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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Catch-22

I just finished reading Catch-22, next up is Infinite Jest. I have a feeling that reading these books back-to-back will strenuously test my resolve to read every day, if not break it altogether. So I am considering delaying Infinite Jest until I’ve read something I enjoy.

I hated Catch-22. The only part I enjoyed about the book was finishing it, knowing I didn't have to read anymore. In short, I can understand why some people like it, I didn't enjoy it at all, and I don't understand why it’s considered a classic. I would describe it as Abbott & Costello in book form, mixed in with the horrors of war and PG-13 rated Penthouse letters from the 50s.



I found none of the characters to be relatable or likable. A majority of them didn’t seem to me to take actions or have motivations that were even believably human. Now, I’m sure part of this is to demonstrate the absurdity of war or the military or something like that. But if you’re really trying to show the horrors of war, I would think it’s best done in a book that’s not intended to be funny.

I am sure some people think find this book hilarious. I don't mind Abbott and Costello in small doses. But I have never, in any way, desired to spend over 400 pages with unremitting slapstick word play. I found it actually funny a couple times, but it’s clearly intended to be humorous throughout. Even if I found it funny, I’d still be put off by the fact that the humor is constantly distastefully juxtaposed with people dying and aggressive sexual assaults (when these events are not themselves intended to be funny, which definitely happens).  I suppose this might be considered a device to make the war seem more horrible, but in my eyes it just demeaned the more serious subject matter.

I also found the lack of a real resolution somewhat annoying. This isn’t so much a criticism of the book. I didn’t like it, but it was appropriate. As opposed to Gone With the Wind, with its 1400 pages leading up absolutely nothing.

I can only imagine that this is considered a classic because (a) its aggressive anti-war and anti-military stance or (b) its narrative style. If it is (a), I feel like there have to be better books the Left could have latched onto and exalted that weren’t tedious and some of the most misogynistic literature I’ve ever read. The narrative style is described by Wikipedia as “non-chronological third-person omniscient”. Maybe it was the first book to use this style, in which case it might be considered a classic the same way Citizen Kane is considered one of the greatest films of all time. It’s not because Citizen Kane has a good story (it doesn’t) or is otherwise entertaining (it isn’t); it’s because Citizen Kane essentially created a new way of telling stories. Great films and classic books aren’t necessarily enjoyable. Its narrative style was interesting, but that didn’t translate to me enjoying it at all, because I didn’t care what happened to any of the characters, so revealing things about them in an interesting ways did nothing for me.

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