Chapters Read: 1. The Texan; 2. Clevinger; 3. Havermeyer; 4. Doc Daneeka
Page reached:: 33 of 448 (7.37%).
There was a urologist for his urine, a lymphologist for his lymph, an endocrinologist for his endocrines, a psychologist for his psyche, a dermatologist for his derma; there was a pathologist for his pathos, a cystologist for his cysts, and a bald and pedantic cetologist from the zoology department at Harvard who had been shanghaied ruthlessly into the Medical Corps by a faulty anode in an I.B.M machine and spent his sessions with the dying colonel trying to discuss Moby Dick with him.
Ha! Dude, I totally sympathize.
Before I got any further, I’d like to point out that I knew pretty much nothing about Catch-22 two days ago, aside from these three facts:
- It’s an “American Classic”;
- It’s about War;
- It’s “funny”.
“Funny” in scare quotes because, when it comes to classics, you can’t really be sure what they mean by that. The aforementioned Moby Dick is also purported to be a laff riot, but you have to read 230 page doctoral dissertation entitled Cetologoical Jocularity: How Melville Brings On the Epic Lulz to get the alleged jokes. So I wasn’t 100% confident on point three, really.
Now, four chapters in, I’m pleased as punch to announce that, yes, this book is funny in a not-strictly-hypothetical way. Funny in the sense that it actually produces guffaws. Chuckles, even.
Despite being billed as a great American novel, the humor strikes me as distinctly British, of the sort a Monty Python sketch would be built around.
In one of the Pre-NaNoReMo 2007 posts, in fact, someone in the comments likened the writing in Catch-22 to that of Douglas Adams. I see it! Take this passage, for instance:
"They're trying to kill me," Yossarian told him.
"No one is trying to kill you," Clevinger cried.
"Then why are they shooting at me?" Yossarian asked ...
"Who's they?" [Clevinger] wanted to know. "Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?"
"Every one of them," Yossarian told him.
"Every one of whom?"
"Every one of whom do you think?"
"I haven't any idea."
"Then how do you know they aren't?"
Reminiscent of Douglas Adams, sure. But, to my mind, even more so of a slightly older English author:
"You should say what you mean," the March Hare went on.
"I do," Alice hastily replied; "at least--at least I mean what I say--that's the same thing, you know."
"Not the same thing a bit!" said the Hatter. "You might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see'!"
"You might just as well say," added the March Hare, 'that "I like what I get' is the same thing as 'I get what I like'!"
"You might just as well say," added the Dormouse, who seemed to be talking in his sleep, "that 'I breathe when I sleep' is the same thing as 'I sleep when I breathe'!"
"It is the same thing with you," said the Hatter, and here the conversation dropped.
And, more recently, this bloke:
"Hallo!" said Piglet, "what are you doing?"
"Hunting," said Pooh.
"Tracking something," said Winnie-the-Pooh mysteriously.
"Tracking what?" said Piglet, coming closer.
"That's just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?"
"What do you think you'll answer?"
"I shall have to wait until I catch up with it," said Winnie-the-Pooh.
Two of my all-time favorite authors, as luck would have it. The absurd and the surreal and the non-sequiturian are my preferred forms of humor.
That said, I hope this book has a plot. There’s really no sign of it yet. And the fact that nearly every chapter title to follow is the name of a character doesn’t bode well. If the whole novel is nothing but descriptions of wacky personalities and recollections of past events, the schtick may get tiresome. Quickly.
Still, a promising start.
Favorite Passage:The chaplain stirred again. He looked from side to side a few times, then gazed up at the ceiling, then down at the floor. He drew a deep breath.
“Lieutenant Nately sends his regards,” he said.
Yossarian was sorry to hear they had a mutual friend. It seemed there was a basis to their conversation after all.
Words Looked Up:
- Damask: A firm lustrous fabric (as of linen, cotton, silk, or rayon) made with flat patterns in a satin weave on a plain-woven ground on jacquard looms.
- Musette Bag: A small canvas or leather bag with a shoulder strap, as one used by soldiers or travelers.
- Saturnine: Melancholy or sullen. Having or marked by a tendency to be bitter or sardonic.
- Gentian: The dried rhizome and roots of a yellow-flowered European gentian, G. lutea, sometimes used as a tonic.