Reading classic literature, I’ve noticed a few recurring themes and devices in each book. Death, purpose of life, and earthly desires are some frequent themes. What I’ve seen the most in these books are how the author makes the reader feel many contrasting emotions at once: humor at the funeral in Ulysses, pity for the child molester in Lolita, etc. So far, no book has purposefully harped on these contradictions more than Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.
Reading Catch-22, you’ll find yourself cracking up during the death of a dozen characters. After paragraphs of insanely hilarious dialogue, Heller will hit you with an event that brings tears to your eyes. Before the tears are fully formed, the most off-the-wall scene comes at you from nowhere. It really is an emotional rollercoaster.
On top of all this, Catch-22 is one of the most important (anti-)war novels of the 20th century. It shows the horrors of war, the audacity and blindness of military leaders trying to get ahead, and the hypocritical profiteering from death and destruction.
Catch-22 was the next book in Modern Library’s 100 Greatest Novels. I’m taking a break from the list to read J.K. Rowling’s new book A Casual Vacancy. After that, I’ll be moving on to Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.