Thursday, July 5, 2018

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Title: Catch 22
Author: Joseph Heller
Read by:  Jay O. Sanders
Publisher: Caedmon Audio
Length: Approximately 19 hours and 30 minutes
Source: Kewaunee Public Library

Catch 22 has been on my “to read” list since I was a teenager. I had it on my Classics Club list to read it by 2020, but now that   on PBS Great American Read and was highlighted the first week of the program I decided now was the time to buckle down and read it. I read Catch 22 differently than usual. I listened to CD audiobook of this story on my weekly trips to Milwaukee and read the physical book at home.

Catch 22 is a World War II novel that captures that absurdity of war.  It’s a unique novel that is quite humorous and goes into the absurd, but it also is very, very dark.  It started off more on the humor side of things, but as the novel progressed, particularly towards the end, everything went dark and really showed the true horror of war. 

Yossarian is a bombardier in Italy during the war.  He wants to return home from the war with his life, even if he dies trying.  As the war continues, Yossarian finds himself caught in the absurdity and darkness of it all.  Every time he thinks he’s reached the amount of missions needed to be able to return home, the amount of missions is increased.

The timeline of the novel was quite interesting, it changed around all the time.  There seemed to be defining moments in Yossarian’s life, such as Snowden’s death that everything kept circling back to. Many chapters were about a specific person in the company and how they viewed the events.  It was interesting to see the same event through so many different perspectives.

I really liked the audiobook narrator, Jay O. Sanders.  He gave a great voice to each character and read the book with much enthusiasm.  I also liked the military music at the start and end of the CDs.  This was the first book I read combined audio and text and it worked well on both ends. The language in the text was beautiful and was wonderful to hear through the audio and to read in the book.  The end of the audiobook also included an archival recording of Joseph Heller reading his personal selections from Catch-22 which was very interesting.

The 50th anniversary edition of the book was a fantastic edition.  It had a great introduction by Christopher Buckley and numerous bonus material at the end of history, context, and criticism of the novel.  I found it all fascinating and appreciated it.  It gave me a deeper understanding of the novel.

I am not a fan of how women are treated in this novel.  The only women in the novel are whores, wives that sleep around with the men, or nurses that are basically sexually harassed.  I know the men are in the service and have urges, but it was strange to me to have the women as purely sexual object, many with no names, just descriptions.  I want to read the story of Nately’s whore.  What did you have to do to survive in Italy during WWII?

Favorite Quotes:

“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for ones’ own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind.  Orr was crazy and he could be grounded.  All he had to do was ask; and as soon as a 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 the 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.”

“The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on, and that includes Colonel Cathcart.  And don’t you forget that, because the longer you remember it, the longer you might live.”

“You know, that might be the answer – to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of.  That’s a trick that never seems to fail.”

“He had decided to live forever or die in the attempt, and his only mission each time he went up was to come down alive.”

Overall, I had no idea what to expect with Catch-22 and I was deeply surprised by the book.  I really enjoyed it for its humor and dark look at war.  Both the audiobook and physical book were great. My only complaint was the treatment of women in the book.


  1. Laura,
    Thanks for your honest review of this book. The depiction of women and how they're treated in this book would bother me a lot, too.

  2. I read this in high school and remember liking Yossarian (he reminded me of Hawkeye from MASH), but I don't remember too much else about it. I should probably read it again some time. :)

  3. It was well worth the read . . . although I really didn't like way the women were written.