In which CATCH-22 knocks the wind out of Deb Kristina

My own favorite line can’t be revealed. Because to reveal this line, from Joseph Heller’s CATCH-22, would ruin a painfully beautiful scene because the gorgeous shock of it was part of its genius. It was one of those moments where I had to pull myself out of the book and gasp and remind myself I was only in my living room, not indeed on a Mediterranean island in World War II. It was one of my precious few unforgettable reading moments. I think I was about fifteen years old.

This line is long, it takes up a paragraph, as it should, because the action it describes is galloping and frantic, yet sadly inevitable. No linguistic pyrotechnics here. The words themselves aren’t special. Yet, I was THERE. I was him. I was Yossarian.

As a reader, I was in awe. Still am.

I had picked up CATCH-22 by mistake. I was in my school library, looking for books that had been banned. I was thinking of CATCHER IN THE RYE, actually, as I realized later. No matter, because CATCH-22 has been banned for other reasons. (I later read CATCHER IN THE RYE and appreciated that, too.)

This tragically funny, painful and hilarious novel has many brilliant lines, and the first two are also wonderful.

“It was love at first sight.
The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he fell madly in love with him.”

How can you not read on after that? It’s brilliant and madcap and involving like the whole rest of the book. Can you tell I’m getting carried away with my adjectives? I can’t help myself. Joseph Heller did this to me, and I wish I could have thanked him for it.

By the way, if any of you out there have read CATCH-22 and are dying to know which line I can’t reveal, drop me an e-mail at kristina (at) thedebutanteball (dot) com .

I wish you many such moments in your own reading life, and as a writer, I strive to create a moment like this for at least one reader. I’ll do my best.

Deb Kristina

10 Replies to “In which CATCH-22 knocks the wind out of Deb Kristina”

  1. I share your love for this book. It is brilliant in so many ways. I wish I could have the same tunnel system around my house and environs that Major Major had. I thought Alan Arkin (?) was a great Yossarian and I don’t usually like movie adaptations.

    Okay, here’s a line from the movie. When Y comes back to the Italian house after the bombs have destroyed it, an old woman sits off to the side smoking a cigarette.
    “Gone,” she says. “All gone.”

    That has stayed with me over the years.

  2. Okay, I feel bound to confess that Catch-22 is one of those books I’ve started about 8 times and never gotten into. I know there’s a magic page count past which I’d be incredibly absorbed, but so far my short attention span hasn’t gotten me there. *ducks and runs for cover*

    But I know the feeling you’re talking about. I love that feeling.

  3. Oh gosh, I can’t remember Catch-22. Must be time to re-read it. (I swear, I do not know why they even bother assigning classics in high school. Does ANYONE remember ANYTHING you learned in high school????).

  4. (I totally agree, Eve! I think high school should be about developing a love for the written word–and if that means leaving the classics for college and beyond, so be it. There are so many books that were ruined for me because I had to read them for school.)

  5. I don’t remember High School…although when I went to my 50th reunion a few months ago, some of my class mates seem to remember it well, some even had their year books, still knew the school song, some had the same husbands (and wives)they met in high school…(and the same narrow outlooks on life, and I think the same hairdos) and the handsomest guy in school, now looked like he lived in a Pizza factory somewhere in New Jersey.

    Have a happy Turkey Day.

  6. Hi ladies! Becky, I have never seen that movie. I’m afraid to. If you love it, though, and you love the book, maybe I’ll give it a whirl.

    Deb Katie, how DARE you not love all the same books! Ha, kidding, of course. This week and next week (Books That Changed Our Lives) should provide some interesting insights into what kinds of books we love!

    Larramie, when I was a teen the last words of Robert Cormier’s THE CHEESE STANDS ALONE did that to me, too. I was shellshocked by that book. I don’t even remember the exact ending, or that many plot details, just that same powerful shock of an amazing reading moment.

    Eve, I remember the classics I read in school! But I’m a nerd that way. Lots of ways. I read Hamlet and Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (though translated into easier, modern English. Had to wait until college for the Middle English version). Also, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, which I loved. I loathed SILAS MARNER, though. Loathed it.

    Happy Turkey Day to you, too, Eve’s Mom!

  7. Catch-22 is pure genius–and really resonates today with the second war in Iraq. I even love the movie–it’s a totally star-studded cast and really does justice to the book (although it’s very different).

    Thanks for reminding me about the book. I should definitely reread it!

  8. Catch-22, I only saw the movie. Guess i shoud read the first chapter and just see… Maybe men see it different. I remember an awful scene with the guts spilling out of a man who got shot up in a bomber’s belly gun turrent. I remember long frustrating discussions with his rather nice psychologist or chaplain, as he explained how Y. was sane, and therefore would be a fine soldier. It sure didn’t encourage me to enlist in the army.

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