Catch 22: a sprint to the finish!

For the last few days I have had less than 100 pages to go to finish reading Catch 22. It’s been driving me NUTS because for about a million little reasons whenever I’ve had the chance to sit down to read it, I would get through about a paragraph before something else would pull me away (for example a surprise overnight family visit). It took me two days to read 40 pages. I felt like I was reaching desperately to get to that last page, and it was always just out of reach. BUT I DID IT, AND NOW I’M DONE! (and the crowd goes wild!)

I was so excited to find out how the HELL Heller was going to wrap up all of these intertwining-but-really-not-all-that-related-and-really-confusing-stories-and-characters. Was everyone going to go to a big party at the end and (god forbid) everyone would be in the same room at the same time?? Would they march, and everyone would be in the parade together? Would the men revolt because of Yossarian’s rebellion and everyone would just go home?

No, I was wrong on all fronts. None of those things happened – but that’s not surprising as I discovered in reading this book that Joseph Heller and I could not be more different in terms of our creative writing tendencies.

What I have to admit is that despite my previous assessments of this novel, there is one consistent story line that flows from beginning to end, which carries the narrative of the book: Yossarian doesn’t want to be in the war anymore. The book is about Yo-Yo (‘as his friends call him’) trying to get the hell out of dodge without dying. The irony is that the biggest threat to his life in this book isn’t even the war! It’s the kindly named “Nately’s Whore” character; She blames Yo-Yo for Nately’s death, and is so overcome by her grief that she can focus on nothing else but killing Yo-Yo.

A Note to the Author:

Mr. Heller, Have you ever met a woman? Been with a woman? Interacted with a woman in any way? Did you, by chance, research the role of women in war (ANY war – doesn’t even have to be the one you wrote about) prior to writing this book? If you did and still decided to write your female characters as you did (as undeveloped characters, sexualized objects, and single-purpose walking vaginas) then, you know what, okay, fine. You’re the author. But I just have to say one thing: COME ON.

Final verdict:

I’m sorry Man at Chapters Who Loves This Book, but I just couldn’t get there. However I will say that I enjoyed the parts I read significantly more than the parts I listened to on the audiobook, so I’m at least open to the idea that Catch 22 didn’t get a fair trial with me before I passed judgement. There were a few strong characters, and some pretty funny moments to boot. I would have liked to see the female characters (or at least one of them – you had many) developed beyond her ability to spread her legs, and it would have been even nicer if you could have graced them with names.

 

This is what progress looks like

This is what progress looks like

Catch 22: Update

According to my audiobook I’m about 2/3 of the way through Catch 22 at this point. Some highlights have included Milo’s unapologetic business savvy and numerous schemes to feed “the syndicate’s” bottom line, and how Nateley falls in love with a prostitute, which he will never tell his father about.

You may think that it’s taking me a rather long time to work my way through this book, and you would be right to say so. It isn’t however, because of the actual book itself. No, I’m sure that if I sat down with Yossarian and the boys and I could push that out in a couple of days (I could do it, I just don’t want to). But I’ve been somewhat distracted lately.

Money-RulesA couple of books have lead me astray from Heller. The first is Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s Money Rules – a book about not being a complete idiot when it comes to managing your money. The rules consist primarily of advice which most of us (with any financial self-awareness) would consider to be obvious. I think what struck me the most when reading this book is that there is a need for it.

What I take for granted as a given (eg: don’t spend more than you make, savings are important, and minimum payments are only good if you want it to take a decade to pay off $500) others are completely oblivious to.

Apparently not everyone has had the good sense to have one (or two) of their parents be accountants. Some people are raised with the fear of God. I would say I was raised with a healthy fear of debt and financial instability.

Budgeting was one of the very first skills I was taught as a child. I think I learned budgeting before I learned cursive. At some young age (I still had a tiny Disney’s the Little Mermaid desk) I remember being given my allowance, and I had to put away a certain amount for savings, then some for charity, and whatever  I had left over was spending money (aka candy). Since then my budget has changed drastically – candy no longer accounts for a third of my spending – but the idea is the same.

Those of you out there who know me personally may even say I’m a little bit obsessed with it. Do I wish I was better at strictly following my budget? Of course, doesn’t everyone? But at least I know when I’m overspending, and have a plan on how to fix it relatively quickly.

OKAY. SO. This quickly veered off the path of an update on my reading of Catch 22. See how easy it is to get distracted? I’ve also been sidetracked by a little book called The Everything Wedding Etiquette Book because, as it turns out, I’m getting married (insert happy dance here)! It also turns out that weddings have a lot customs, rules and traditions of which I was completely unaware.

And what do we do when we realize we know nothing about something it would serve us to know at least a marginal amount about? We go to the nearest Chapters and buy a book on the topic, of course!

So I did that, and now I’m learning that you have to budget a massive amount of money for gratuities, what order the toasts are supposed to happen in, and what traditionally happens when a Catholic marries a Protestant.

BACK TO CATCH 22

I have had to do quite a bit of driving in the past couple of weeks for work, most notably four 2 1/2 hour blocks in the car to listen to my audiobook. This listening chunk is largely responsible for the progress I’ve made in the book. It’s also left me convinced that I am not giving ol’ 22 a fair shake. I’ve found that with this particular book, unlike other books, I tend to enjoy it more when I’m reading it, as opposed to listening to it.

driving

This is not meant to be a criticism of the narrator, in fact I think that Jay O. Sanders does a good job of it. Instead, I believe it to be a reflection of the amount of attention I’m able to pay to an audiobook when driving on one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in Southwestern Ontario. Catch 22 has SO MUCH GOING ON ALL THE TIME (yes, all caps were necessary) that you really can’t do the whole tune-in-and-out thing with it and still fully appreciate and understand what’s going on.

For that reason, I am going to try to read the rest of the book.

Sanders – you’re out, Eyes – you’re up!

Catch 22

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I started reading Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (again) a couple of weeks ago. At first I chuckled quite a bit – nobody can censor a letter quite like Yossarian – and found that I was enjoying it. Now, I distinctly remember not liking this book the first time I tried to read it, so as I happily worked my way through the first chapter I wracked my brain trying to remember why I didn’t like it.

Then I got passed the first chapter and it all started coming back to me.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the odd wartime story and satire, I do, but that’s just it – I like the odd wartime story, not stories, as in singular, as in not a collection of short stories presented as a novel.

I am finding Catch 22 to be a very fragmented book; with each new chapter comes a new narrator, a new take on the war, a new story, new secondary characters, new plot twists and turns…you don’t really have any time in this book to ‘settle into’ any one story line. Heller doesn’t give you the opportunity to become absorbed in the narrative because the narrative keeps changing.

As I read this book I find myself frustrated, both with Heller and with myself. The last time I had to draw a map for a book I was reading was in university when I read From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas Friedman, and I was trying to keep straight the entire history of conflict in the Middle East! All I’m trying to remember in Catch 22 is who all these people are!

I remember the first time I tried to read Catch 22…I had plans to meet a friend at a coffee shop and I went early, thinking that a change of scenery might help me get more into the book (all the readers out there, you know what I’m talking about, let me hear you say “HELL YEA”). There I was, drinking coffee, minding my own business, reading about Ex-PFC Wintergreen, when a man walked passed me with his wife and kids.

SIDE BAR – Can I pause to comment on how awesome I think it is that a family goes out together to a bookstore? Awesome.

The man continues walking passed me, then before getting into their minivan, he stops, turns and looks at me to say “that’s a great book, one of my favourites,” “yeah? I just started reading it,” I say. “You’re going to love it,” and then he keeps going on his merry way. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I didn’t like the book. That, in fact, I had sought out a new charming locale just to try to like his beloved book. What’s wrong with me that I don’t like this book? has been my inner monologue ever since.

I am bound and determined to like this book, and that’s that.

P.S. Helping to get me through this book is Jay O. Sanders reading the audiobook when I’m driving.

A note on combining audiobook listening and traditional (shall we even dare to say, classical?) reading: it’s much harder to coordinate when you don’t have the synced up audiobook and eBook. Much time is wasted, and many passages re-read, in attempts to find where I last left off.