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126 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it or hate it
People I know who have read Catch-22 have:
* Been unable to talk to me about it because they laugh when they're half way through telling me what it is they want to say
* Glorified it as funnier than any book, film, comedy series or stand up performance they've ever seen
* Said that they found it so annoying they had to throw it away
* Asked me what was...
Published on 24 Jan 2005 by S. Pollard

versus
60 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A unique book, but not for me
A few friends and colleagues had recommended this book to me and as it is one of the Classics of our times, I was eager to read it. On a positive note, it is a completely different style to anything I have read before, and I have read hundreds of books - both contemporary and Classics, as well as various genres.

However, I found the book very hard-going, with a...
Published on 28 Aug 2011 by Kathryn


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126 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it or hate it, 24 Jan 2005
By 
S. Pollard "spollardo" (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
People I know who have read Catch-22 have:
* Been unable to talk to me about it because they laugh when they're half way through telling me what it is they want to say
* Glorified it as funnier than any book, film, comedy series or stand up performance they've ever seen
* Said that they found it so annoying they had to throw it away
* Asked me what was happening after reading the first 100 pages
* Considered never reading again because they'd decided they'd never read anything better
* Had to leave the tube due to annoying the other passengers by laughing
Why do people love it? Because it is dark, surreal, immoral, subversive and hilarious. It gets away with it because Heller finds the perfect setting (a small island) in the perfect time (World War 2 - a dark, surreal, immoral time). But it all rings true because Heller was a WW2 airman himself.
Why do people hate it? I can only speculate. Maybe it's because there is no traditional plot-weaving. Maybe because the chronology is all over the place. Maybe because the main love-interest is a whore. Maybe because it relies on being absurd.
Its humour lies in words mainly so maybe people who don't find wordplay funny don't find Catch-22 funny.
Everyone should TRY and read this book. Even if you do cast it aside and lament a waste of a week's reading after 200 pages. If you love it you will really love it. I did and it's led to me writing an amazon review - and I've never done that before.
Just don't read the sequel.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond great, 11 Jan 2005
By 
ZDDQ140770 - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
Its taken me two attempts to read Catch 22, the first thwarted by the books odd structure based on characters rather than story and the authors initially difficult style. I've stuck with it, read it and am about to re-read it.
Yes this is funny, yes this is a great satire, yes this is deeply surreal, yes it is a direct descendant of Alice in Wonderland, Nineteen Eighty Four and an antecedant of Monty Python, Terry Pratchett and much comedy inbetween. Yes the writing is brilliant and Heller's pitch is artfully sustained across the entire novel. But these are only some of the reasons you should read this.
It is foolish to pigeon-hole this as a war novel- this is about the world, and the way the planet works NOW. Characters such as Milo, the ruthless entrepreneur, Cathcart the idiotically ambitious general, and Yossarian himself ring absolutely true. However, the battle sequences are utterly terrifying as they should be and the sense of loss at the death of a friend is shocking. However it is the sense of the war as huge organism which shuffles people around often without itself knowing why that, although it owes a great deal to Jaroslav Hašek, remains Catch 22's legacy.
This is a book you can live with and can keep you company for life. In dark psychological periods this can remind you that being at odds with an uncaring world is not neccessarily a hopeless thing. When feeling politically helpless, it can can remind you of how absurd, how unreasonable the planet actually is and how the human spirit can conquer.
And ultimately, the book is redemptive, it shows there are ways of escaping, and that the sanest people may well be the craziest (or is that the other way round?). This IS the great novel of the 21st century, as it describes a world when lunacy and illogic are the rules of the game- is this so out of place in a society where we spend more than we earn, where entertainment is looking at people like us, where freedom means removing liberty and education means idiocy?
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81 of 91 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate exploration of the human condition, 20 Nov 1998
By A Customer
On the surface, Catch-22 is a fine novel about the U.S Army Air Force in Europe during the 1939-45 war. You do not have to scratch the surface hard to find a classic, timeless novel of the fine line between sanity and total madness. Is Yossarian, the 'hero', totally sane, or utterly, irredeemably insane? You tell me. Catch-22 is unique in its ability to thrust confusion, frustration, despair, insanity, death and plain old fashioned misery in waves - and yet repeatedly surprise you with its sidesplitting humour. When you laugh, you are not laughing at Heller's finely crafted characters, with all their idiosyncrasies, but at yourself, your friends and relatives. Because Heller's situations mirror the daily stupidities that we all put up with, laugh about and cry about. Reading Catch-22 is like sitting through the main feature a second time - you know exactly what will happen next; you know that nothing can change it. You cannot help hoping that it won't be so bad. But, of course, it's worse.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absurd masterpiece, 28 Dec 2004
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
Heller's 'Catch-22' is one of my favourite books, and probably the one I have read the most times in my adult life. It is a brilliant indictment of twentieth century life, an absurd masterpiece, touching and grotesque and, in places, very funny.
The book is set on the island of Pianosa in World War II, where Yossarian, a bombadier in the US Air Force, is trying his best to survive, and is labelled crazy for doing so. His squadron is peopled by a wonderful cast of characters, each of whom has their own approach to getting through the war, each of which seems equally crazy. Indeed 'crazy' is one of the most used words in the book, and the one that, by the end, we realise has least meaning. Everyone in the book has a unique way of approaching the problems facing them, and a unique way of assessing the success (or otherwise) of their aims. Yossarian stumbles through it all confused and frightened, but with a perspective as sane as anyone else. Although the story meanders (in both structure and time) Heller never loses sight of his objectives, and every chapter and story illustrate the madness perfectly.
This is not an anti-war novel, it is a novel about life, and how absurd it is however we try to get through it. It is also not a comic novel in the traditional sense. Heller often stressed that the humour was always there to make you think, not to make you laugh, although it frequently does both. Heller frequently makes you laugh then brings you down to earth with a jolt. The horrors of war (and of life) are never far away and the highs are always tinged with bitterness in a way that only truly great writing can manage. He is also not afraid of abandoning his absurd style for more disturbing images, such as Yossarian's walk through a foetid Rome in 'The Eternal City' or the final spilling of Snowden's secret, yet this is never done mawkishly or with over-sentimentality. This book gives you lots of reasons to despair, but some to hope, and many to laugh. It is epic in scope, unrelenting in its message and utterly wonderful. The twentieth century in 500 pages. Read it.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A satirical masterpiece, 23 Jun 2004
I recommend this novel as a magnificent satire on warfare and the human condition. Set in the Second World War in allied-conquered Italy, it contrives to be hilarious and tragic simultaneously. The hero of the novel, Yossarian, is an individual not afraid to declare his hatred for war and the novel is constructed around his many attempts to be allowed home. It demonstrates the pointlessness of war and the suffering of the pilots who flew bombing missions. It is, however, tremendously funny as each and every character is ridiculed. Heller satirises capitalism and commercialism through his entrepreneurial character Milo and this particular aspect of the book is incredibly funny in a gallows humour way. The novel is about madness, and the entrapment of everyone in the title of the work, Catch-22. One example of the many in the novel; Yossarian does not want to fly any more missions, but the only way he can get out of them is to be declared insane. Yet if he declares himself insane, the generals will know he is sane for wanting to get out of the missions in the first place, since only a mad person would want to fly the missions! It does not sensitively explore human relationships in warfare as Birdsong does but does well exhibit the weakness and selfishness of humans in times of adversity. War is not about comradeship, but survival of the fittest. Heller writes with incredible insight into the human condition, and his experience of serving as a bombardier in the war obviously has immensely influenced him. Although the context is the Second World War, what it has to say about the incompetence of leaders and the futility of war is relevant to any conflict. The novel is not particularly compassionate, is graphic, and does not refrain from heavy criticism of those who forced Yossarian into war and continued the conflict. Heller is to be applauded for such a controversial work since it was written not long after the war and first published in 1961. It is an anti-war novel like All Quiet on The Western Front but is much more like George Orwell's 1984 or Animal Farm in its satirical style. Much of his writing may outrage some readers, but if you want to read a satirical masterpiece set in a time of conflict, there is nothing better and if proof is needed of its popularity, it was voted well into Britain's top 21 books last year.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite Like Anything Else?, 16 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
It does have it's flaws. It might be too long have not very much plot structure and occaisonly get a little too screwie but it really doesn't matter.
The humor tinged with tragedy (or vice-versa) is painfully effective. The scene where Colonel Cathcart is talking to the chaplain about prayers before breifings was one of the funniest passages i've read.
All I can say is read it beacuase until you have I can't emphasise how good it is.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars American Classic!, 15 Jun 2007
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
I recently reread this book for the first time in 25 years and it is still one of the funniest books I have ever read. Catch 22 demonstrates the absurdity of bureaucracy in war in a hilarious way. The most appealing attribute of the book is how it re-enforced catch 22 throughout the novel and you realize the concept is applicable not only in the military but also in the government, at the office, and even family. The characters are real flesh and bone and in the end I was sad to see them go. Anyone who enjoys watching the ineptitude of interoffice politics and bureaucracies will enjoy this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Yes, But Is It Funny?, 26 April 2009
By 
Axnettle "Ax" (Norfolk, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
Frustrating, shambolic, repetitive, bloated. But also moving, shocking, hypnotic, humane. Ok so much for my opinion. But is it funny?

I've read this twice, once in my impressionable late teens and again recently as a sceptical "grown up". I found exactly the same parts funny the second time round, which might indicate that there's less substance to this book than many claim. The chaotic rants between the variously insane US Air Force officers, during court-martials, pre-flight briefings, and debauched R&R, are genuinely superb. The warped logic of the entire book is repeatedly and hilariously encapsulated from different perspectives in each episode, whether it be over an allegedly stolen plum tomato or the ethics of war.

However, the book also frustrated me in just the same ways as before. The self-indulgent repetition, numerous loose ends, wanton disjointedness of narrative, and (I think) a very weak ending haven't endeared themselves over time. Be prepared to despair of the book at times.

I'm still as impressed as ever with the darker side: the casual murder of a prostitute, a pilot sliced in two by a propeller following a practical joke, the fate of a soldier covered head to foot in plaster and repeatedly fed his own waste products, all delivered in a deadpan tone. For me, these moments are what mark Catch-22 as an important and moral work. I think this is in the first instance a serious and ethical book, and only secondarily a comedy.

So is it funny? Yes, but be prepared to remain relatively poker-faced for long stretches. Is it a masterpiece? I don't think so: it has too many stylistic gimmicks, and looks like a one-off success rather than the work of an author who was still finding his true voice. None of Heller's subsequent work emulated this level of fame.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The essential 20th century novel, 31 Dec 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
If I could take only one book to a desert island, this would have to be it! Not just a terrific read and a savage indictment of war, but staggeringly funny, wonderfully surreal and deeply tragic. Yossarian and his buddies are a microcosm of the human condition. If you haven't read it yet, you can't begin to imagine what you're missing. Put it into your shopping basket now!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The funniest book I have ever read!, 24 Sep 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Catch-22 (Paperback)
I am currently reading Catch 22 for my comparative writing coursework essay as part of my A level english literature course, and I can honestly say I have never laughed so much at a book before in my life.
The size of the book is a bit daunting at first, but the pace is so fast and so much is going on that it flies by and I was unable to put it down. The whole book is one big satirical look at war in general and the stupidity of the way in which the armed forces conduct themselves. I was literally in fits of laughter through out.
I would totally recommend this book to anyone intersted in the madness of human beings!
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Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
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