Make Chiangmai Mail | your Homepage | Bookmark

Chiangmai 's First English Language Newspaper

Pattaya Blatt | Pattaya Mail | Pattaya Mail TV

Book Review: by Lang Reid

Catch 22

There are not too many books that have provided new phrases for the English language. Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 (ISBN 0-09-947731-9, 1961, Random House) is one of the foremost.
There are also not too many works of fiction hailed by the Observer as, “The greatest satirical work in the English language since Erewhon,” or from the Financial Times, “Blessedly, monstrously, bloatedly, cynically funny and fantastically unique. No one has ever written a book like this.” Neither of these publications is known for hyperbole.
The book describes some American Air Force flyers on a small island off Italy during WWII. The initial chapters introduce the main characters, led by Captain Yossarian of the 256 Squadron, a five star coward, but lovable as he is quite happy to admit to not enjoying this war. Yossarian has a dead man in his tent, a new recruit who died before being signed in. Therefore, from the Air Force point of view the man was still in transit, having left his previous camp, but had not signed in to this new one!
The ‘catch’ called Catch 22 is also shown to the reader early in the novel. This was first seen in regard to the personal safety of the airmen. If they were crazy, they were excused from further missions. However, if they didn’t want to fly more missions, this was totally understandable, so they were quite sane. The catch was then that if they were sane they had to fly the extra missions.
Other characters introduced into the plot includes Doc Daneeka, a physician who was doing well while his opposition in the suburb were called up for national service. “I don’t want to make sacrifices. I want to make dough.” And describing him as “A very warm, compassionate man who never stopped feeling sorry for himself.”
Milo the Mess officer is charged with supplies and manages to buy eggs for seven cents an egg and then sell them back to the mess for five cents and yet make three and a quarter cents an egg profit through the most complicated series of financial exchanges that would have Warren Buffet and Donald Trump totally confused. Milo ends up running the war, with co-opted planes carrying contraband and booze.
Adding to the farce is the owner of an Italian brothel, who explains how he went from Fascist to anti-Fascist, to pro German to pro American and then demonstrates that by losing wars, the country is better off than winning them. In real life, this has been borne out many times with the vanquished winning the peace after losing the war.
So there you have it. Available through Amazon and one of the books that in many ways changed the world and the way that the world looked at itself. Each time you read it, you will find gems you missed the first time round. I cannot beat the review by the Observer which described this book as “Hilarious and tragic, at the heart of Catch 22 is a savage indictment of twentieth century madness, and the desire of the ordinary man to survive it.”

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Catch 22