Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
A very funny anti-war classic with some of the wittiest dialogue. I laughed out loud a couple times, like I did when I read Huck Finn. Most ironically, I went to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans when I was about halfway through this book. It was amusing trying to reconcile the patriotic and serious presentation at the museum with the highly sarcastic narrative in Catch 22.
1) “Orr was crazy and he could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to.”
I had always assumed that the phrase ‘Catch 22’ predated the book. It’s amazing that this book actually coined a term that is still used in everyday life. I can see why. This recurring idea of the Catch 22 was brilliant.
2) “Colonel Cargill was so awful a marketing executive that his services were much sought after by firms eager to establish losses for tax purposes.”
Epic low blow.
3) “Doc Daneeka hated to fly. He felt imprisoned in an airplane. In an airplane there was absolutely no place in the world to go except to another part of the airplane.”
It’s such an irony that an airplane can bring you anywhere in the world, yet there is almost no place in the world that’s more of a trap.
4) “Clevinger was guilty, of course, or he would not have been accused, and since the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was their patriotic duty to do so.”
Catch 22 is sarcastic humor, but it’s also real.
5) “Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.”
This is just like that game where you try to name people who you’ve forgotten.
6) “‘The important thing is to keep them pledging,’ he explained to his cohorts. ‘It doesn’t matter whether they mean it or not. That’s why they make little kids pledge allegiance even before they know what ‘pledge’ and ‘allegiance’ mean.'”
We stumbled upon a ceremony at the National WWII Museum while waiting in line to buy tickets. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance. It was scary that I still knew every word even though I hadn’t heard it for almost 6 years.
7) “There was a much lower death rate inside the hospital than outside the hospital, and a much healthier death rate. Few people died unnecessarily.”
A very enlightening observation. When else would people have a higher chance of dying outside the hospital?
8) “Yossarian – the very sight of the name made him shudder. There were so many esses in it. It just had to be subversive. It was like the word subversive itself. It was like seditious and insidious too, and like socialist, suspicious, fascist, and Communist.”
Since Jetblue has live TV on its flights, my Thursday night flights have become my only real source of updates on the presidential campaign. Toggling between CNN and FoxNews made me realize that I’ve been avoiding a lot of toxicity by staying out of politics. Example: Bill O’Reilly calling Bernie Sanders a Communist.
9) “‘The Germans are being driven out, and we are still here. In a few years you will be gone, too, and we will still be here. You see, Italy is really a very poor and weak country, and that’s what makes us so strong. Italian soldiers are not dying any more. But American and German soldiers are. I call that doing extremely well….” – an old Italian man
Weakness in itself is a strength. No one will attack you if you’re not a threat.
10) “‘No, no. In what state were you born?’ ‘In a state of innocence.'”
Catch 22 is full of wisdom. It’s also full of colorful characters. It was a bit difficult to keep track of everyone, but some really stood out (Yossarian, Milo, the chaplain, Major Major). Not too many books are laugh-out-loud funny, and this one is.