463 pages Reprint
edition (September 1996)
was a time when reading Joseph Heller's classic satire on
the murderous insanity of war was nothing less than a rite
of passage. Echoes of Yossarian, the wise-ass bombardier who
was too smart to die but not smart enough to find a way out
of his predicament, could be heard throughout the counterculture.
As a result, it's impossible not to consider Catch-22
to be something of a period piece. But 40 years on, the novel's
undiminished strength is its looking-glass logic. Again and
again, Heller's characters demonstrate that what is commonly
held to be good, is bad; what is sensible, is nonsense.
Yossarian says, "You're talking about winning the war,
and I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive."
"Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which
do you think is more important?"
"To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "It doesn't
make a damn bit of difference who wins the war to someone
"I can't think of another attitude that could be depended
upon to give greater comfort to the enemy."
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision,
"is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter
which side he's on."
Mirabile dictu, the book holds up post-Reagan, post-Gulf War.
It's a good thing, too. As long as there's a military, that
engine of lethal authority, Catch-22 will shine as
a handbook for smart-alecky pacifists. It's an utterly serious
and sad, but damn funny book.
THE LOONY HORROR OF IT ALL- 'CATCH-22' TURNS 25
by John W. Aldridge
October 26, 1986
Looking back today at ''Catch-22''- which was published
25 years ago this month- we are able to see that it has had a remarkable,
if not altogether unclouded, literary history. It has passed from
relatively modest initial success with readers and critics - many
of whom liked the book for just the reasons that caused others to
hate it - through massive best-sellerdom and early canonization
as a youth-cult sacred text to its current status as a monumental
artifact of contemporary American literature, almost as assured
of longevity as the statues on Easter Island. [read