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» One Touch Football - Archive » Books » Catch 22 - over-rated? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Catch 22 - over-rated?
Pants
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It's weird when you haven't read one of these 'must-read' novels and you finally get around to reading it, isn't it? You kind of approach it with so much baggage from all the hype you've experienced over a lifetime, all the friends who've raved about it, and it's easy to end up thinking, 'Bloody hell, what was all the fusss about?'

I read 'Catch 22' on holiday recently and, while I loved the spirit of the novel, I wasn't big on the actual writing. In various parts it feels repetitive, amateurish, sexist and just plain badly written; in general, it feels a bit out-dated. Apparently, the New York Times review at the time of publication (1961) said it feels "less like it's been written than shouted onto the page". I can see what they meant, but I guess that's the anarchic charm of the novel.

I much preferred the final third to the first two thirds: it starts to get really, really dark and I felt some of the poignancy was much-needed to balance the madcap humour of the rest of it.

Overall, I'm not sure about its 'all-time classic' status. And I wouldn't put it in the same league as other anti-war classics like 'Slaughterhouse Five'. But, yeah, I did really enjoy it, some of the characters are really enduring and its 'fuck you' finger to various different shades of idiocy was very refreshing.

Any thoughts?

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Gas Filled Dolphin Carcass
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My immediate thoughts are: "You're a madman and you need to have a word with yourself."

Although, strangely enough I had a similar reaction to 'Slaughter House Five' when I got round to reading it as an adult.

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Jimski
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I tend to agree. I enjoyed Catch 22 when I read it, which was years ago now, but didn't think it was brilliant enough to be called a classic. It was a tad overlong and repetitive, with the same joke rammed down your throat many times.

Slaughterhouse 5 on the other hand - a definite classic.

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Ginger Yellow
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I agree with GFDC. I had more of that sort of reaction with Slaughterhouse Five, although I did think it was very good. Catch 22 remains one of my favourite novels after a second read. I think explicitly funny books tend to get short-changed when it comes to critical appreciation, as if it's easier to write genuinenly hilarious material than it is to do serious character development or narrative. Well bollocks to that, I say.
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Janik
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I'm with GFDC and GY. Slaughterhouse 5 is the one that is good, but flawed, with Catch-22 is the stone cold classic. And also similarly to GFDC, I read Catch-22 as a teenager and Slaughterhouse Five as an adult.

I much preferred the final third to the first two thirds: it starts to get really, really dark and I felt some of the poignancy was much-needed to balance the madcap humour of the rest of it.

Now, for me, the last third of Catch-22 is the weakest part of the book. I get what Heller is trying to do by making it blacker and more straightforwardly satirical of the situation, but it just doesn't work as well as the halucinatory madness of the opening parts.

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Lardinho
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I much preferred Catch-22 to Slaughterhouse 5, although both are good books. I've not gone back to Salughterhouse 5, but Catch 22 was as good, or perhaps better, on second reading as a more mature adult. Which can't be said for other "classics" I read first as a teenager (in particular On The Road, which now reads like the dullest, most self-obsessed nonsense ever).

Catch-22, though, is just plain brilliant as far as I'm concerned.

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Purves Grundy
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Catch-22 is a poor man's Svejk.
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Kid Dynamite
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Not least because 'Svejk' has really cool illustrations.
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Lardinho
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Svejk, though a favourite book, definitely does ramble a bit and feels directionless at times. Superior to Vonnegut but maybe only equal to Heller.
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Janik
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At least Heller had the good grace to finish it before dying...
Švejk does rather suffer from ending suddenly just when the main character is finally unable to avoid being at the front. You would imgaine Hašek had some very neat ideas about how Švejk would have played the system once there to avoid being in any personal danger, but we never get to see them.
To be honest, I prefer Catch-22 to Švejk.[/heresy]

Lada's cartoons are good, though.

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Pants
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It takes different strokes, I guess. I've read 'On The Road' about a billion times, at different stages of my life from 15 to 32 (a couple of years ago). And every single time, it has blown my head off.

I think the problem for me with C22's humour is that some of it is a little predictable and some of it is just plain not funny. Like I said, I think the idea and the situation is inherently (blackly) funny, and some of the characters are very funny (the man who sees every thing twice; Major Major; the man wrapped up in white bandages), but some of the actual jokes...aren't.

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bryanattoni
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Farenheit 451 is shite too.

[ 04.04.2006, 13:29: Message edited by: bryan ]

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The cantering captain
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The first time I read it, it annoyed me, the second time, I got it, the third I got it better, I must have read it about 20 times all in all, in fact the book fell apart. An absolute classic, in fact I think I might read it again.
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Gangster Octopus
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I read both Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse 5 when I was a teenager. Which is probably why I liked both. Svejk I read after it had been punted on here. It's good, but I prefer the other two. I suppose it didn't help that it hadn't been finished. Did any post-Great War Czechs actually finish their books?
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Matej
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I had the same reaction when I read it Pants. So my verdict was "Good, funny, vital, essential reading... but extremely repetitive."

'What you didn't get it the first time? Well, here it is 5 more times...'

S-5, I like, but I really don't find the two comparable at all.

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