1. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    WF Book Club Selection for January/February: Catch 22

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by thirdwind, Jan 2, 2012.

    For the next two months we'll be reading and discussing Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. This is one of my favorite books, and I'm looking forward to rereading it. I hope we can get more people participating this time.
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm already reading it - and only for the first time to my shame. I can see why it might have been contentious. Doesn't exactly portray the US military in a good light. Reminds me, perhaps inevitably, of Vonnegut's flippancy in the face of war. More thoughts to follow ...
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I got my copy today. Will anyone else be joining us this time?
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Gannon, looks like it's just the two of us again. I'm seriously considering not continuing the book club since participation always seems to be low.

    I started reading a few nights ago, and I'm already picking up a few things I didn't notice before. I should finish within a week or so since it's a very enjoyable read.
     
  5. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    I'm in the middle of reading it atm, and I'm about half way through. I didn't realise you'd be discussing it so I'd be happy to participate.
     
  6. cari_za
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    cari_za Member

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    Ah great! I actually recently acquired Catch 22! I've been excited to read it, so this will be the perfect reason to start.
     
  7. cari_za
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    cari_za Member

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    No! Don't do that.

    I'll be happy to join. Only joined the forum last week, and only today saw this thread. And seems like LaGs is in. So it's 2 more. I think this is great. It's actually what I was hoping to run into when joining this forum.
     
  8. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    It's good to know that a few more people are willing to join.

    I think the first thing people will notice is how chaotic the narrative can be. Heller jumps from character to character or from one time period to another. I know a few people who gave up reading it because they found parts of it confusing precisely because of the nonlinear narrative. The first time I read the book I focused on the characters more than what was actually happening. Then on my second reading, I tried making sense of what was going on. I found this was helpful just because of the number of characters and the complexity of each one.

    It's fairly obvious that this book is a piece of satire, poking fun at the military. But for me the most important thing is the paradoxical nature of the book. On the surface it's meant to be a comedy, but if you take a closer look, you'll notice that Heller paints a scary picture (at least, I think so). Basically, the lives of the characters are governed by a higher authority (the army in this case), and it seems that no matter how hard they try to fight against this authority, they are always doomed to failure. It's very tragic if you think about it.
     
  9. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    Once I got used to the book I stopped paying attention to the exact structure of the plot and focused mainly on the characters. This was because, as you say, it could be quite confusing at times. Having said that, it was an extremely enjoyable read from the outset - Some of Heller's descriptive writing had me in awe...Like for example I can distinctly remember his first description of Yossarian in the plane when it was dropping its bombs and there was flak bursting all around the plane - Vivid and just brilliant.

    My interpretation of the book is largely the same as yours, and it is, I'm sure, the same for most people. The comedy is rife, but the serious subtext is never too far away.

    My favourite part of the book has to be the chapter on Major Major. I was literally in tears of laughter... His conversation with the sargeant asking never to be disturbed again; his signing of official documents with every variation of the name 'John Milton'; his climbing out of the window, attracting the attention of the two CID men who end up investigating themselves; then his meeting of the guy who jumps out of the bush (Hiding there because he's afraid of Chief White Halfoat slitting his throat). Absolute farce but totally hilarious lol
     
  10. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Major Major's chapter is one of the best in the book. Good to see that someone else liked it as well.

    I think I have a good reason why Heller chose to write the book using multiple viewpoints. The characters are all alienated from one another because of the unique problem each character must face on his own. It's obvious that the war and the army are portrayed as absurdities, though each character thinks of those things as absurd for different reasons.
     
  11. Anniexo
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    Anniexo Member

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    I tried reading this book, but I couldn't get in to it, I never could get in to anything that was to do with war.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You should try reading more of it. It's actually a very funny book.
     
  13. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    This is an interesting point. Heller made a comment about everyone in the book calling each other crazy, and I think that adds to the character's alienation. Yossarian can't understand why people aren't on the same wavelength as him; and he does bizarre things to attract attention and it still doesn't get the reaction he wants: to go home...I must admit that the longer the book went on, the more of a struggle it was to get to the end. Heller repeated himself quite a bit, but it's still, to my mind, a great book
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Yossarian is an interesting character for sure. He wants to survive and does so by spending a lot of his time in the hospital, where his chances for survival are far greater than if he were outside the hospital (he claims he's very capable of handling things like malaria or pneumonia). He is also convinced that the people on his side are trying to kill him as well (i.e. the colonels who give the orders to fly missions). Basically, in order to survive the insanity of war, one must become insane oneself. Even though the US ends up winning the war, it's hard for me to imagine any of the characters as winners. This really is a great anti-war novel, probably the finest I've read.

    By the way, I'm thinking of putting the book club on hold for a few months since participation has dropped in the last few months. Maybe in a few months interest will pick back up, and we'll get more people reading.
     
  15. Dragon Boy
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    Too bad I caught this thread kinda late, this book was on my must-read list. Is there any way to know what will the next one be?
     
  16. CLM1188
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    Catch-22 is a fantastic novel. I read it two years ago, and loved every word. Joseph Heller uses a narrative that mimics stream-of-consciousness writing to help draw the reader into the ensuing madness, and to reinforce the theme of madness and chaos that lies at the stories core.

    I am late to learn about this book club, but I am very interested in participating. Joseph Heller wrote a number of novels which explore similar themes and styles. For the remainder of February I will attempt to read Good as Gold one of Heller's earlier works. If able I will post my thoughts on its relation to Catch-22 as well as my general thoughts on the novel.

    Again, great pick for this book club.
     
  17. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Oops, I saw your post just now. Sorry about that. There isn't going to be another book club for a while since participation has dropped lately. Maybe people will get interested in it again and we can pick it back up some time in the future.
     

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