Author: Joseph Heller
Date Published: 1961
Before the lack of a rating on this review leads you to believe I disliked this book, let me state that Catch-22 is a fantastic book, and one of the best that I have read. There is no rating because, if you are like me, you might only look at the number and not even bother to read the review. Furthermore, on a personal note I don’t believe a number is the best way to describe the art that is Joseph Heller’s masterwork.
Now let us get back to the review. Simply put, Catch-22 is superb. Yossarian, the novel’s protagonist, is human caught in the inane cycling of the novel’s bureaucracy. Often referred to as crazy, because he flies dangerous combat missions, Yossarian nonetheless cannot find a way to avoid the missions because doing so would indicate sanity, and therefore competence to fly. By so depicting the ridiculousness of those who make decisions that do not directly affect them, Heller’s work can be seen as a critique of bureaucracy and its potential to desensitize people. In this case, we can see firsthand how bureaucracy has desensitized all of the authorities in Yossarian’s camp.
I won’t talk about plot details, but I will say that Heller maintains an excellent balance, by accentuating certain moods in situations where there could be many. For instance, while some chapters that deal with corruption and hatred are quite comical and light, death is always extremely serious and personal in Catch-22. Although the novel is usually considered comical, one particular chapter stands out as heart wrenching; despite his satire elsewhere, here he forces the reader to experience viscerally a scenario in which somebody else is dying.
This balance between satire and visceral emotion is one the major reasons Catch 22 is such an excellent novel. But don’t take my word for it – read the book. I would argue that it does not matter if you like it or not; Catch-22 is the type of novel that you will never forget.
Review by Michael Solah, A&S '15