It takes a special kind of writer to portray humor and horror in the same breath.
Chances are you’ve heard of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. It’s known as something of an enigma; though it covers a very serious topic (war) with vivid detail and intense emotion, the absolute absurdity of everything going on makes for some laugh-out-loud humor.
Honestly, the book can be summed up in one passage. In the scene, the title is explained:
“There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s 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.”
And that’s, really, how the whole book goes. It’s a bunch of witty, nonsensical decisions strung together in a life-or-death situation. But I think that’s Heller’s point: what we do doesn’t always make sense. But we have to do it anyway, or true chaos ensues.
I don’t know what mood you should be in for this book. It will lift your spirits high in one paragraph and sink them low in the next. But that’s what makes it a masterpiece.
Thanks for reading!