Catch As Catch Can - A Book Review
Catch as Catch Can - Joseph Heller's Short Stories - A Book Review
Almost everyone the world over knows who Joseph Heller is or has at least heard of his most famous work. Even over a decade after his death he is remembered for his seminal work, Catch-22, a book so famous its title has been adopted into every day language as a term used whenever you find yourself in a situation where you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't.
I read Catch-22 several years ago and fell in love with characters such as Yossarian, Milo and Major Major, so when I spied this book, Catch As Catch Can, there was never a question as to whether I would read it or not.
The bigger question is would I enjoy it and add it to my list of books I bore my friends with by constantly recommending that they too must read it.
I am my own personal, opinionated Oprah book club, so is this Catch as Catch Can worthy of the title?
Catch As Catch Can - Great prices for a great book
A classic tale of a man who is caught between a rock and a hard place.. or you could say stuck in a catch 22 situation..
What is Catch as Catch Can all about?
Catch As Catch Can is a collection of short stories that Heller wrote both before and after Catch-22 and includes several discussions of the book and even one chapter that was deleted from the final draft entitled 'Yossarian Survives'.
So immediately if you are a fan of Catch-22, it's a fascinating look at what the author thought of the novel as well as his input in to the motion picture that was made several years later. Without posting spoiler alerts it is fair to say that by the time Heller had flown 60 sorties above Europe during WW2 and watched men such as him plummet to their early, grisly deaths, he was never going to be overwhelmed by any Hollywood overtures or literary hyperbole.
The man himself summed it up well when he said he was more interested in the money than artistic control. The caveat being that he kept the stage rights.
Catch-22 - A Must Read
An all time classic and a must read if you are to truly enjoy Catch as Catch Can.
Early Short Stories
The first short stories date back to 1945, when Heller at the tender age of 22 had his short story 'I Don't Love You Any More' published, there after follows an evolution in his writing style.
It is a fascinating journey of a young writer finding his feet and mimicking the styles he was studying whilst writing on the subjects of bookmakers, bars and New York.Each one of the stories is a character study which leads you towards what I believe a young Heller thought would be either a surprise or poignant ending.
Heller himself admits that he was at this time writing about things on which he knew nothing, except what he had read written by others. But as the small child grows, so does Heller's writing.
Later Short Stories
This is where Heller discusses life after Catch-22 including his role, or lack of it, in the movie as well as a nostalgic journey he took back to Corsica to revisit the places where he spent his time during the war.
He soon finds that taking your teenage children on a journey of reminiscence through wartime memories is fraught with disappointment for both the children who are bored and frustrated and for him as he finds that a field is now just a field and the memories of what happened are just memories, which no matter how vivid in your mind, remains only vivid to you.
Heller also reminisces about his childhood growing up in Coney Island as well as describing the moment during his sixty wartime missions that he became scared (Mission 37). There is also a one act play based on chapter 8 of Catch-22, entitled 'Clevinger's Trial' as well as a short entitled 'The Day Bush Left', a scathing look at George Bush Senior and what would have happened if he had of resigned before the end of his term.
Needless to say GB1 wasn't held in high esteem by Heller. It is probably a blessing for him that he passed away before GB2 had been in office for 8 long years.
As a final treat for Catch-22 fans there is a short story called Catch-23, which I won't spoil, except to say it follows Yossarian and his brushes with the world and medical profession later in life.
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Should You Read Catch as Catch Can?
I must admit my initial excitement at finding this book was slightly tempered when I read the editors need to ameliorate by stating that this book is not Joseph Heller's wastebasket.
Also there is always a risk as a reader and a fan when you commence reading a book that was composed by editors and includes works that Heller never published whilst he was alive.
A writer loses all editorial control when he dies, so the journey you undertake in this book may not be one that the author himself wished you to complete. Regardless of this, 'Catch As Catch Can' rewards Catch-22 fans with insights into the book and its author as well as showing Heller's journey towards his magnum opus.
Returning back to my Oprah persona, the one strong recommendation I would give before you undertake this book is that you read Catch-22 first.
Trust me on this one.
All About The Man - Joseph Heller
Want a more in depth look into the life of Joseph Heller? Then what could be better than this in depth biography of the man.