Catch-22 is a book that is always on those lists of books that you simply must read, or the 100 best books ever written. After reading it myself, I would have to agree.

My lover Hija (she said to describe her that way, although in truth she is, *wink*) got me a copy of this when we went to Strand bookstore in New York a month ago. It is a masterfully well written novel, mostly humourous albeit turning dark and baleful toward the end. It centers around a member of the US Airforce's Bomber Squadrons, Yossarian, as he is based off of the coast of Italy during the Second World War.

The main reason why I think this book is wonderful is because of the ridiculousness. But it is the fact that the ridiculousness is so true to life, that you could imagine it happening, that makes it so good. It is often remarked that "true life is stranger than fiction", well in that case this is a book in that fiction mirrors true life.

But it is also written very well. There are moments of laugh out loud hilarity, but also poignant, touching passages and tragic, pensive moments. One of my issues with books sometimes is that they don't always seem realistic, that you could not imagine these events happening to you or your best friends. But Catch-22 does seem like if you were on that island in the Mediterranean, you could have been through the events. It brings to life the events that everyday servicemen would have experienced during World War Two, the tragedy that they experienced with regularity but also the comradery they shared.

I really can't recommend this book highly enough. I would tell anyone that they should read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I would definitely include it on my list of books to re-read.

Favourite quotes from the text
  • Captain Flume spent as much of each evening as he could working in his darkroom and then lay down on his cot with his fingers crossed and a rabbit's foot around his neck and tried with all his might to stay awake. He lived in mortal fear of Chief White Halfoat. Captain Flume was obsessed with the idea that Chief White Halfoat would tiptoe up to his cot one night when he was sound asleep and slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Captain Flume had obtained this idea from Chief White Halfoat himself, who did tiptoe up to his cot one night as he was dozing off, to hiss portentously that one night when he, Captain Flume, was sound asleep, he, Chief White Halfoat, was going to slit his throat open for him from ear to ear. Captain Flume turned to ice, his eyes, flung open wide, staring directly up into Chief White Halfoat's, glinting drunkenly only inches away.
"Why?" Captain Flume managed to croak finally.
"Why not?" was Chief White Halfoat's answer.
  • "Incidentally, do you happen to know why he was busted to private and is only a corporal now?"
"Yes," said Yossarian. "He poisoned the squadron."
Milo went pale again. "He did what?"
"He mashed hundreds of cakes of GI soap into the sweet potatoes just to show that people have the taste of Philistines and don't know the difference between good and bad. Every man in the squadron was sick. Missions were cancelled."
"Well!"Milo exclaimed, with thin-lipped disapproval. "He certainly found out how wrong he was, didn't he?"
"On the contrary," Yossarian corrected. "He found out how right he was. We packed it away by the plateful and clamored for more."
  • To Yossarian, the idea of pennants as prizes was absurd. No money went with them, no class priviled privileges. 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.
  • One evening he felt the need for a live model and directed his wife to march around the room.
  • "Naked?" she asked hopefully.
  • Lieutenant Scheisskopf smacked his hands over his eyes in exasperation. It was the despair of Lieutenant Scheisskopf's life to be chained to a woman who was incapable of looking beyond her own dirty, sexual desires to the titanic struggles for the unattainable in which noble man could become heroically engaged.
  • "Why don't you ever whip me?" she pouted one night.
  • "Because I haven't the time," he snapped at her impatiently.
    • ...where he was wounded in the eye by a flower fired at him from close range by a seedy, cackling, intoxicated old man, who, like Satan himself, had then bounded up on Major ----- de Coverley's car with malicious glee, seized him roughly and contemptuously by his venerable white head and kissed him mockingly on each cheek with a mouth reeking with sour fumes of wine, cheese and garlic, before dropping back into the joyous celebrating throngs with a hollow, dry, excoriating laugh.
    • That might be the answer - to act boastfully about something we ought to be ashamed of. That's a trick that never seems to fail.
    • "Be glad you're even alive." "Be furious you're going to die."
    • "And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways. There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else He's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about - a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation?... When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering."
    • "That will be all, men," he ordered tersely, his eyes glaring with disapproval and his square jaw firm, and that's all there was. "I run a fighting outfit," he told them sternly, when the room had grown absolutely quiet and the men on the benches were all cowering sheepishly, "and there'll be no more moaning in this group as long as I'm in command. Is that clear?"
    It was clear to everybody but Major Danby, who was still concentrating on his wrist watch and counting down the seconds aloud. "!" called out Major Danby, and raised his eyes triumphantly to discover that no one had been listening to him and he would have to begin all over again. "Ooooh," he moaned in frustration.
    "What was that?" roared General Deedle incredulously, and whirled around in a murderous rage upon Major Danby, who staggered back in terrified confusion and began to quail and perspire. "Who is this man?"
    "M-major Danby, sir," Colonel Cathcart stammered. "My group operations officer."
    "Take him out and shoot him," ordered General Deedle.
    • "I have a better idea," boasted Aarfy. "Why don't we keep the three of them here until after the curfew and then threaten to push them out into the street to be arrested until they give us all their money. We can even threaten to push them out the window."
    • Did it indeed seem probable, as he had once overheard Dunbar ask, that answers to the riddles of creation would be supplied by people too ignorant to understand the mechanics of rainfall? Had Almighty God, in all his infinite wisdom, really been afraid that men six thousand years ago would succeed in building a tower to heaven?
    • Yossarian really had no doubt about Orr's ability to survive. If fish could be caught with that silly fishing line, Orr would catch them, and if it was codfish he was after, then Orr would catch a codfish, even though no codfish had ever been caught in those waters before. Yossarian put another can of soup up to cook and ate that too when it was hot. Every time a car door slammed, he broke into a hopeful smile and turned expectantly toward the entrance, listening for footsteps. He knew that any moment Orr would come walking into the tent with big, glistening, rain-soaked eyes, cheeks and buck teeth, looking ludicrously like a jolly New England oysterman in a yellow oilskin rain hat and slicker numerous sizes too large for him and holding up proudly for Yossarian's amusement a great dead codfish he had caught. But he didn't.
    • The country was in peril; he was jeopardizing his traditional rights of freedom and independence by daring to exercise them.


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