Thursday, October 23, 2008

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22


By Joseph Heller

I'd recommend this classic to anyone. It's about bureaucracies and survival and war and courage and the absurdities of it all. I especially enjoy Heller's writing style. It's blunt and at the same time repetitive. And has lots of great juxtaposition.

The chaplain had sinned, and it was good. Common sense told him that telling lies and defecting from duty were sins. On the other hand, everyone knew that sin was evil and that no good could come from evil. But he did feel good; he felt positively marvelous. Consequently, it followed logically that telling lies and defecting from duty could not be sins. The chaplain had mastered, in a moment of divine intuition, the handy technique of protective rationalization, and he was exhilarated by his discovery. It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.

The chaplain is a sympathetic character in the book and the reader is rooting for him the entire time, especially when he stands up for himself and tells his first lie. But you also see how "the handy technique of protective rationalization" could and would be used in the wrong hands.

If anything, read it to know where the term "Catch-22" comes from.

4 out of 5

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