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One of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read and a highly touted Hulu series starring George Clooney, Christopher Abbott, Kyle Chandler, and Hugh Laurie.
One of the funniest books ever written, Joseph Heller's masterpiece about a bomber squadron in the Second World War's Italian theater features a gallery of magnificently strange characters seething with comic energy. The malingering hero, Yossarian, is endlessly inventive in his schemes to save his skin from the horrible chances of war, and his story is studded with incidents and devices (including the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade and the hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule that gives the book its title) that propel the narrative in a headlong satiric rush. But the reason Catch-22's satire never weakens and its jokes never date stems not from the comedy itself but from the savage, unerring, Swiftian indignation out of which that comedy springs. This fractured anti-epic, with all its aggrieved humanity, has given us the most enduring image we have of modern warfare.
This hardcover Everyman's Library edition includes an introduction by Malcolm Bradbury, a chronology of the author's life and times, and a select bibliography. It is printed on acid-free paper, with sewn bindings, full-cloth covers, foil stamping, and a silk ribbon marker.
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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.
Joseph Heller was born in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. He served as a bombardier in the Second World War and then attended New York University, Columbia, and Oxford University, the last on a Fulbright scholarship. He taught for two years at Pennsylvania State University, before returning to New York, where he began a successful career in the advertising departments of Time, Look, and McCall's magazines. It was during this time that he had the idea for Catch-22. Working on the novel in spare moments and evenings at home, it took him eight years to complete and was first published in 1961. His second novel, Something Happened, was published in 1974, Good As Gold in 1979 and Closing Time in 1994. He is also the author of the play We Bombed in New Haven. Joseph Heller died in 1999.
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