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06 June 2009 @ 12:44 pm
Catch-22, Joseph Heller

Reading this book was like trying to do a jigsaw with my feet. In the bath.

Of all the things I expected from this book, a happy ending was not one of them. Whoa.

Actually, that's a lie. I only expected one thing of this book: that someday, someday, it would end. I would be able to stop reading the same stories and the same conversations and hearing about fucking Snowden dying in the fucking plane and Orr's whore hitting him on the head. SOME DAY.

Today was that day. It was a good day.

I really don't think the book gained anything by being told in this repetitive, cyclical manner that it would have lost if it were a single, linear narrative. Except wordcount. Which leads me to ask: was he paid by the word?

"[...] Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it's to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?"
"I do," Dunbar told him.
"Why?" Clevinger asked.
"What else is there?"

What happened to Dunbar? *sadface*

He knew everything about literature except how to enjoy it.


To Yossarian, the idea of pennants as prizes was absurd. No money went with them, no class priveleges. Like Olympic medals and tennis trophies, all they signified was that the owner had done something of no benefit to anyone more capably than everyone else.

OMG this encapsulates my attitude towards the Olympics to a T.

The more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was; to Captain Black it was as simple as that, and he had Corporal Kolodny sign hundreds with his name each day so that he could always prove he was more loyal than anyone else.

This book gets its funnies from how ludicious everyone is without realising it, or having anyone else calling them on it.

What happened to Major -- de Coverley? *sadface*

"Open your eyes, Clevinger. It doesn't make a damn bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead."
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "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."

But he didn't.

"I'm sorry, sir, but just about all the prayers I know are rather sombre in tone and make at least some passing reference to God."

Did they ever make a film of Catch-22? Because I want a .gif of Colonel Cathcart and the chaplain with this line and an 'O RLY?' stamp on the colonel's face.

[...] the colonel was certainly not going to waste his time and energy making love to beautiful women unless there was something in it for him.


"Don't you see what this means? Now you can take me off combat duty and send me home. They're not going to send a crazy man out to be killed, are they?"
"Who else will go?"

This can also be found in dictionaries under the entry War: a Definition.

simpering idiocy of a woman in heat


I hated Aarfy all the way through, as every right-thinking person should. Here's why:

[...] none of the men had slept with her because none of the men had ever wanted to, none but Aarfy, who had raped her once that same evening and had then held her prisoner in a clothes closet for almost two hours with his hand over her mouth until the civilian curfew sirens sounded and it was unlawful for her to be outside.

AND THEN HE THREW HER OUT A WINDOW AND SHE DIED. Why did McWatt and Kid Sampson and Nately (oh gooooooooood Nately) and Hungry Joe have to die and not Aarfy, whywhywhy? *SADFACE*

"No, no. In what state were you born?"
"In a state of innocence."

I'm so bitched that this joke wouldn't work outside the US.

Man was matter, that was Snowden's secret. Drop him out a window and he'll fall. Set fire to him and he'll burn. Bury him and he'll rot, like other kinds of garbage. The spirit gone, man is garbage. That was Snowden's secret. Ripeness was all.

I still don't know why I had to hear this story five times before he got to the point, though.

"It's absolutely insane. Your conscience will never let you rest."
"God bless it." Yossarian laughed. "I wouldn't want to live without strong misgivings."

Good line, but is it worth a 600-page slog? Hmm. The jury's still out on that one.

Previously, on Book Glomp 2009:
He Knew He Was Right, Anthony Trollope
The Bostonians, Henry James
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
For Esme - with Love and Squalor, JD Salinger
The Outsider, Albert Camus
The Princess Diaries: Ten out of Ten, Meg Cabot
The Vicar of Bullhampton, Anthony Trollope
Molesworth, Geoffrey Willans
Villette, Charlotte Bronte
The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James
The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler
Cecilia, Fanny Burney
The Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann
Siddhartha, Herman Hesse
The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
The Duke and I, Julia Quinn
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell
Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee
the claw-foot Lady: [hpgroup] it's safe to say:softlyforgotten on June 6th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
Oh man, I confess I love this book, for all its lengths and rambling circularity and misogyny, because I loved whatshisface, the chef (EVEN WHEN HE WENT BAD) and because I had just finished reading 1984 and it was like "OH THANK GOD, A BOOK ABOUT A CORRUPT GOVERNMENT AND CORRUPT PEOPLE THAT ISN'T SO DESPERATELY DEPRESSING THAT I WANT TO KILL MYSELF."
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Bands PATD Ryan makeupscoradh on June 6th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
Milo Minderbinder, who stole all the morphine? That part killed me. I could forgive anything but stealing morphine from people who need it. D:

I STILL NEED TO READ 1984. The library never has it and I don't want to buy it because a) it is tiny, no value for money and b) I finished Animal Farm with the thought, "How stupid, why didn't the hens and stuff just peck the pigs to death. ANIMALS. HONESTLY." lol such a pleb.
Merit: BGeraldmeritjubet on June 6th, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)
I loved this book when I first read it even though it took me a while to figure out who everyone was and what the hell was happening. I guess when someone writes in a particular style that seems so unusual and special, it is remembered even if the style wasn't particularly the most awesome. Like stream of consciousness.

I'm so bitched that this joke wouldn't work outside the US. And Australia! :D and if you construe it to mean a nation-state, then it could apply elsewhere.

And they did make a film.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: Candy lipsscoradh on June 6th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)
I guess my main issue with it was the fact that everyone is crazy. And not the 'good' crazy, like ... Picasso or whatever; the low-level crazy that just gives you the talent for driving other people up the wall. Like Aarfy getting the prostitute to throw her cameo ring out the window when all the men thought it was awesome and Hungry Joe wanted to buy it. ASLKDJFHSDLKJHFSAKJ I kind of wanted to kill them all even as I laughed at them.

True! And I was born in Queensland, actually, so that would work. HOW SO STUPID, SELF. D:
Harry's complete lack of ducksharriet_vane on June 6th, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
I really love this book. The cyclical narrative just really worked for me.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: halowrites: blue and grey flowersscoradh on June 6th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
*hands* I'm just destined to be the guy from Shakespeare in Love who says 'I fink I've seen it. I din't like it' and tortures people. I accept this.
Harry's complete lack of ducks: book reviewharriet_vane on June 6th, 2009 05:45 pm (UTC)
I made my students a summer reading list and refused to put Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights on it. The english department is furious. Some people don't like some books, you know?
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: realityscoradh on June 6th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
I think it's important to know what you hate, though. Which in my case is 'pretty much everything.' :D
tsinogatna: sinfest iitsinogatna on June 6th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
Ahh, I love Catch-22. It's so genius. Every other line is a punch line, though, which gets to be a little exhausting after a while. I had to read it in short sittings.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: halowrites: tiger kittenscoradh on June 6th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
I knowwwwwww. And too much humour cancels out empathy, I find. Not to mention that it turned the whole thing a hair too close to outright parody.
Blindmouse: smrt grls r hotblindmouse on June 7th, 2009 03:36 am (UTC)
I've actually been thinking about this book a lot lately, because of On the Road. Because I read it when I was, I don't know, fourteen maybe, and I loved it so much. It's my favourite example of the well-done directional open ending, because it's not actually a happy ending, everything is still fucked, everybody will still probably die, but we've just had three chapters of spiralling down and down and down and culminating with Aarfy and the rape and murder and everything is so fucking dark and then there's this one, one spike up into hope and it's like you're flying. So I loved it lots, and I thought it was desperately clever and funny, but I never reread it since because I couldn't face the thought of doing that spiral of darkness again.

And the thing is that I'm not sure whether I could love it if I read it now, and I'm really curious. Because it is misogynistic as hell, and everybody is an asshole, and if they're crazy and entertaining they get away with being an asshole because, hey, the world is crazy and nobody's good so what does it matter?

I can't decide whether I would still find that heartbreaking and blackly funny, or just irritating.

Fwiw, I remember the movie being strange and not very clever. It had Art Garfunkel in a bit role as somebody called Tom, which I remember only because there's a Simon & Garfunkel song with the line "Tom, get your plane out on time; I know your part'll go fine".
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Art: princessscoradh on June 7th, 2009 11:58 am (UTC)
See, I couldn't find it all that dark because it was so obviously not real. Like, sure, the army like any other large organisation will have a number of crackpots and navel-gazers like the ones presented here. But a whole REGIMENT of them? No, I just can't buy it. And WWII was a serious war. If this was set in, like, Kuwait in the 90s it would slip down easy, but what they were fighting against was pure undiluted evil. OH THIS IS COMING OUT ALL WRONG, but. I guess making light of what WWII was for, what it achieved, doesn't work for me. Whereas more modern wars, of which my knowledge is based entirely on the film Three Kings, don't seem to MATTER so much.

I can't love it because he wrote as if he was trying to alienate readers on purpose, and I don't appreciate that kind of asshattery.