Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – 1961
I think I may have missed the joke with Catch-22, or at the very least, the punchline, but I’m willing to accept that I may have been the problem rather than the novel. I knew when I read it that it was regarded as a classic, but I just didn’t get it… whatever it was. It’s a darkly comic novel, and obviously humour is very subjective, but it did nothing for me. In fact I found it quite boring and overly long.
I think my issue was two-fold. Firstly, it is set deep in World War II, and that time period was not something I knew a lot about or could relate to in any great way, especially when I read it, in my early twenties (which is the second problem). I reckon if I had given myself another decade of that mysterious ‘life experience’ I may have found some more value in the prose that was missing to me at the time.
It would be easy for me to simply give the book a pass because it is a classic, but that wouldn’t be fair. However, having said that it’s probably one of the few novels I didn’t enjoy first time round that I would consider going back to for a second chance.
Of course, the phrase catch-22 came from the book (not the other way around, as some people think), so like it or loathe it, Joseph Heller – with his debut novel no less – stamped his place in history, and you can’t ask for much more than that.