Saturday, 28 November 2009

What I've been reading

Image of the book cover
Catch 22
by Joseph Heller

narrated by Trevor White
"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."
I can hardly believe that this book was first published in 1955, well before I was born - it seems as up-to-date and relevant now as it was then. I first read it long ago, probably while I was still at school. My copy was printed in 1979, and it looks like I bought it second-hand for £1. It became one of those that I always call to mind when asked for 'favourite book'. I deliberately didn't go to see the film that came out a while ago, and I haven't read it in print form for a while, so I thought I'd re-read it in audio form on the hour-long journeys to uni and back.

It's been one of the best books I've listened to - nothing is lost in the move from print to audio. Over the last month or two the characters came alive all over again, the madness, stupidity, incompetence, frustration and fear of war are conveyed graphically, dramatically - it could be happening today. Although of course, it couldn't, could it? Surely Joseph Heller has taken the reality and exaggerated it just enough to remain plausible?

I cling to the belief that people don't behave in this way, couldn't be so crazy, the situations must be the product of imagination. And yet, and yet - the mortal fear of being shot at while flying a mission over a target is so real, perhaps the rest has a grain of truth too? It was written very close to the end of WWII and I don't know what part Joseph Heller played in that conflict. I sat in the car once I'd reached my destination, just to listen to the last 10 minutes.

1 comment:

aims said...

I love audio books Lola. I think they are one of the things that help keep me somewhat sane. If I have something to distract my brain, I can then work happily for hours.

The Man is forever loading up my MP3 player with another book to listen to. He is always astonished at how fast I go through them (much like the books I read) but then he also sees that I get as much done around the house to equal it.

I loved Catch 22 as well. I didn't realize it came out in 1955. What a good year that was! ;0)