Catch-22, by Joseph Heller


Three stars, mostly because that’s an easy compromise when in fact I don’t know what rating to give. Read from March to August of 2013.

I think the only other book I’ve ever spent so long reading (without abandoning it) was The Red Badge of Courage, required reading my freshman year in high school. This took me nearly five months to read, though I was picking it up fairly regularly almost that whole time; it just took so long to get through. I’d read fifteen or twenty pages at a time and have to stop, and at least once a page, it seemed, I’d reach the end of a sentence and have forgotten what the beginning was.

It is a funny book—but to call it “one of the funniest books ever written” seems misleading to me, because it is not that kind of funny. It’s clever and biting and humorous, certainly, but it’s also dark and bewildering and horrifying. I appreciated it, admired it, absolutely. I’m glad I read it, especially because it’s been on my list for a long time. But I don’t know if I can say whether I liked it, because “like” just doesn’t seem like the right word. I’ve heard that it should really be read twice, and immediately after finishing it, I thought it was highly unlikely I’d ever want to do that. Now that I’ve gained some distance from the experience, I can definitely see myself considering it someday.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jan Hicks says:

    I feel like I’ve already said somewhere else that I’m sad you didn’t get along with this. It’s one of my all time favourites. I think because it’s so bleak and damning but wickedly funny at the same time. I like the sense of barely suppressed rage running through it. I hope you do read it again someday and it becomes a friend.


    1. Gwen says:

      I certainly didn’t dislike it, but that bleakness was hard for me. I’m hyper-aware of the general awfulness of the world, and I find it difficult to laugh at; it’s the same reason I often have to take breaks from the news. That was a particularly rough summer for me, too. But I’m almost sure I will read it again, and it seems very likely that I’ll like it better the second time. I’m slightly more calloused now. 🙂


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