100 Greatest Novels: Catch-22

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.

5 thoughts on “100 Greatest Novels: Catch-22

  1. Fortunately, someone helped the bombardier.One of the few authors who have been to see “the elephant” and captured it for posterity,

      1. Sorry that I took so long to get back. I haven”t read Closing Time either. I remember deciding not to but I’m hazy on the why. Maybe, I just thought that it was redundant. Heller did such a great job of warning readers, with Milo Minderbinder, who needed a sequel?
        Or, his charadters are so truthfully drawn, it just triggered the old habit from life in a combat zone. That of acceptng the briief appearance and disappearance of people, who make a great impression on you and never see again, as normal.

        Sometimes the pace and humor in Heller’s book reminds me of Henry Miller. You’ve noticed how writing the truth gets authors banned?

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