo his nickname, the anti- aircraft fire will pulverize you into tiny bits of unrecognizable
debris... Thought he was a loyal American until ambitious Colonel Cathcart raises combat missions from 25 to 30 ... 35... 40..50..55..60...70...maybe soon 80 ? The cold Colonel Korn his second in command urges more missions if his boss desires to become a general, a sacrifice they are willing to take for their men, after all both stay on terra firma .... A man could be killed around here thinks Mr. Yossarian and not thrilled about such a prospect.That occurs to him when he notices most of his friends are dying in the strife and not eager to join the unliving, can he just go home? The nervous warrior invariably seeks admittance to the hospital, a frequent visitor to get out of flying other times
has real wounds not always from the enemy, now needs to escape from the island yet the people he meets there, doctors, nurses and especially patients are more unhinged than he... The strange one is covered from head to foot in bandages or plaster, creeps the others out with just a minuscule entrance to breath, like a whale's blowhole, alive maybe..that's highly debatable. Nevertheless a certain nurse attracts him, there is joy in the most unpromising situations and nurse Duckett is attractive ...And swimming in the sea and laying on the beach with her has its compensations... Be understanding some advise this , ( there are shortages of qualified airmen for combat duty ) including Chaplain Tappman, a man not sure of his own duty; war or peace... like everyone else he desires to get back to America.. Milo Minderbinde , Captain Yossarian mysterious pal emerges from the mess hall to stardom as the always conniving entrepreneur doing deals, doesn't matter if they are enemies, business is business and the object is to make money. Spain, Egypt, Turkey, Portugal, Sicily anywhere where there is a buck to make and planes can reach, he thrives in the madness. Still while the airmen live, Yossarian and friends travel to Rome for relaxation and the best way is...finding loose women those not too particular about looks or manners or clean rooms and wild ways , will tolerate much for gratuities... Everybody calls everyone crazy in the book which is quite accurate, war is insane but never unfashionable, some believe this will happen on Earth for perpetuity ... Joseph Heller's anti- war black comedy classic has given the world the phrase catch-22 meaning a dilemma, whatever you choose you lose. This novel though not for all, is a magnificent trip into the horrors of brutal mindless discord you have to laugh, in order to survive..
Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,255 reviews2,297 followers
May 11, 2016
Years ago, while I was (unsuccessfully) searching for a job in the Middle East, I met a career consultant.

"How do I land a job in the Middle East?" I asked.

"Well, for that you need experience," he told me, scratching his chin.

"But I have eighteen years of experience!" I protested.

"That may be so," he said. "What I meant was - you need Gulf experience."

"But I can't get that unless I get a job in the Gulf," I pointed out.

"Yes, I know." He said serenely. "You see, that's the catch..."
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
Author 6 books140 followers
December 4, 2013
This book was utterly misrepresented to me before I read it. For some reason I'd always thought it had been published the same year as Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow and was considered as representing the other fork of post World War II American literature apart from Pynchon's--this the conventional, plot-driven one catering to stupid people. Some professor or some didact must have told me that, enrroenously as it turns out, once. Catch 22 predates the Pynchon masterpeice by 15 years, and is in style an apt precursor. Its subject is war and its hilarity. In this it shares much with Pynchon as well as Vonnegut. Since James Heller is not as obviously over-bursting with brilliance and random facts about particle physics as Pynchon, nor is he as willing to pander to mainstream tastes (I think) as Vonnegut, Catch 22 is a tought read at the begiining. There is a lot of irony and detachment, but with not as much ease as Vonnegut and with less of the awe inspired by Pynchon. IN fact, I almost gave up, and had started this book (450 pages) several times before and actually had given up. The real story of Catch 22 doesn't start coming together well past page 200, but when it does, it really does. There is a brilliant portrait of an entrepreneurial mess chef who is the representation of evil, evil being capitalism and the lack of loyalty to any moral cause. He creates a vast international smuggling network whose intricacies are at once ridicuously amusing and yet, it seems, accurately and minutely portrayed--it's as if Heller were a partcile physicist translating science for us when he lays out how that "syndicate" works. Most importantly, the book affected me because of what it had to say about war, and then how it was able to communicate that through the heartbreaking travails of one officer--Yossarian--who is willing to act out human desires in the face of a dominant culture turned insanse and subhuman, caricatured. His wartime airforce base is a perfect illustration of RD Laing's common-sense supposition, developed not long after the period of this novel, that insanity is a sane response to an insane world. Catch 22 is clever and tight and thematic--"Catch 22" refers to how things that seem irrational can be made to seem rational through tautology. This is a cleverly embroidered theme throught the entire novel. But in the end these are not what make the book great. It's the emotion at the heart of the book, Yossarian's desire to live and be fleshly human, and his unwillingness to retreat into the bastions of irony and obtuseness so attractive to eberyone around him. This is what makes Catch 22 heartbreaking and poignant, tear0jerkin even.
Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,345 followers
January 29, 2015
Catch-22 reminds me a lot of those comedy/tragedy masks—you know the ones that are supposed to represent like, fine theater or something? Not that I’m comparing Catch-22 to some great Italian opera. All I’m saying is that the book oscillates cleverly between the absurdly humorous and the grievingly tragic.

So it starts off on the hilarious side. Here’s a bit that had me giggling aloud (rather embarrassingly, I might add, as I was surrounded by other people at the time):
The colonel dwelt in a vortex of specialists who were still specializing in trying to determine what was troubling him. They hurled lights in his eyes to see if he could see, rammed needles into nerves to hear if he could feel.
Ha! That one still gets me. Unfortunately, the laugh-out-loudness has caused some people to think I’m crazy, but I suppose that’s the price one must pay for decent literature.

And then, like great Italian opera (really, I hadn’t meant to expound the parallel this far, but look—its happening!), you start itching for the intermission because your legs are falling asleep and you really need to take a leak. This is the point at which the humor starts to wear thin and seemingly unrelated events are haphazardly thrown around and you’re wondering if it’s going anywhere or if it’s just one absurd situation after another.

But finally, you settle in for Act III and discover that the seemingly unrelated events are actually part of an ingenious narrative structure that Heller has planned out from the beginning. Jokes that were set up earlier finally deliver their punch lines. Only it turns out the jokes aren’t funny anymore. In many ways, Heller’s writing is like that of Kurt Vonnegut, with similar subject matter wrapped up in threads of absurdity. But while Vonnegut speaks of the horrors of war, Heller’s issues are more with the horrors of the War Department: it is the red tape of bureaucracy that gets his goat. Well, and war, too, but mostly it’s the bureaucracy.

Anyway, this book is smart and well written. It would be difficult for me to come up with the name of another author who could write such perfectly contradictory sentences while still making so much sense.

theater masks
Profile Image for Anne.
4,053 reviews69.5k followers
July 10, 2022
While I agree with everyone who says the book is important, I also think it could have been chopped down by about 300 pages.
The story is about how lives are ruined when the wrong people are put in charge, why war isn't some grand adventure, and the ridiculous nature of bureaucracy in general.
It's not so much funny as it is satirical, and the joke wears thin as it spins in circles with nonsensical stories that add very little to the overall reading experience.
My opinion, of course.


I am extremely glad I read this because most people know what you mean when you say Catch-22, but maybe not everyone knows it originated from this book.

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. "Is Orr crazy?"
"He sure is," Doc Daneeka said.
"Can you ground him?"
"I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule."
"Then why doesn't he ask you to?"
"Because he's crazy," Doc Daneeka said. "He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to."
"That's all he has to do to be grounded?"
"That's all. Let him ask me."
"And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked.
"No. Then I can't ground him."
"You mean there's a catch?"
"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy."
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's 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.
"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.


I appreciate learning more about the source material for stuff like this. But the story doesn't go anywhere but in a sideways circle, so I was absolutely gagging for this to be over with after a relatively short time. And this is not a relatively short book. By the end of it, I had exhausted all of my patience and was annoyed by everything from the dialogue to the character themselves.


If you're a reader like me who needs things to kind of go somewhere in a somewhat concise time period, then you may need to temper your expectations with this one.
Still, I'm not sorry I ticked this one off the bucket list.
Profile Image for Adina .
889 reviews3,524 followers
Shelved as 'abandoned'
February 22, 2019
From cleaning my TBR project. Not my type of humour, I guess. Tried to read it a few times and I think is time to let go of this classic. It is too long to battle through it.
Profile Image for David Putnam.
Author 18 books1,591 followers
July 31, 2020
I have tried three times and can not drop into this book. It's too disjointed my brain doesn't work that way I guess. I wanted to like it. I loved the premise, the concept. It just didn't work and I'm more disappointed about it than anyone else. :-0
180 reviews6 followers
March 17, 2008
Absurdist plays are one act for a reason.

Seriously, I know there were points to make about the repetitive ridiculousness of bureaucracy/war/capitalism/life, but over 450 pages of variations on the Catch-22 joke?

I did find myself more affected than I would have guessed by some of the deaths, and some of the lines were clearly awesome.

Underlined bits:
In a world in which success was the only virtue, he had resigned himself to failure.(277, about the Chaplain)
Because he needed a friend so desperately, he never found one. (95, about Major Major)
Since he had nothing better to do well in, he did well in school. (95, about same)
Clevinger was one of those people with lots of intelligence and no brains, and everyone knew it except those who soon found it out. (77)
Kraft was a skinny, harmless kid from Pennsylvania who wanted only to be liked, and was destined to be disappointed in even so humble and degrading an ambition. (64)
it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything(44)
In an airplane there was absolutely no place in the world to go except to another part of the airplane. (42)
Actually, there were many officer's clubs that Yossarian had not helped build, but he was proudest of the one on Pianosa. It was a sturdy and complex monument to his powers of determination. Yossarian never went there to help until it was finished; then he went there often, so pleased was he with the large, fine, rambling shingled building. It was truly a splendid structure, and Yossarian throbbed with a mighty sense of accomplishment each time he gazed at it and reflected that none of the work that had gone into it was his. (27)
There were terrifying, sudden moments when objects, concepts and even people that the chaplain had lived with almost all his life inexplicably took on an unfamiliar and irregular aspect that he had never seen before and which made them seem totally strange: jamais vu. (214)
"You put so much stock in winning wars," the grubby, iniquitous old man scoffed. "The real trick lies in losing wars, in knowing which wars can be lost. Italy has been losing wars for centuries, and just see how splendidly we've done nonetheless."(255)

Lots of repetitiveness, even in that short list.
Reminds me of Confederacy of Dunces. I feel I was bored and frustrated in a similar way, but probably won't reread either to search for actual parallels beyond obvious "supposedly hilarious classics I outright hated" classification.
Profile Image for Teresa Jusino.
Author 7 books50 followers
December 4, 2013
"I really do admire you a bit. You're an intelligent person of great moral character who has taken a very courageous stand. I'm an intelligent person with no moral character at all, so I'm in an ideal position to appreciate it." - Colonel Korn, Catch-22

I really appreciate it when a book respects the intelligence of its readership. If a book is going to be "experimental" in any way, I love those that throw you into a world with no explanations - a literary baptism of fire (ie: Orwell's "Animal Farm"). Catch-22 is one of those books, and that's part of the reason why I thought it was so amazing!

Catch-22 tells the story of a US Army squadron based in Italy during WWII, and a disenchanted pilot named Yossarian who thinks everyone is trying to kill him. (not an unreasonable assumption in a war) Except that it's not an Italy, a military story, or a world that we're meant to immediately recognize. There is a logic in the book that all the characters seem to accept, but that doesn't make sense to the reader. Or, alternately, it makes too much sense to the reader, and that's when the book hits you hard. You start falling into it. You start siding with people. Then all of a sudden, you realize that you're siding with the wrong people. You start thinking to yourself how could I be agreeing with this asshole?! How can I be laughing! My favorite books are the ones that elicit visceral reactions from me...my chest gets tight, my stomach gets tied in knots, and I can't explain why I'm reacting positively/negatively - I just know that I am. There were so many of those moments in this book, I can't even begin to describe them all...

One of the things that impressed me most was the structure of the book - how all at once it seemed both haphazard, and entirely calculated. How each segment could stand alone, but that together they weaved an intricate, thought-provoking story...
If you like historical novels, if you like political novels, if you like in-depth characters, if you like humor, if you like to think - I would highly recommend this book to you.
Profile Image for Juliet.
8 reviews6 followers
August 13, 2007
Maybe there's a reason this book is usually required high school reading; it reads like it was written by a 17-year old. Someone who clearly finds himself to be hilarious, and no one ever had the heart to tell him differently.

I never felt for any of the characters, I never laughed, I never cried. In fact, half way through the book I couldn't take it anymore, so I skipped ahead to the last chapter and yet it still made sense. I'm sorry, but if nothing happens in the second half of a book to impact the ending, then something is very wrong.

I know there are a lot of people out there who think this is one of the classics and that everyone should read it, but it just doesn't hold up to any of the classics I've read thus far. Hell, it doesn't even hold up to Sheep in a Jeep.
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