Ben Peek (benpeek) wrote,
Ben Peek

Catch 22

I finished reading Joseph Heller's Catch 22 on the weekend and thought it was a very fine and excellent book, funny and sad in the way a book like that should be.

I had tried to read it years ago, but never got far. I can't even tell you honestly what it was that I disliked about it, except that I just didn't like it at the time. But this time, it was different, and I enjoyed especially the way that Heller put together the book, the way chapters folded into others, creating a sense of narrative throughout the book much in the way a quilt is made, patch by patch, with each chapter being one of those patches. I thought, as I read it, how difficult it would be to make it into a film, which is something that I find myself thinking a little about these days--not because I am interested in books becoming films, but because I enjoy the way that prose does things narratively that film cannot. Much to my surprise, however, it appears that in the 70s, Mike Nichols made a film of the book.

Haven't seen the film, but I probably will, since it has Orson Welles in it and I'll watch anything once with him in it (which can be, lets face it, a bad choice).

I can't imagine that it is a successful film, or that it captures the surreal nature of the novel, especially towards the end as Yossarion's point of view turns hallucinatory and disturbing. I can't imagine that the adaption is anything but a literal adaptation of the book, considering its status in the world, but perhaps I'm wrong.

Either way, film or no film, I thought the book was great. Stepping outside of the structure, I enjoyed Heller's use of satire throughout, and the way he constructed the humour, from scene changes, to dialogue, and the control he kept on it for the length of the book. Catch 22 is not a small novel, but yet Heller keeps it together until the end, an amazing feat, especially when you consider not that it was Heller's first book, but how many books out there fall apart at the end. I am reminded of a book I also loved, Lydia Millet's Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, which was fantastic, truly, but did fall apart at the end, as if she was not sure what she wanted to do, or where to go with the concept that she had come up with. There are other books (plenty, really) that I could use as a comparison, but we'll leave it at that.

Anyhow: Cool book if you're never read it. Totally worth the time.

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