Catch-22

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Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American lit-erature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—novels of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer. Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. Since its publication in 1961, no novel has matched Catch-22’s intensity and brilliance in depicting the brutal insanity of war. This fiftieth-anniversary edition commemorates Joseph Heller’s masterpiece with a new introduction by Christopher Buckley; personal essays on the genesis of the novel by the author; a wealth of critical responses and reviews by Norman Mailer, Alfred Kazin, Anthony Burgess, and others; rare papers and photos from Joseph Heller’s personal archive; and a selection of advertisements from the original publishing campaign that helped turn Catch-22 into a cultural phenomenon. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 544 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451621174 | 
  • April 2011
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Catch-22 Turns 50

Fifty years after its original publication, CATCH-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—novels of all time.

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Read an Excerpt

Catch-22 The Story of ‘Catch-22’
by Jonathan R. Eller

It shouldn’t have survived the first printing. It was a first novel by a part-time writer who had published very little since the 1940s. It was a book that captured the feelings of helplessness and horror generated by the darker side of the American dream at a time when the general reading public still expected fiction to reflect a positive view of contemporary America and its hallowed institutions. The title was changed twice during presswork; as... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About the Book

Yossarian is a paranoid American bombardier stationed off the Italian coast during World War II who believes that everyone is out to kill him. Fearing he will be killed during a bombing run, Yossarian takes desperate measures to avoid flying, such as checking himself into a hospital with a fake liver condition and moving the bomb line on the map of Italy, which postpones the bombing mission to Bologna. Yossarian and his comrades are in a Catch-22: They can be grounded on the basis of insanity; however, if they ask to be grounded because of insanity, their concern for their safety proves their sanity. While Yossarian’s desire to get out of the war is the story’s focal point, Heller’s satirical narrative also relays the antics of Yossarian’s comrades—the men of the 256th Squadron—and positions those antics amid such themes as war, hypocrisy, justice, death, government bureaucracy, and greed. Teeming with Catch-22 situations, the ultimate “catch” for Yossarian is a test of his own integrity. Should he stand by truth and face court-martial or should he turn his back on his comrades and become a hero?

About the Author

Joseph Heller, an American satirical novelist, was born in Brooklyn, Ne see more

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