Saturday, July 18, 2009

#8: Catch-22

Because I read the bulk of Catch-22 at music camp, it seems only fitting to describe the novel in musical terms. Catch-22 was like a baroque trumpet fanfare that, despite containing only three notes, nevertheless saw fit to carry on loudly and with great exuberance over an extended period of time. Catch-22 was the brassy, drawn-out exegesis of single chord.

I GET IT! I wanted to shout at Joseph Heller twenty pages in (and 40 pages, and 140, and 400). WAR IS ABSURD: I GET IT. Enough already.

Catch-22 was a book I'd dreaded -guiltily- for years. I hate war novels. But even the title was a cultural touchstone! People were always citing Catch-22: it had become one of those books so integrated into the fabric of contemporary culture that to not read it seemed untenable. The perfect candidate, in sum, for My Year of Reading Dangerously.

Except I should have read the thing years ago. I mean this both in the sense that I have been culturally delinquent, and in the sense that Catch-22 seemed to me to be a novel profoundly sympathetic to the adolescence predicament. Yossarian, Heller's infamous bombardier, is the only sane man in a universe full of lunatics. Isn't that what most teenagers feel like every day?

Catch-22 was clever, funny, and boring as all get out. Just because a whole line of baroque trumpets playing a C chord in tune is impressive doesn't mean you want to listen to it.

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