Sunday, February 10, 2008
Just before my alarm went off this morning, I was sitting in a booth on the same side as some nameless/faceless friend in an extremely crowded terminal of some sort, looking through the Catch 22 playing cards I didn't know I had, and thinking to myself, "So THAT'S what Yossarian looks like....". Just then a soldier walked by with his duffle bag and other luggage as Nameless Faceless was babbling on about guests and visitors and such. I looked up and chuckled to myself because the soldier looked exactly like the Yossarian on my playing cards, and while Nameless Faceless was laughing about something else entirely, the soldier said jocularly with a big ol' Hee Haw smile on his face, "When you two are finished playing Broccoli-and-Tumble, you can let me know where to drop my stuff!"
I laughed out loud and said to Nameless Faceless with my best Paul Lynde impression, "Huckabee Estates, who ya screwin'?" Nameless Faceless thought that to be absolutely hilarious and replied with an elbow to my ribcage, "Hey! Should I hit F12 and see what they say?!"
We were laughing uproariously when the alarm scared the bejeezus out of me!!!
Later I read the last seven or eight pages of Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. Admittedly, I am a slow reader, but it took me a particularly long time to finish this book (a full 2 weeks)! I can usually pound out a book or two in a week due to the sheer volume of time I dedicate to reading, so this really was challenging. This book was very cleverly written, and since I only read in public places (the Metro, the food court), and I am easily distracted, AND he uses a lot of really big words, I sometimes had to reread sentences, paragraphs and even entire pages two or three times!
With all of that being said, though, I really, really loved this book! Mr. Heller's character sketches are nothing shy of brilliant. I even laughed out loud one day when I actually SAW one of his characters shortly after reading the description of his hair coming to a weird point in front like a pomaded pup tent!
His descriptions are all so beautifully written that the reader has no trouble at all seeing exactly what he wants you to see: "She loved staring bleakly at the endless tame, quiet waves breaking like wet puppy dogs against the shore, scampering lightly up the sand a foot or two and then trotting away."
Catch 22 is funny like M*A*S*H is funny. It's the characters, the dialog and the perspective that make it enjoyable, not the setting. There is certainly nothing funny about war. However, I was secretly pleased each time a gentleman approached me to tell me they started the book a number of times and never finished it. I was actually proud of myself, not only for finishing it, but for actually "getting" it!!
While it was tough to follow sometimes, I felt like I was one of the boys in the book, each of us thinking we were surrounded by lunatics to the point of questioning our own sanity. It was a wild ride! Perhaps having served in the military allowed me some small insight to the craziness. I really laughed out loud at the insane situation where the guy couldn't convince anyone that he was alive because they have official documentation of his death! He went to the medical tent to complain about his subnormal body temperature and stuffed nose.
"You're dead, sir. That's probably the reason you always feel so cold." The subordinate explained the circumstances of his death to him and then said, "That's right, sir, you ought to be glad you've got any temperature at all."
In the end you wind up cheering for Yossarian in spite of his flaws and reading the final pages makes the whole bumpy ride seem like a great dream you can't wait to tell your friends about in the morning.