Thursday, May 29, 2008

Totally Coherent Literary Review

My review of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22

I went to Joe’s blog today because some anonymous commenter claims he fools around (and if you can’t trust a blogger unwilling to even create a fake bloggy ID, who can you trust?) but he has yet to offer me anal sex. His latest post deals with secrets and he asked the bloggysphere to share with him, so I told about the time I created a fundamentalist religion in the Middle East revolving around burning human feces, but that wasn’t much of a revelation because I’m sure you’ve all made the same assumption about me, my personality (or lack thereof) being what it is.

Which brings me to Catch-22, a wonderful novel written by an American author who sounds British. It is set in the military during WWII and is supposed to be satire, except that to me it reads like the daily events in military life (albeit funnier) although supposedly none of it ever happened. I suspect Heller just published his memoirs as fiction because nobody would accept it as truth.

That’s the problem with writing satire – you have to pull off a balancing act, and a lot of that depends on your audience. The trick is to create a story that is comically over the top and yet close enough to reality so that it is not wholly unbelievable. Unfortunately, there is no safe point at which to aim. What some people will find ridiculously unbelievable, others will find tame compared to their actual life. With Catch-22, I fall far into the second category, which explains why I’m such a good fit for Corporate America.

I recommend Catch-22 as a fun read and for social commentary, but depending on the life you’ve lead it may sound ludicrous, tame, or anything in-between. In me, it invokes nostalgia and longing for a time I totally hated, a piece of my life simultaneously better and worse than now for exactly the same reasons. I’m no longer required to burn feces as part of my job. On the other hand, if I try to form a new religion in my cubicle, it could be viewed as out of the ordinary. I'd go on about the flaming shit religion, but this post is getting long and I'm sure you'd all find it rather boring.

And the story of Major Major Major Major’s upbringing was both funny and sad. It reminded me of my own childhood, but without a lot of the funny. It’s why I made such a good infantryman / database administrator.


messiah said...

I enjoyed it, and found it amusing - but likely only because it hit pretty close to home (no military experience, but that doesn't really matter.....)

Monogram Queen said...

Coherent my ass, you were all over the place there boy! I am bumfuzzled now.

SSC said...

Has yet to offer you anal sex, what did I miss?

Stacy The Peanut Queen said...

You know, I must admit, visiting your blog...well, I just never know what I'm going to be reading. You're completely and totally unpredictable.

Flaming poo? Anal sex? Catch-22?

All highly interesting subjects....and they may even have something in common. You want anal sex...but the person has flaming poo, hence the Catch-22.

Kira said...

Will it spoil things for you to know that Catch-22 was intended by Heller to be an analogy to American business practices? It makes perfect sense to me, actually...accurate as a military story, accurate as an analogy (well, allegory I suppose since it's a full story).

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Joe said...

Great book that I should re-read. I also loved Heller's "God Knows".

Ah, the joys of having a psychotic ex prowling the blog world. As if I didn't already have enough reasons to treasure SSC, the reminder of what came before ensures that I'll never take her for granted.

Enemy of the Republic said...

Is there any relationship between anal sex and serving in the infantry?
My husband,too, has mentioned it as a metaphor for his service to his country.

Catch 22 is Heller's only good book, IMHO. Vonnegut was more consistent.

I'm kinda blogging now again, oh evil one.

~Deb said...

I would hate to be your podmate - your cubicle neighbor. I'm not familiar with Catch 22. I think with any type of satire of controversial write ups - things to that nature, you tend to get people who either hate it or love it...

You're right. Totally depends on your audience.

This Christian lesbo is sticking around this hellhole ... ;) I secretly love ya Grant!

I'm back blogging too, unfortunately for the rest of the world.

Which means: more of me pestering you.


Spider Girl said...

Hey Grant,

How have I never read this book?

Fine. I'll go and read it. Your somewhat odd, but oddly compelling review has twisted my arm.