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Catch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition [Paperback]

Joseph Heller , Christopher Buckley
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (635 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 5 2011 1451626657 978-1451626650 50th
Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer.

Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved.

This fiftieth-anniversary edition commemorates Joseph Heller’s masterpiece with a new introduction by Christopher Buckley; a wealth of critical essays and reviews by Norman Mailer, Alfred Kazin, Anthony Burgess, and others; rare papers and photos from Joseph Heller’s personal archive; and much more. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature.

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There was a time when reading Joseph Heller's classic satire on the murderous insanity of war was nothing less than a rite of passage. Echoes of Yossarian, the wise-ass bombardier who was too smart to die but not smart enough to find a way out of his predicament, could be heard throughout the counterculture. As a result, it's impossible not to consider Catch-22 to be something of a period piece. But 40 years on, the novel's undiminished strength is its looking-glass logic. Again and again, Heller's characters demonstrate that what is commonly held to be good, is bad; what is sensible, is nonsense.

Yossarian says, "You're talking about winning the war, and I am talking about winning the war and keeping alive."
"Exactly," Clevinger snapped smugly. "And which do you think is more important?"
"To whom?" Yossarian shot back. "It doesn't make a damn bit of difference who wins the war to someone who's dead."
"I can't think of another attitude that could be depended upon to give greater comfort to the enemy."
"The enemy," retorted Yossarian with weighted precision, "is anybody who's going to get you killed, no matter which side he's on."
Mirabile dictu, the book holds up post-Reagan, post-Gulf War. It's a good thing, too. As long as there's a military, that engine of lethal authority, Catch-22 will shine as a handbook for smart-alecky pacifists. It's an utterly serious and sad, but damn funny book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It would be difficult to imagine richer material for an audiobook reader, comedically speaking, than Joseph Heller's classic novel of wartime madness. Sanders is the lucky actor chosen to read Heller's masterpiece, and he does well by it, proceeding gamely through the novel's staggering array of comic set pieces and deliriously woozy dialogue. Heller's humor is straight-faced, requiring little more than a steady, sure voice, and Sanders offers just that. Line by line, joke by joke, Sanders reels through the marvelous phantasmagoria of Heller's World War II, tongue planted firmly in cheek. Caedmon's impressive package includes a 1970s-era recording of Heller reading selections from his book. Heller is a delightful contrast to Sanders, his slight lisp accentuating a marvelous Brooklyn accent. Heller reads as if with cigar perched on his lip and turns his novel into an extended borscht belt comic's riff.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far, far more than an anti-war piece July 17 2004
Format:Paperback
Catch 22 is a story set during World War II. A significant choice for what is, ostensibly, an anti-war satire, since that particular war was a universally popular one butressed by high moral motivations. But that is the point, for Catch 22 is not simply a lampoon of war, but a searing indictment of man's spiritual crisis in the modern world.
On all fronts, the main character, Yossarian, is assailed by the dehumanized absurdities of mondern life, manifested most concretely in that perfected science of death, modern warfare. Yossarian, like all of us, is chained by rationality that has been stripped of reason, engineered thus for the purpose of control. That is the essence of Catch 22.
The character of Milo Minderbinder represents the cold, opportunistic thinking of the corporate world, dead as it is to humanistic concerns in its tireless pursuit of profit and power. Chaplain Tappman embodies the impotence and self-doubt common to many people of faith who feel adrift in a culture of materialisticly driven insanity. But it is Yossarian's wanderings through Rome, the Eternal City, and as such, the representation of modern "civilized" society, that is the coup de grace. It is a moonlit, poetic scene lamenting the spiritual and humanistic decay and ultimate bankruptcy of modern Western society. Simply powerful stuff.
Properly speaking, Catch 22 is more a series of vignettes or short stories rather than a novel. But it is told with a humor that bristles with moral outrage. While not perfect, it is an excellent read, and definitely recommened.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest novels of all time June 2 2004
Format:Paperback
I disagree with the reviewer who said that readers should try not to be offended given the current global situation; this book is more relevant now than ever, for the war of today is even more disjointed and Catch-22ish than World War II ever was. This novel is simply brilliant, and despite its bleakness it does end on a hopeful note and is hilarious throughout with its cruel and unrelented exposures of the insanity of the military, such as the colonel who arbitrarily raises the missions to get his picture in the Saturday Evening Post and the chaplain's interrogation (in which he is found guilty of all the crimes he would ever commit; of course he is guilty, they are HIS infractions!). Through it all, Yossarian, the only sane character in the madness, tries to get himself grounded but finds himself repeatedly blocked by Catch-22, and tries in vain to convince others around him that he is crazy while at the same time they are all crazy around him. The novel reads like a dream, completely out of sequence and often making no sense, but in the world of Catch-22 everything you know is wrong, and afterwards you begin to question everything you know. The final paragraph, even though it's only three sentences, is a gleeful twist on itself and is the perfect ending to a perfect novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mindblowing. April 22 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book is nothing short of AWESOME ! It's cutting-edge. It's profound. It's hilarious. It's dangerously serious and seriously dangerous. It's earthshaking. It has no comparison. One in millions. An absolute Must-Read, if you know anything about books... It can be a life-changer and an experience worth going through. Do yourself a favour and read it. You'll never forget it. It will change your perception of insanity forever.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crazy Classic About Insanity Feb. 4 2014
Format:Paperback
Reading an acknowledged classic like Catch-22 for the first time I approached it with what I thought was a certain familiarity with the subject matter, only to find myself surprised at how little of what went into the book I actually knew.
There's no need to explain what the famous Catch is; if you don't know it’s meaning by now then you've been asleep for decades. What surprised me was how the book was about so much more than the eponymous Catch. Page after page was filled with unrelenting, even scorching, criticism of the insanity of war and the ridiculousness of putting the lives of a generation of brave young men in the hands of vain, self-serving old men.
Heller’s style can be challenging for some, as there is very little in the way of linear narrative, and even individual scenes often seem to have no beginning, middle or ending. Every military order, every briefing, every conversation, is turned into meaningless, circular arguments, where characters repeat themselves, speak past each other, intentionally misinterpret what they’re supposed to do, and thereby reveal how the lunatics are running the asylum, and the inmates are just sane enough to know they want to get home alive.
The flight squadron, around which the book revolves, is essentially forced to play Russian roulette: the more missions the pilots fly, the more likely some of them are to be killed, and most of them are very well aware of that, yet they are forced to continue flying. They hope and pray they can survive their quota of missions so they can be sent home, while their superiors compete with each other by regularly adding to the number of missions that have to be flown.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Rings True...Regarding Life in General July 10 2005
Format:Paperback
Catch 22 is a classic.
No book has more viciously exposed the way logic can be a false, coercive tool, or the way men can be coerced by society into fulfilling roles they are absolutely dispassionate about. The book is mesmerizing; making pass after pass, building up detail; layer upon layer, we are forced to examine how this madness revolves and evolves from every possible characters perspective.
Every man in this book is small and weak, all are likeable.
The madness of war is fully contemplated, but it is within the wider picture of the madness of society that it is exposed and condemned with ruthless accuracy time and again.
I, like so many of those who have reviewed this book, tried to read it as a teen and gave up. I think you need to be of a certain age to truly appreciate this book; it is the coercive logic of catch 22 which is at the heart of this book, a logic that we are exposed to in adult life almost constantly.
Among the characters of the air base, only Yossarian can see the madness of the false logic and coercion that lies a few inches behind "free will".
Oh, did I mention this book is funny? -- That's the best part of it: that it manages to be insanely funny while also being profound, proof that "comic" novels need not all be cotton candy. Try Catch 22! Keep a copy of this novel at hand. Another book I need to recommend -- completely unrelated to Heller, but very much on my mind since I purchased a "used" copy off Amazon is "The Losers' Club: Complete Restored Edition" by Richard Perez, an exceptional, highly entertaining little novel I can't stop thinking about.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars great
fast shipment, great product
Published 3 months ago by junssy
5.0 out of 5 stars How cool is this book
How cool is this book? Weird and funny and frustrating. The paradox of Catch-22 is masterfully worked, no wonder it became a common expression. Read more
Published 4 months ago by George Hird
1.0 out of 5 stars Not how this became the best selling American novel of the 20th...
The first 50 pages were entertaining. After that, it was the same antics repeated more-or-less "ad nauseum" for another 400 pages. Read more
Published 5 months ago by CR
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the top books of the 20th century
This book, in my opinion, and in the minds of many others, is one of the best novels written in the 20th century. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars A challenging read
I've yet to finish this book and I've gone back and tried a few times. It's a literary work of art, challenging and worth the read if you can get through it. Read more
Published 10 months ago by LindsayHawes
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth a Read
An excellent book and I just love the writing. Heller is a genius writing a non-war story set during WWII. Read more
Published 18 months ago by shezzypants
3.0 out of 5 stars Catch 22
I've suddently developed an urge to purchase books that I've never read, but without spending a whole lot of cash, so naturally I turned to Amazon. Read more
Published 20 months ago by J. Ward
5.0 out of 5 stars still brilliant after all these years
I first read Catch 22 when I was 15. THe war in Viet Nam was still going on. Reading it again, I'm just as dazzled and amused by its tour de force absurdist satire.
Published on July 19 2012 by zanderary
1.0 out of 5 stars mentally ill army men "babies"
I have to agree with the other low star raters out there. I wanted to rate 0 but it's not allowed. It doesn't even deserve 1 star. Read more
Published on Jan. 1 2010 by A. Jacques
1.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't take it
Regarded as a classic, the nagging implication is that if you don't enjoy this one, you just might be cursed with a dreary mind. Read more
Published on Dec 12 2009 by Pete Kitay
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