Saturday, May 1, 2010

Joseph Heller would be 87 today......

While he was not a one-hit wonder, Joseph Heller is best
known for his classic World War II novel, Catch 22. It was
almost required reading on college campuses back in the
very early 1970's. Protest over Vietnam was at its peak. The
mood and subject line of the book seemed to mesh with the
times.

It always felt like it was three books in one. The first third
was some of the all time great comedic writing as he
sketched his characters. Made me laugh out loud. The
middle third made it clear that this was not comedy, but
satire, and Heller made serious business of it. The final
third felt dark and bitter. Even Milo Minderbender and
ex-PFC Wintergreen lost their allure. Sad really.

Anyway, to celebrate Heller's birthday, here are a few
short excerpts:

"I'm nuts. Cuckoo. Don't you understand? I'm off my rocker.
They sent someone else home in my place by mistake.
They've got a licensed psychiatrist up at the hospital who
examined me, and that was his verdict. I'm really insane."
"So?"
"So?" Yossarian was puzzled by Doc Daneeka's inability to
comprehend. "Don't you see what that means? Now you can
take me off combat duty and send me home. They're not
going to send a crazy man out to be killed, are they?"
"Who else will go?"

'"You mean there's a catch?"
"Sure there's a catch," Doc Daneeka replied. "Catch-22.
Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really
crazy."
'There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which
specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of
dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a
rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he
had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer
be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be
crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was
sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and
didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had
to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute
simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful
whistle."That's some catch, that catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed." '

"Clevinger was a troublemaker and a wise guy. Lieutenant
Scheisskopf knew that Clevinger might cause even more
trouble if he wasn't watched. Yesterday it was the cadet
officers; tomorrow it might be the world. Clevinger had a
mind, and Lieutenant Scheisskopf had noticed that people
with minds tended to get pretty smart at times. Such men
were dangerous, and even the new cadet officers whom
Clevinger had helped into office were eager to give damning
testimony against him. The case against Clevinger was open
and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge
him with."

Yossarian: 'Those bastards are trying to kill me. '
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder: 'No one is trying to kill you
sweetheart. Now eat your dessert like a good boy.'
Yossarian: 'Oh yeah? Then why are they shooting at me
Milo?'
Dobbs: 'They're shooting at everyone Yossarian'.
Yossarian: 'And what difference does that make?'
Dobbs: 'Look Yossarian, suppose, I mean just suppose
everyone thought the same way you do.'
Yossarian: 'Then I'd be a damn fool to think any different.'

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