Catch-22: Chapters 11-13

Chapters Read: 11. Captain Black, 12. Bologna, 13. Major ______ De Coverely

Page reached:: 124 of 448 (27.68%).

Status Report: Folks are dropping out of NaNoReMo left and right. I guess since I, the founder of NaNoReMo, dropped out of it myself last year, everyone is allowed one bail. But next year when we read Ulysses: no quitters.

Well too bad for you guys, because things just got great. Captain Black was my favorite chapter so far. Its tale of “Loyalty Oaths Gone Wild” reads like “United States, 2002: A Year In Review.” Actually who am I kidding, ascribing this to 2002? We’re still a nation that freaks out if a presidential candidate opts not to wear a American flag lapel pin. What is such flair, if not a loyalty oath in pewter?

Plus, as John F. pointed out in in the comments of the last post, the chapter Bologna shows the first unmistakable signs of an emerging plot.

By the way, I honestly think it’s not too late to join NaNoReMo 2007. If anything, I think Catch-22 is probably best read in two weeks or less. My greatest difficulty, this year, is pacing myself out, so I don’t just dash the rest of the book off over a weekend. (Too keep myself on schedule, I’ve alternated my reading between this and latest issue of Murdaland.) The circular writing is a bit taxing, spread out over a full month. But I suspect, were you to just bolt the whole novel as quickly as possible, it would probably go down a lot smoother.

If you are still in, and have a blog, mention it in the comments: I’ll migrate the links up to this post. Plus, I’d be curious to see a headcount.

Favorite Passage: I would reprint “Captain Black” here in full, were it not for copyright law.

Still in NaNoReMo:

* * *

51 comments.

  1. I’m in–I didn’t mention it in the beginning, but I’m right with you. Sorta. I’m a little behind, but your reports of plots in the future are carrying me through.

  2. I’m still in. Maybe I’m not pacing myself quite as well as I could be (I’m slightly ahead), but with a six-month-old about to start crawling, I consider myself lucky that I still actually get to read.

  3. I’m still in! I have nothing witty to add, other than to wonder why Major —– de Coverley is missing part of his name. Is this an obvious thing that I’m missing?

  4. To be honest, I was getting sick of the circle-talk as well. I’ve read the book before, and didn’t remember it being nearly so tedious. Then I read Bologna and remembered exactly why this book is a favorite. But you’re right, reading it within two weeks is definitely the right way to go.

    Favorite scene: A bunch of soldiers piled on top of each other in a turned-over jeep, too drunk to do anything but lay there and pass around more whiskey.

  5. I’m still in, sort of, but finding it impossible to keep your pace.

    I’m at chapter 23, “Nately’s Old Man”

    Excellent book, I’m glad it was one of your options.

    Favorite passage from your selection (dogeared it to be able to get back):

    Late that night Hungry Joe dreamed that Huple’s cat was sleeping on his face, suffocating him, and when he woke up, Huple’s cat WAS sleeping on his face…..(up to the contest between the two)…

    My blog is http://blog.myspace.com/jensfiederer
    but so far I have only mentioned taking PART – I am keeping this mainly to YOUR blog.

  6. Oh crap, I was ahead of you! Now I’m gonna have to go and read some more and get my lead built up again.

    The writing is enjoyable, I’m just hanging on for plot, maybe, eventually?

  7. I’m in – saw your posts on the first few chapters and went and got it out of the library. Nearly caught up with you. So far I’m enjoying it – i take your point about the writing having a touch of classic English whimsy about it (I happen to like that though!)

  8. I’m still reading it but I’m a few chapters behind. I don’t know yet if I’m going to try to catch up or if I’ll just sit back a bit and read at my own pace and make it into NaNoRe2Mo (or InternaNoRe2Mo, since I’m not in America).

    I haven’t blogged anything about it so far.

  9. Jennifer, I have always been under the impression that Major —- de Coverley’s name was a literary joke. It was a standard trick a century ago to pointedly leave out certain names and dates (as in, “I was summering with Lord —- in the West Country during 19–, when …”) to indicate to the reader that certain details were important only to establish a setting and should not be compared to any knowledge the reader may actually have about the peerage of Cornwall. This is similar to _The Spanish Prisoner_ where Mamet puts things deliberately out of frame or covers them with light glare or loud noises to indicate “if you thought this bit of factual information would be an answer to help you figure things out, you weren’t asking the right question.” Here, the joke is, at least to me, that this name is being pointed out as the one piece of information that might allow you to run to real history books and get an objective viewpoint on this mess, when in fact there’s no possibility that it could be anything other than yet another red herring.

    On the other hand, maybe his name has been blacked out in mourning over the death of Parson Yorick. (There, let’s see who gets *that* one.)

    P.S. Ooo, I got referenced by the fearless leader himself! I agree that this book is best read quicker. In fact (guilty grimace) I’m already done. I’m thinking of skimming it again over the Thanksgiving break, to join up with the discussion again near the end.

  10. Ut oh, watch out. I’m pretty sure that if the Famous Hare had been in a book reading contest rather than a footrace he probably would have tried this “I’m moving so fast I’ll read TWO books” strategy that you’re playing with.

  11. Ut oh, watch out. I’m pretty sure that if the Famous Hare had been in a book reading contest rather than a footrace he probably would have tried this “I’m moving so fast I’ll read TWO books” strategy that you’re playing with.

  12. I am still in, at a chapter a night. I am somewhat behind you however. Only to Major Major Major Major.

  13. I’m joining in late. I’m up to Ch 5 or so. I’ve read Catch 22 before but it’s worth reading again.

    I had to look up “infundibular”.

  14. I’m still with you but I haven’t blogged about it yet. If/when I do I will let you know.

  15. I’m sorry. I bailed. (Hangs head in shame…)

    I am in whole-hearted agreement with Chelsea. The circle-talk was driving me mad, and when I read it eons ago it didn’t seem like such a slog as it does now.

    I’ve picked up “A Long Way Gone: Memoir of Boy Soldier” by Ismael Beah. READ! THIS! BOOK! (Once you are done with Catch-22 of course.)

    Soldier on without me, and best of luck!

  16. I’m in, a little behind schedule though. I’m right in the middle of Chap. 13.

  17. in. almost done.

  18. Jon F,

    I’m a fan of Tristram Shandy, too. I think it’s the earliest example I’ve found of the poorly named style, “post-modernism”.

    (Sorry Matthew, but I’m not participating as I was already knee-deep in Pynchon’s Mason & Dixon which will probably keep me busy for a couple more months and I did Catch 22 three times in my youth.)

  19. It’s interesting to see people mentioning Catch-22’s most distinctive element, the endlessly circular writing style, as if it’s some kind of drawback. That’s exactly what makes the novel what it is.

    Concerning the multiplicity of characters, the novel is written so that you don’t really have to keep track of many people other than Yossarian and a few others. It doesn’t have much of a “plot,” you don’t have to keep track of people so you can follow them, this isn’t a whodunnit where you try to win the game by truly grokking the story and figuring it out. Things just happen, and “past” events (which often really aren’t past because of the purposely-jumbled way the book was written) are there to stick in the back of the mind when they turn up later, more than to provide any kind of logical, cause-and-effect progression.

    Oh I just remembered, you’re going to love what happens to Doc Daneeka….

  20. TS Elliot.

  21. Still in. Couldn’t find my copy of the book initially (if you’re keeping track, that makes the score “My Scarily Disorganized Basement: 1,432, Jr.: 0). Bought another copy and started scrambling to try and catch up. Had to attend a conference out of town last week and suffered a major computer malfunction the night before I left, which has left me attending to that more than blogging about my NaNoReMo participation (save and except one brief post furtively added from work), but I’m still in!

  22. I’m in, but not blogging it.

  23. I’m in.

    I’m enjoying the book on the surface, but I’ve never been part of a book discussion where participants simply report on whether they’ve read more or less than the leader.

    Come on, Internet – help me understand why this book is important. What is the message? What was controversial about it at the time? Is there anything deeper or more meaningful than a plot that arrives late? I’m only picking up on the ‘war is bad and here’s a funny way to show it’ part.

  24. I’m still in too. I don’t have a blog (other than a boring livejournal my siblings and siblings-in-law read). I am behind schedule – perhaps because I am in the “not a fan of circular writing” camp.

  25. I’m finished reading it ~ I couldn’t delay to be a part of the group! ~ and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Not blogging about it, sorry, but I have enjoyed reading the comments here.

  26. If you had chosen Ulysses, I’d be in. No fear: I’ve got my old annotated copy from college. See you next year.

  27. “Gimme eat.”

    “Give everybody eat!”

    That’s some great t-shirt and bumper-sticker material.

    (I’ve been faithfully following along with NaNoReMo 2007. I have a blog, but I haven’t been blogging NaNoReMo, so I don’t know if I qualify for the list. I don’t need to sign anthing to get on it, do I?)

  28. I just started, so I’m a little behind. But alas, I am still in this. I’m doing both NaNoReMo and NaNoWriMo this November. Holy, shit.

  29. I’m still in. And the reason I am blogging along is because I need to fill up posts for NaBloPoMo. At least a few times a week I can reflect on the State of the Book.

    And Huple’s cat woulda kicked Hungry Joe’s butt. That guy’s all scream, no action.

  30. I am still reading but blogless. I am terrible with names so I keep backtracking. I had to make a family tree for I, Claudius. Pathetic.

  31. Still in, but lurking.

  32. > Come on, Internet – help me understand why this
    > book is important.

    It’s not, really. Books generally aren’t unless you make them so. Luther’s “95 Theses” wouldn’t have been important, either, if it hadn’t been for that Reformation incident. You can read these “95 Theses” a thousand times and not understand what made them important.

    Yes, “Catch 22″ fits into the whole anti-war milieu, but you don’t learn that by reading the novel – you learn that by reading criticisms and historical treatises, which is NOT what I am doing.

    > What is the message?

    I’ve always disliked this question – it is as though writing a novel were just an underhanded way to score some silly point. What is the message in “Tr

  33. > Come on, Internet – help me understand why this
    > book is important.

    It’s not, really. Books generally aren’t unless you make them so. Luther’s “95 Theses” wouldn’t have been important, either, if it hadn’t been for that Reformation incident. You can read these “95 Theses” a thousand times and not understand what made them important.

    Yes, “Catch 22″ fits into the whole anti-war milieu, but you don’t learn that by reading the novel – you learn that by reading criticisms and historical treatises, which is NOT what I am doing.

    > What is the message?

    I’ve always disliked this question – it is as though writing a novel were just an underhanded way to score some silly point. What is the message in “Tr

  34. Yeah, I just couldn’t do it. BUT I gave it a try and it just wasn’t for me. God bless those of you who are chugging along.

  35. Yeah, I just couldn’t do it. BUT I gave it a try and it just wasn’t for me. God bless those of you who are chugging along.

  36. I’m with you too Matt. I was going to just observe the goings on, but it seems like you need the moral support. I was having a hard time getting into Catch-22 at the beginning, but its growing on me.

  37. > And Huple’s cat woulda kicked Hungry Joe’s butt.
    > That guy’s all scream, no action.

    Boy are YOU in for a surprise.

  38. To make up for those who bailed, I’ll join in! I’ll haul out my ole dog-eared copy and catch up tonight.

  39. I’m following along, just haven’t had much to say about it. I agree with a lot of what’s been said about the circular writing style, and what’s the point. I think the point is that war is crazy and horrible, and it makes you crazy. I keep seeing M*A*S*H in my head as I read, this book was clearly an influence on it (Catch 22 published in 1961, M*A*S*H novel published in 1968). Klinger’s pursuit of a “section 8″ is reminiscent of the “catch 22.”

  40. I’m in! I’m up to ch. 3. Been taking care of a newborn and the company that a new sprog attracts, but hope to pick up the pace (and blog about it) soon.

  41. still in. But man, I hate this book. YECH.

  42. Ooh, ooh, one more thing. I have really enjoyed reading this and comparing it to the movie Memphis Belle (also about WWII bombers). Memphis Belle is so “40s glam where boys become men and learn important lessons about patriotism” that it’s hard to believe that the movie and the book are talking about the same historical event. That said, I am definitely picturing Harry Connick Jr. in the part of Yossarian.

  43. It seems to me that Heller’s writing style is annoying quite a few people. Remember – it’s like that for a reason. The catch, a logically cyclic set of arguments, is inserted into the text wherever possible – arguments, situations, characters, etc. I don’t know that there’s ever been a clear explanation of why Heller did it – maybe just to emphasis what he saw as the futility of war, or maybe because it seemed a rationally elegant problem – once you join the game the only way to win is to stop playing.

    Also, there is a plot, it’s just not told linearly. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that a bit more concentration is required than for the average airport paperback. The actions of characters make sense within the twisted scenarios Heller created, they just don’t happen in order. A lot of it seems pretty similar to the way Ulysses was set out – characters remember scenes with no distinction as to where the present and the past meet.

    The second half of the book gets a lot darker, and some of Heller’s points become clearer, as do the motivations and reasons for characters’ actions. Hang in there! This is one of my favorite books, one I reread every year or so (I read a lot), and I think that the initial confusion is definitely worth it.

  44. I’m in, just a little behind, and saving the posts until I’ve finished the requisite chapters (as a little reward). Got my library book checked out here, and a copy lined up for me at my Thanksgiving vacation destination too. Now if someone would just take these darn kids for a few hours, I’d be all caught up.

  45. I’m still in — and only got my copy on Monday. It really does go down more smoothly read quickly.

  46. >I’m still in! I have nothing witty to add, other >than to wonder why Major —– de Coverley is >missing part of his name. Is this an obvious thing >that I’m missing?

    Jennifer,
    Originally I made the same assumption as Jon F. However, according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_—-_de_Coverley):

    Major —- de Coverley’s first name is not given in the novel, heightening the fact that nobody has the courage to ask him what it is.

  47. I’m still in! I haven’t said anything about being in, yet, because I haven’t been reading the blog much yet.

    I started reading this book two years ago and then stopped. I was very excited that it was picked this year, because it gets me going on reading it again. The circular writing makes it a TERRIBLE book to put down and then pick up again. After reading the blog, however, I’m remembering the chapters rather well… considering.

    Next year you should pick Great Expectations or Middlemarch so that I can get on those ones, too.

  48. I’m still in…just a bit behind.

  49. I’m still in!!!! I agree that Bologna was the first chapter where I really was excited as I turned each page. Before that, I would re-read the paragraphs before I turned the page, just to be sure that I understood what was what!! I am really digging this book. Makes my brain work overtime!!!!

  50. I’m (re)reading along as well. completely off schedule, of course.

  51. I’m in too. . . I have been from the beginning, but I think I forgot to post such. Anyway, I’m totally behind, but really enjoying the book. I’m halfway through Chapter 24, Milo, but I intend to finish the book before Christmas. Maybe. For sure before the end of the year.

    Anyway, I’m a bit surprised at just how relevant the book is today, with our current administration and all, considering the fact that it was written five years before I was born.